BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Holy Trinity’s young basketball season seemed to be taking shape for the boys in the first half Saturday night, but somebody put a lid on the Crusaders’ hoop in the second half as the HTC boys fell to visiting Mediapolis 60-49 in Southeast Iowa Superconference basketball action.
Bulldog senior Nick Ensminger threw up 10 points in the first four minutes as Mediapolis raced out to a 17-7 first period lead with three minutes remaining. Holy Trinity went 1 for 4 during the stretch from the floor with a Brant Holtkamp 3-pointer being the only conversion the Crusaders had until Matt Hellige scored inside at the 3:24 mark.
But Hellige’s bucket would be a springboard for an 11-0 run that was capped by another Holtkamp 3-pointer from the left baseline that just got off the senior guard’s fingertips before the buzzer sounded to give Holy Trinity an 18-17 lead and had the Bulldogs on their heels. Mediapolis was coming off a double-overtime loss to Highland-Riverside on Friday night.
Junior Quentin Schneider extended the Crusaders’ lead to three with a baseline drive from the right where he sliced between 6’5″ Ben Wolgemuth and 6’4″ Javon Lacy. Wolgemuth would counter with an inside move of his own at the other end to cut the lead to one. Hellige would misfire in the lane on HTC’s next possession after encountering a collapsing Bulldog defense that had two and sometimes three defenders in the paint.
Ensminger would hit a 3-ball from the right baseline on the next trip down to regain the lead for the Bulldogs. HTC’s Blake Crabtree, who was swinging the HTC perimeter passing game from the top of the arc most of the night, squared up and hit a three of his own to put HTC back on top 23-22. Wolgemuth would take advantage of the shorter Crusaders underneath and score inside on the next possession as the lead went back and forth.
Senior Kyle Bredemeyer got a nifty assist from junior Reed Fehseke off a dribble drive from the free throw line and converted on the layup to put HTC back on top. But Mediapolis’ long-range prowess began to wear down the Crusaders with Ensminger and junior Owen Timmerman hitting back-to-back three pointers to give the Bulldogs a 30-25 lead, one they would not relinquish the rest of the night.
Hellige would score again after getting Wolgemuth off his feet in the lane on the next drive. The Bulldogs would committ three straight personal fouls, but HTC’s Holtkamp and Bredemeyer would each hit one of two to cut the lead to one at 30-29, but the Mediapolis junior Dawson Wirt would score on the other end to set the half at 32-29.
HTC Head Coach John Hellige said it was probably the best first half the Crusaders have played thus far.
“We’ve had three games this week and we’ve had some sickness on the team, but I think we played super basketball for two quarters and six minutes and then we just really got mentally and physically exhausted and forced some shots that weren’t really in our game plan,” Hellige said after the game.
“Mepo took Highland to double overtime in a loss yesterday, so they really are one of the better teams in the north.”
The Bulldogs showed why they are one of the better teams in the conference at 2-1 in the second half when the put up a 9-2 run spanning the first five minutes of the third period as HTC went ice cold from the field, missing their first six shots. Mediapolis built a 41-31 advantage before Matt Hellige could end the drought with a couple of free throws. Fehseke would convert a 3-pointer with 1:54 left in the period, the first bucket the Crusaders would score in almost nine minutes of play. Mediapolis junior Drew Schroeder and Wolgemuth would score unanswered buckets to end the period with the Bulldogs up by 13, 49-36.
The shooting woes didn’t get any better in the final period as HTC went just 5 of 14 from the field with Fehseke hitting three of the buckets. Wolgemuth would tack on four more points in the latter half of the final period to help seal the win for the Bulldogs.
Holy Trinity relies on the perimeter game and spot-up shooting off screens to open up the middle, but Hellige finished with three baskets inside the paint and four free throws for 10 points.
“We were trying to spread the ball a little bit and work off the screens but it is what it is,” Hellige said. “We don’t really have a true post threat and we’re trying to play a little more of a perimeter game. I would like to have seen him have a few more touches.”
Fehseke led the Crusaders with 17 points on the night, hitting on four 3-pointers. Holtkamp had 12, Bredemeyer had five points, Blake Crabtree had three, and Schneider had two to round out the scoring for HTC.
The Crusaders (0-3) face another stiff test on Tuesday when the high-octane New London Tigers come to Fort Madison. The Tigers are just 1-0 on the season but put an 81-38 beating on the Central Lee Hawks on Tuesday night at Donnellson.