BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
KALONA – Holy Trinity’s boys basketball team ended their season after giving 18-3 Iowa Mennonite all they could handle Thursday in Kalona, but faltered in the final :30 and fell 56-49 to end their season.
After wiping out a 13-point third quarter deficit and trailing by eight in the Class A regional semifinal, HTC senior Collin Thornton laced a 3-pointer forcing a :30 time out by IMS coach Dwight Gingerich. Immediately after the IMS time out, HTC Head Coach John Hellige then called a full-time to set the stage for the final 3:31.
Hellige said he called the full time out to give his players some rest, despite a hybrid man zone press and also to handle a stretch and stall employed by the IMS to try and run the clock out on HTC.
“They run a ton of variations on their press. We were running time outs to give the kids some rest and to readjust what we were doing with their press. We had five or six variations based on what they were doing as well,” Hellige said.
Down just five at 49-44 and coming out of the time out, the two teams both failed to score on their next possession, but sophomore Quentin Schneider, who led HTC with 18 points on the night, hit inside to cut the lead to 49-46. IMS missed again on the next trip down and on a fast break coming back after slipping the press, Schneider was whistled for a charge nullifying a bucket.
IMS coughed it up in the lane in their next possession and Thornton forced the issue at the other end. The Crusaders were on a break and fed Thornton up front who was fouled under the basket. He made the back end of the two freebies cutting the lead to two at 49-47 with just over a minute remaining.
The Crusaders applied a little pressure of their own, but freshman Eli Ours got free in the middle of the floor and raced to the basket converting the layup and getting fouled by HTC’s Reed Fehseke. Fehseke picked up his third foul in the 2nd quarter and played the rest of the game until that one point with one foul.
Ours converted the free throw and IMS was up by five. The Crusaders turned it over under the basket on the next trip and had to foul to stop. Senior Cole Ours calmly drilled both free throws and, aside from a two more free throws from Thornton, IMS had sewn it up.
The game was nip and tuck out of the gate, but IMS held a slim lead all the way through the first quarter with leads as big as five. Then HTC went on a 7-2 run highlighted by Fehseke’s second 3-ball of the quarter to help the Crusaders tie it at 14.
Caleb Gingerich hit a 3-ball of his own just before the end of the quarter to give IMS a 17-14 lead going into the second quarter.
Holy Trinity would only convert 2-of-8 in the second period and, with Fehseke picking up his third foul in the first period, things looked a bit bleak for the visitors. But tough defensive stands and Schneider driving the baseline and drawing contact, the Crusaders made it to the free throw line ten times, converting seven, including two by Schneider at the end of the half, to give HTC a one-point lead going into the locker room.
IMS converted just four buckets and no free throws in the second period and went just 4-of 10 from the field.
Reggie Borntrager hit to start the 3rd period but Fehseke answered with a long three pointer to knot the game at 28.
The Crusaders got two more free throws from Schneider at 3:56 left, but then IMS went on a 9-1 run that ended with a Schneider bucket, but HTC was already down nine by then and Holy Trinity wouldn’t get any closer until the run at 3:31 in the 4th.
Hellige said the performance was what the team envisioned at the beginning of the season.
“This is kind of the team (assistant) Jay (Baldwin) and I envisioned this summer,” he said. “We scouted them and knew what we had and we knew if we played strong and we played smart we would be there at the end of the game,” he said.
Seniors Thornton and Ryan Rees drew special praise from Hellige.
“Collin has been a mainstay in this program since fifth grade and Ryan was by far our best practice player and he only played for one year for us. But he helped everyone be a better player,” Hellige said,
“The future is bright, the things that people need to keep in perspective is that usually sophomores are going up against seniors and juniors during practice and they improve during practice. But these kids stepped on the court as sophomores and have learned in front of the watchful eyes of family and friends and it’s been great watching them getting better and better.”
Fehseke finished with 13 points on the night followed by Thornton with nine, Matt Hellige had six, Blake Crabtree had two, and Brant Holtkamp chipped in with one to round out the scoring for HTC.
Eli and Cole Ours led IMS with 14 and13 points, respectively. They host Highland at Mt. Pleasant Tuesday night in the regional finals.