BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – After playing some of their best basketball of the year, the Holy Trinity Crusaders went almost silent in the second half as Van Buren pulled out a 61-55 win Tuesday night in boys high school basketball action.
The Crusaders scored 21 points in the first quarter highlighted by a Quentin Schneider bucket with 00.5 seconds on the clock to race to a 21-16 advantage. With the score knotted at 9s with 3:57 left in the opening period HTC’s Blake Crabtree scored from just inside the three-point line on the right wing and then he converted two free throws after snagging a Brant Holtkamp miss in the lane where he was fouled by the Warriors’ Caleb Johnson.
The two freebies gave Holy Trinity just a one point lead because Johnson had hit a three pointer on the Warriors’ previous trip down the floor. Junior Reed Fehseke would score off the dribble slipping through on the left baseline where he was fouled by Johnson. Fehseke missed on the free throw but the Crusaders held a 15-12 lead. Van Buren’s JT Metcalf would answer to cut the lead to one again. On the next trip Crabtree would find senior Kyle Bredemeyer filling the right lane on a break out of the Warrior zone press for a bucket.
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Van Buren senior Mason McDonough would score underneath for the Warriors to cut the lead to one again with just over a minute remaining in the period at 17-6. Schneider would then score again for Holy Trinity and the Crusaders would get a turnover at the other end that would eventually get tied up. HTC had possession under their own basket. The inbounds pass was lofted up in the lane and Schneider caught it mid-air and banked it in at the buzzer.
Holy Trinity would then stretch the lead holding Van Buren to just two second quarter buckets, but the Warriors would go to the free throw line 10 times in the period getting into the bonus just 1:15 into the second period. The Warriors wouldn’t get a bucket until about four minutes had gone by, but Bredemeyer, Schneider, and Holtkamp would all put up points for Holy Trinity prior to that. Holtkamp’s 3-ball put Holy Trinity up 28-20 before Metcalf got the the Warriors’ first basket of the quarter.
Crabtree would add a basket and junior Matt Hellige would convert a couple free throws to hold the lead at eight. Hellige would get another bucket inside on the next trip and then Fehseke would hit back-to-back three balls to end the half with the Crusaders up 41-26.
“We played a really good first half,” head coach John Hellige said. “But Fred (Parsons) is a good coach and he made some moves that we just didn’t adjust to in the second half.”
The Warriors slipped into a half court matchup zone defense that kept the Crusaders off balance coming out of the lockerroom. HTC only managed three points in the third period, a bucket by Hellige and a free throw from Schneider, as Van Buren cut the lead to 44-40 at the end of the third. A three-pointer followed by a bucket by the Warriors’ Jacob Plecker had cut the lead to just two points, but Hellige’s bucket gave the hosts a 4-point advantage going into the fourth quarter.
The lead would change hands in the fourth quarter as Schneider found himself playing with four fouls. He would foul out with the Crusaders down 48-49. McDonough would hit on the two free throws to give Van Buren a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Then Fehseke would foul out about two minutes later.
Going up by as much as seven 55-48 on two more McDonough free throws, the Crusaders were able to cut the lead to four at 59-55 with about 23 seconds left in the game, but junior Tony Davidson would get free when Van Buren broke HTC’s pressure on the inbounds and scored with a Matt Hellige foul on top of it all. Davidson would miss the freebie, but HTC wouldn’t be able to convert again before time ran out.
“I think that half-court zone defense is what did it,” Hellige said “They really stepped up in the second half and we didn’t slow down #44. This was a winnable game.”
McDonough led all scorers with 18 points for Van Buren. Holtkamp and Schneider paced Holy Trinity with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The Crusaders take on WACO on Friday on the road and then return home for a matchup with West Burlington on Tuesday night.