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Hale says he'll likely hang up his whistle next season
COLUMBIA — After 30 years of coaching, Notre Dame's Paul Hale won his first state championship Saturday, leading the Bulldogs to a 48-36 win over St. Charles West in the Class 4 title game at Mizzou Arena.
Now that he has one in hand, is he calling it quits?
"I'm leaning toward not coaching," he said. "But it's not official."
There has been speculation for a while that Hale would step down at the end of the season. He said if he does, he would remain as the athletic director at Notre Dame, a position he now holds in addition to his coaching duties. After winning the title, however, he wanted to talk more about his players than his plans for next year.
"I've had good teams, but this is a special bunch of kids," Hale said. "All the teams are different, but they deserved it. I'm very proud they got it this time."
Notre Dame's Ryan Willen said about Hale: "He's a pretty big factor to us. He's been there all four years for my high school. ... It helps whenever you have a coach who gets there every day at 6:30 a.m., 7 a.m. He gets in there before anyone else. ... He works as hard as anyone else on the team does. As a coach, that really inspires all of us players."
Notre Dame senior Ty Williams said a key to victory over St. Charles West was getting more pressure on the Warriors' top three guards in the second half. He said it was especially important to contest their 3-point shots. That is something the Bulldogs did well after halftime.
St. Charles West netted 6-of-12 3-pointers in the first half. But the Notre Dame defense held the Warriors to just eight points in the entire second half. St. Charles West went 0-for-11 from 3-point range after the break.
"It was just basically a lot of ball pressure that second half," Williams said. "That was the goal coming in, but I think we really stepped up that second half and pressured them a lot. I think we held them to eight points the second half or something like that. We just tried to put some ball pressure on them and keep our hands up so they couldn't get that open 3-pointer. We knew they were really good shooters. Second half, we were able to do that and stop them from scoring."
Notre Dame senior Mark Himmelberg played an important role for the Bulldogs this season from 3-point range. He was often referred to by his teammates as the team's 3-point specialist. But Himmelberg struggled shooting the ball in both games at Columbia, scoring eight points total.
He said that because his shooting was not there, he tried to help the team in other ways. Himmelberg had two steals and added five rebounds in the title game. He collected 12 rebounds over the two games.
"Any way you can help out, that's what you've got to do," Himmelberg said. "Sometimes it's just not falling. My stroke felt good, I just had some in and out. Everything was on the line, it just wasn't going down. It happens. Not everybody is knocking them down lights out every night. But anything you can do to help, it's obviously helpful. Just go out there and do anything you can to help the team win."
Hale said sophomore Nick Koeppel was an important part of his team's defensive success in the second half. Koeppel, a guard, came off the bench to play 10 minutes.
"I think a big swing in the game was when Nick Koeppel came in and he did a good job of stopping [Kramer Soderberg]," Hale said. "Soderberg couldn't get around him. He went three straight trips down there and didn't get around him. Other people saw that and said, 'Hey, we can stop this.' The difference in the game was that we just had kids at halftime accept the challenge to play better defense, stop penetration and to guard the 3-point line."