|St. Henry triumphs as TV Finishes State Runner-up
By Don McDermott Sports Editor
COLUMBUS Fran Guilbault could, with no reluctance, acknowledge the 1990-91 St. Henry High School boys basketball team he coaches is something legends are made of.
Lee Falknor said the Redskins “got the job done,” but he wasn’t ready to concede anything to the Mercer County club, despite a 71-45 loss the Tri-Village team he coaches suffered in the Ohio Division IV championship game Saturday.
As 13,276 fans left St. John Arena on a warm, spring afternoon, Falknor and Guilbault met with the media.
“We didn’t shoot well…it’s probably…I know it is…the worst shooting game we’ve had this season,” said Falknor. Only in a 68-64 Dayton Sectional victory against Mississinawa Valley did the Patriots shoot less than 45 percent in any game this season until Saturday.
Against St. Henry’s big, strong and quick defenses, the Patriots shot just 30.4 percent, putting in 14 of 46 shots from the floor. The Patriots executed their motion offense to near perfection, committing only eight turnovers, and the shots they got were similar to those taken in a 77-71 conquest of Columbus Wehrle in the state semifinals Thursday.
In that game, the Patriots had 2-on-1 and 3-on-2 manpower advantages throughout, and the shots taken in those situations went in. But they did not fall through with any consistency against St. Henry.
There was a brief flurry in the third quarter, when the Patriots went on 13-6 spree to overcome a 24-18 halftime disadvantage and move ahead, 31-30. Tri-Village was 6-for-9 in that rally, which meant that the Patriots were 8-for-37 in the remainder of the contest.
“We didn’t shoot well, and I guess you could say it was St. Henry’s defense that caused it,” said Falknor, without conviction in his voice. He, like the rest of the Patriots, knew the right shots at the right time had been taken. But they didn’t go in.
St. Henry, in stark contrast used its penetrate-and-power offense to fire in 50 percent of its 44 shots. The Redskins had trouble with Tri-Village’s 2-1-2 zone in the first half, putting in just eight of 21 shots as they managed 12-8 and 24-18 leads at the quarter.
The Redskins used their height, strength, and bulk to dominate the Patriots’ man-to-man defense in the second half, powering inside to knock in 16 of 23 field goal attempts.
Falknor switched to the man because “I thought our quickness” would be the difference. Unfortunately, the Redskins 6-6, 250-pound center, Kevin Niekamp, loves to go one-on-one inside and the man defense gave him that opportunity.
“I play better when my back is to the basket…I’m usually taller and stronger than my man is in that situation,” said Niekamp. “The zone was pushing me out, away from the basket…that was about the toughest zone we faced all season.”
Guilbault agreed, “Against the zone, we didn’t adjust too well at all in the first half. In the second half (before he called a timeout and when the Redskins trailed 31-30), we were still passing the ball around like they were playing the zone.”
From a 32-32 tie with 3:01 left in the third period, the Redskins went on a 26-7 blitz in the next seven minutes to put the game beyond reach of the frustrated Patriots.
Niekamp finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds, while Scott Brunswick had 19 points and six assists to solidify his status as one of Ohio’s premier point guards.
“This is a special, talented group of players,” said Guilbault. “A group like this comes along once in a lifetime. Can they be considered among the legendary teams (in Ohio prep athletics)?
“Yes,” said Guilbault, who is 501-161 with three state championship teams in 30 years as the St. Henry coach, the only job he has had.
“Last fall, they won the football championship on a Saturday. They took a couple of days off, and then came out to practice. We went 3 1/2 hours a day for 10 days to get ready to play basketball.
“Reflect on what they’ve done…a state football championship and two state basketball championships in different classes, back-to-back. “You couldn’t ask anymore from them,’ said Guilbault. “They deserve to be among the legends.”
Falknor isn’t sure the question Who is better…St. Henry or Tri-Village? Has been answered. All he had to do was look at the shooting percentages and remain doubtful.
“St Henry’s defense could have been the reason we didn’t shoot well,” said Falknor. “Today, St. Henry was definitely the better team. If we played them 10 times they might win the majority of times. I don’t know…but today, they got the job done.”
St. Henry finished 26-1, with its only loss to Van Wert, which also defeated Division III champion Haviland Wayne Trace during the regular season. The Redskins’ only loss during the 1989-90 season was to Van Wert.
Tri-Village, which had won its first district and regional titles ever to advance to the Final Four, closed 27-1. The Patriots won their second consecutive Cross County Conference title and have won 50 of their last 52 games.
The Redskins lose seven seniors to graduation starters Niekamp, Brunswick, Bob Hoying, and Scot Niekamp, super sub Steve Gels, and reserves Josh Link and Rob Beyke,
“St. Henry is an excellent basketball team,” said Falknor. “But today, we made mistake we usually don’t make and they capitalized on them…”
|1990-91 State Runner-up 27-1