BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The young Holy Trinity boys basketball team continues to take its lumps, but Head Coach John Hellige says the focus is on having fun, learning, and gaining confidence as the season progresses.
The Crusaders dropped a 49-71 loss to Van Buren Tuesday night for the ninth loss of the season against two wins.
But despite the lopsided season, the Crusaders are still building a team and looking forward to the rest of the season and the two or three more years they have to play together.
Reed Fehseke started the game with a 3-pointer, but the Warrior’s Mason McDonough hit inside and Jacob Plecker hit a 3-pointer to wipe out the early Crusader lead.
Quentin Schneider then hit from the left baseline for a 3-pointer for HTC to retake the lead but then Van Buren went on an 11-2 run to end the quarter up 16-8 highlighted by McDonough’s eight points. He finished with 23 to lead all scorers on the night.
Van Buren outscored HTC 17-9 in a second quarter that almost mirrored the first. The Crusaders wilted under a smothering match-up zone defense that kept the ball on the perimeter and didn’t allow for many clean looks for HTC’s long range shooters as the Warriors held a 33-17 halftime lead
“Their defense was kind of suffocating and we had a lot of in and outs and if just a few of those had fallen in, it would have been a different game,” Hellige said.
Hellige said he changed some things up in the second half and the Crusaders began to get some offensive penetration that opened up shooting a bit. Holy Trinity started the third quarter with a 9-3 run capped by a Fehseke 3-pointer to close the gap to 38-26. Hellige called a time out after the basket, but McDonough converted inside to halt the run.
Peckler hit back-to-back 3-balls sandwiched by buckets inside from senior Jaeden Gerig, while HTC only managed a bucket by Matt Hellige inside.
The Crusaders were able to match buckets with the Warriors in the third quarter, but Van Buren pulled away in the fourth quarter with five more points from McDonough and a 3-pointer by Peckler. A last minute 3-pointer banked in by JT Metcalf capped the scoring.
Matt Hellige, who finished with a dozen points on the night, said the losses don’t dishearten him as the season progresses.
“We’re really young and we’re just learning as we go,” Hellige said. “We try to stay positive. We know we got a couple more seasons to play and we’re just looking forward to the next game and the next season.”
Sophomore Quentin Schneider, who’s scored in double figures the last two games, said the team improves with each game.
“I feel like we’re greatly improving. We’re working very hard in practice and we have next year with most of the same players so we’re looking forward to that,” he said.
Coach Hellige said he’s trying to keep the season fun.
“They’re a good team with a good mix of height and shooters so they’re a really solid team,” Hellige said. “We’re just trying to keep it fun and keep it positive. As I shake hands with other coaches, I tell the kids what they tell me, which is “hang in there, better days are coming, you’ve got a ton of talent and you’re young. I worry about the kids getting disheartened, but we’re just trying to keep it fun,”
Brant Holtkamp and Reed Fehseke each had nine points for Holy Trinity while Adam Rauenbuehler had a bucket and Jake Eaves hit on a 3-pointer. The Crusaders now face WACO on Friday night, which is Homecoming night at Shottenkirk Gym.