UNION CITY – The danger in playing two weekend games is in expending all of your energy on Friday night, leaving nothing in the tank for the next evening.
This nearly happened to Mississinawa Valley. After giving an all-out effort to defeat state ranked Miami East on Friday at Casstown, the Blackhawks faced a determined Houston Wildcats squad with a short bench rotation and tired players, but they prevailed 55-45.
This game was a half-court set-offense battle. Every now and again one side would get a fast-break opportunity but not often.
The Wildcats got all 10 of their first quarter points from seniors Domyneik Phipps and Zach Freytag. They built a 10-6 lead before Devan Rinderle, Ethan Bowman and Colyn Nelson would combine for a 10-0 burst that would spill over into the second period, giving the Blackhawks a 16-10 lead.
Neither team could gain much of an advantage. After exchanging field goals Mississinawa led 21-20 at the intermission.
The Blackhawks could not pull away from Houston in the third period. Their largest lead was four points, but the Wildcats quickly countered each time to keep the score close. Each team added 16 to its total for a 37-36 score after three quarters.
Mississinawa looked to have dug deep for some extra energy to begin the fourth period. The defensive pressure looked to be a step further out on the ball. Offensively the Blackhawks spread the floor a bit more, allowing more penetration and the ability to kick out to outside shooters. These things resulted in a quarter-opening 9-0 run sparked by a Bowman second-chance basket and a key triple from the left wing by Andrew Johns.
Houston boys basketball coach John Willoughby tried to stem the tide by using a timeout, but Nelson would connect on two more baskets, forcing yet another Wildcat stoppage and making the score 46-36.
“We had to run several plays, set plays,” Blackhawks coach Tim Barga said. “Work it around. I think they’re getting more patient.”
Houston continued to battle, and when Cameron Arnold sank a trey to bring the score to 46-41 with 2:11 remaining, the outcome was still in doubt.
After a Rinderle steal with 1:11 left the Wildcats were forced to begin to foul. Rinderle, Bowman and Trent Perkins would make 9 of 10 free throws the rest of the way to seal the game.
“Our foul shots helped win the game for us,” Coach Barga said. “Trent did a really nice job on their big guy for us as much height as he gave up. All our guys are playing good defense right now. We’re giving up about 48 or 49 points a game right now, and that’s pretty good for only six guys.”
During the final minute of the game after a Houston missed field goal, MV had a risky fast-break opportunity. Instead of taking the chance the team pulled up and began to run its offense and get fouled.
“We wouldn’t have done that five games ago,” Barga said. “We’re learning and getting smarter. Hopefully it continues on through tournament time.”
The Blackhawks were led in scoring by Rinderle with 18 points. Bowman added 16 with Nelson contributing 12. The Wildcats were led by Phipps with 16.
Mississinawa Valley advanced to 12-7 on the season with a 7-3 record in the Cross County Conference.
Houston won the junior varsity game 42-38.
Houston – 45
Phipps 16, Arnold 11, Sluss 4, Jolly 4, Freytag 10.
Mississinawa Valley – 55
Bowman 16, Perkins 3, Nelson 12, Rinderle 18, Johns 3, Geesy 3.
3-pointers: HOU: 5(Phipps, Sluss, Arnold 3); MV: 3(Bowman, Rinderle, Johns).
Free throws: HOU: 4-7; MV: 16-19.