Hellige looking for just a half-step more from Crusaders

HTC sophomore Connor Gehling drives to the lane from the right side early Friday in the Crusaders' loss to West Burlington. Gehling leads the Southeast Iowa Superconference in scoring with 181 points. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

HTC falls by 20 to West Burlington on Homecoming night


FORT MADISON – Head Coach John Hellige said basketball is a game of inches and his Crusaders need just a half step to be more competitive.

The Crusaders dropped a 54-34 loss to West Burlington on Homecoming night at Shottenkirk Gym in a boys Southeast Iowa Superconference matchup Friday night.

“I was hoping for a little bit more tonight. The guys competed super hard and you can always count on them for a full effort,” Hellige said.

“But I’ve been challenging the guys a little bit to step up their level of toughness, grittiness, determination, and pursuit of the ball.

“This game, like a lot of games, is a game of inches and if we can just get a half-step quicker, tougher, stronger. – we make a lot of these plays versus a turnover, or an easy bucket, or a second chance offensive rebound for the other team. We just need to get a half-step tougher. That’s what it comes down to.”

The Crusaders held a two-point lead just a minute in when freshman Luke Hellige scored inside on a baseline move for 4-2 lead. But HTC would chase the Falcons the rest of the game. West Burlington opened up a 16-6 first quarter lead capped by a six-foot fade-away jumper from the right side of lane by the Falcon’s Hayden Vandenberg.

The Falcons opened up a 21-point lead half way through the second when Jack Riley buried a 3-ball on a step back in front of the Falcon’s bench. Maddox Rung answered with a three for the Crusaders that started a 16-7 run for HTC to close the gap to 12 at the half.

Rung finished with nine points all coming off 3-pointers. Sophomore Connor Gehling led Holy Trinity with 15 on the night. Gehling leads the SEISC in scoring with 181 points on the year.

West Burlington started the third with a couple three-pointers from Mason Watkins and Austin Applegate around a Gehling bucket at the other end. Holy Trinity would hold on to a 12- to 15-point deficit throughout the third quarter before the Falcons pulled away in the final period, holding HTC to just four points down the stretch.

Hellige said Rung helped keep the game close enough with his long range prowess, but the Crusaders couldn’t find that final gear in the last 10 minutes.

“Maddox Rung did a great job coming off the bench and kind of getting us back to a respectable score,” Hellige said.

“We did struggle to find the offense in the second half. Our zone did kind of limit them for a better defensive second half for us.”

Hellige said the Falcons were effective covering up the Crusaders on the perimeter keeping them from getting anything going offensively.

HTC scored in single digits in three of the four quarters, but Hellige said it’s a confidence that is still lacking with the inexperienced Crusaders.

“They’re still young and you have to keep that in perspective,” he said. “The districts came out today and I think we can play with some of these 1A district teams. Our conference is made up of a lot of 2As and a few 1As.”

Holy Trinity will play in District 9 with Danville, Burlington Notre Dame, Columbus, Highland, Hillcrest, Lone Tree, Winfield-Mt. Union and Wapello.

Pairings will be available in February after the coaches’ seeding meetings. First round games start Monday, Feb. 14.

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