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Leopold boys basketball team slips past St. Vincent 69-66
LEOPOLD, Mo. -- Kyle Stroder wasn't supposed to be on the court Thursday night against St. Vincent.
The Leopold junior told his coach as he left school earlier in the day that a stomach virus would prevent him from playing.
"He was sick all last night," Leopold boys basketball coach Andy Beck said. "He didn't sleep a wink last night. Came in half a day today, and as of when school let out, he told me, 'Coach, I don't think I can play tonight.' I didn't expect to have him.
"He walked in the door tonight and I didn't even have to ask him. I could see on his face that he was ready to go. As soon as we got in the locker room, he said, 'Let's go,' and we didn't look back."
The Wildcats were thankful their leading scorer mustered the energy to play.
Stroder swished a 3-pointer from in front of his bench to even the score with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter. He later added a go-ahead free throw after rebounding his own miss to lead his team to a 69-66 victory over the Indians.
"Every shot I took, I have to believe in myself that it's going to go in," a pale Stroder said about the 3-pointer. "I just had the confidence, so I let it go."
Stroder finished with a game-high 26 points, but it was the 3 from the corner that reversed the Indians' momentum.
"I thought that was huge for them," St. Vincent senior Sean Martin said. "It was a huge pressure situation for them and the kid stepped up and knocked it down. I thought it kind of took us out of our game a little bit, but we kept battling."
The Indians (2-3) defense bothered the Wildcats (6-1) for much of the second half, but Stroder managed to get open for the 3-pointer.
"We were going to back our trap back and we kind of had a little miscommunication there," St. Vincent coach Bruce Valleroy said. "We let him open and he's a great ballplayer, and great ballplayers hit shots in key situations."
St. Vincent opened a four-point lead on a pair of free throws by Mark Kutz with 2 minutes, 52 seconds left in the game. James Jansen cut Leopold's deficit to two points with his lone bucket of the game, and Martin pushed the lead to three points by making 1 of 2 free throws with 1:48 left. That set the stage for Stroder, who sank his shot with 1:37 remaining.
"That's what probably made us get the win right there, that 3," Leopold sophomore Cameron Davis said. "It made us get our momentum up."
Stroder gave the Wildcats the lead by making 1 of 2 free throws with 48.3 seconds left, and Davis had a chance to pad the lead but missed both free throws with 39.2 seconds left.
Gregg Davis stole the ball from the Indians, which led to an easy layin by Joe Elfrink, who finished with 17 points, to give the Wildcats a 69-66 lead with 17 seconds remaining.
The Indians took a timeout with 10.7 seconds left to design a potential tying play.
"We threw it in to Trent [Elder], and he was supposed to bring up the ball," St. Vincent senior Tim Schumer said. "I was supposed to run off the double screen and they were waiting for me. They saw the double screen coming. The other look was Dylan [Richardet] on the other wing, and he was just a little short."
Dylan Richardet's 3-pointer kicked off the rim with 1.9 seconds left, and Stephen Graf's desperation 3 at the buzzer was blocked to seal the win for the Wildcats.
The victory came despite Leopold only making 4 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter.
"Every day in practice coach makes us shoot free throws for 5 or 10 minutes in practice probably three times in practice," Cameron Davis said. "We're getting better on free throws. We just got to take our time and shoot them."
The Wildcats finished 7 of 18 from the line (39 percent). It's a problem that's plagued the team all season.
"Every night it just seems we come to the line and come up short for some reason," Beck said. "I'm not sure what it is. We've been working on it every day in practice. ... Sooner or later they're going to start falling.
"We don't want to harp on it where it's always in their head. It's not like we're in practice and we're just talking about how we missed all these free throws."
Leopold scored two quick baskets to grab a 10-point lead early in the third quarter, but St. Vincent answered with an 8-2 run to keep things tight.
St. Vincent fed Martin and Kutz in the post in the second half to score its points. The pair combined for 35 points, including 24 in the second half.
"They're both huge targets, so you just have to throw it up and they'll come down with it usually," Schumer said. "They both know how to put it in the hole."
Martin credited the Indians' guards for creating chances for him and Kutz.
"We came in the locker room and made some adjustments," he said. "The key was for our guards to move around more and for our big guys to post up better. When the guards move and the posts post up, you know the post is going to be wide open."
St. Vincent gained its first lead since midway through the first quarter when Elder scored off his own steal for a 61-60 advantage with 4:44 left in the game. The Indians were outscored 8-1 after they gained their biggest lead of the night -- 65-61 with 2:52 left.
"Coach said that we can't let them get in our heads," Cameron Davis said. "Just play our game and we'll come back and get 'em."
ST. VINCENT (66) -- Jesse Francis 2, Mark Kutz 19, Tim Schumer 16, Sean Martin 16, Dylan Richardet 3, Trent Elder 4, Gabe Galati 2, Dylan Hellman 4. FG 23, FT 15-17, F 15. (3-pointers: Schumer 4, Richardet 1. Fouled out: Martin)
LEOPOLD (69) -- Brandon Jansen 4, Kyle Stroder 26, Joe Elfrink 17, Gregg Davis 3, Cameron Davis 15, Kody Bartels 2, James Jansen 2. FG 28, FT 7-18, F 15. (3-pointers: Stroder 3, Elfrink 2, G. Davis 1. Fouled out: none)