BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Holy Trinity Catholic Head Coach John Hellige’s game plan on Friday night was to have everyone do just a little more than usual.
Senior Connor Conrad, the team’s leading scorer coming into Friday’s tilt with WACO was sitting behind the bench for the entire game and his teammates, all of them, went out and dropped the Warriors 50-31 in Southeast Iowa Superconference action.
The win moves the Crusaders over .500 for the first time since Jan. 3 when they fell to 4-4 with a loss to New London.
Conrad didn’t sit because the Crusaders were going to take WACO lightly.
“We came in and we wanted to be extremely focused this game,” Hellige said. “We definitely did not take them lightly. That is a very well coached team and at times this year we have not played our best.”
But at the outset, the Crusaders did play probably their best game, at least on the defensive end holding the Warriors scoreless throughout the first period and racing out to a 19-0 lead.
“They came out of the gate and executed to absolute perfection,” Hellige said. “You just can’t do much better than 0.”
And Senior Cory Hopper was almost unstoppable in the first half scoring 17 of his 24 points including four 3-pointers. With the Crusaders up 27-6 with three minutes to go, Hellige started liberally substituting his bench to get them time with the senior laden team en route to a 32-8 half-time lead.
Freshman Reed Fehseke came into his first varsity match and calmly nailed a 3-pointer from the right side baseline, much to the excitement of the student body. Fehseke then went 0-4 the rest of the way, but he along with other freshmen and players who don’t get a lot of playing time were able to work out some of those first varsity game jitters.
WACO outscored HTC in the second half 23-18, but Holy Trinity very seldom had their starting unit in the game as Hellige continued to work in other players and ended up playing 15 Crusaders during the game, completely emptying the bench.
“For me personally its extremely rewarding to get those kids out there in front of their parents and friends,” Hellige said. “We’ve got 10 seniors that play a ton of our minutes and only one junior and it’s important to get those freshmen and sophomores out there to see the big show, because next year the lockerroom is kind of empty.”
With the game clearly in hand, Connor stayed perched on the bench behind the team. Conrad bumped his knee in the second play Tuesday and was kept on the bench for most of the rest of that game.
“His knee is feeling a lot better, but we just felt that with just three days past the bump we didn’t want to press it,” Hellige said. “We’ve got tough games next week. Connor is a stat stuffer. He’s gonna get his 18 points..his eight or nine boards so everyone else needs to fill the gaps.”
The Crusaders start Homecoming Week next week at Holy Trinity Catholic High School, but the first two games of the week are on the road at 7-3 Danville and 8-2 West Burlington.