Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

February 3, 2014

Altamont wins first NTC tourney since 1990

Indians best St. Anthony 49-38

Ryan Czachorski
Effingham Daily News

ALTAMONT — Altamont's Garrett Ziegler used one word to describe his feeling after losing the National Trail Conference tournament championship to Dieterich in 2013 -- "disgust".

He got to pick out a new word Saturday night, after his Altamont Indians won their first NTC tournament since 1990 by beating St. Anthony 48-39.

"Fulfillment," Ziegler said simply. "I feel twice as good as I did bad, then. Positive emotion trumps negative emotion everyday.

"To do something that will establishes us, and puts us on the banner, to do something that's only been done like four times in 100 years, it feels good."

Altamont led for nearly the whole game, save for a five minute span in the second quarter, playing a style of basketball they haven't had to often this season.

The game was slow-paced and played mostly in the halfcourt, and Ziegler and coach John Niebrugge both agreed that it was the defense that clinched them the title.

"It was not conducive to what we like to do, but we found out we can do it," he said. "We figured out how to play half-court man-to-man in this tournament. We weren't giving up easy baskets."

St. Anthony had bested Altamont in December at the Vandalia Holiday Tournament in what was a semifinal, with the Bulldogs going on to win that tournament.

This time, Altamont got its payback on its homecourt, winning as the nominal visitors against the the top-seeded Bulldogs.

"I thought we played hard, but we just didn't make enough shots," said St. Anthony coach Cody Rincker. "We didn't flow very well. I give Altamont credit, they pressured our wings."

The game started slow, with Altamont taking a 5-0 lead behind Cole Borders, and St. Anthony responding by the end of the frame with five by Neil Williams.

He hit a 3-pointer to start the second to put St. Anthony up, but Ziegler scored seven points in less than a minute and half to put the Indians back up by halftime, up 19-17.

Altamont would push the lead to 30-21 midway through the third, before St. Anthony cut it to 30-25 on baskets by Derek Rios and Zach Gardewine.

The Indians went on a 9-0 run to start the fourth, all but ending the game up 39-25. St. Anthony battled to cut it to single digits, but never threatened in the fourth.

For Niebrugge, it was his first NTC championship since his playing days at Teutopolis.

"Been 16 since I've won it, felt just as good then as it does now," he said. "For Altamont, in this gym, winning their conference. It's pretty sweet, they've wanted this for a long time."

Williams had 14 points on the night, while Rios and John Goeckner each scored six for the Bulldogs.

It was a disappoint for Rincker in his first NTC tournament as a head coach, but said he'll appreciate how far they've come since last season -- just not now.

"Probably when I look back in March, I may be able to think that," he said. "You can't ever expect to win one especially with a team like Altamont, as tough as they are, you can just hope for an opportunity. There will be more times down the road here, hopefully, we'll come up on the top end of one of them."

Ziegler led all scorers with 16 points, while Klaiton Wolff and Justin McGinnis each scored seven.

It was a big moment for the senior and his fellow Indians, who hadn't had the best luck in tournaments before this year's St. Elmo Holiday Tournament.

"We've failed so many times in big games," Ziegler said. "I'm like 1-for-8 in big games in my career, going back to my sophomore year. Just to work hard and to have the team to win, it's just fulfillment."

St. Anthony (15-6) hosts Windsor Tuesday, while Altamont (17-2) hosts Ramsey Tuesday night.

Altamont    5    14    11    19    49

St. Anthony    5    12    8    13    38

Altamont: McGinnis 8, Ziegler 16, Borders 7, Armstrong 2, Seidel 6, Jahraus 2, Wolff 8

St. Anthony: Williams 14, Jansen 3, A. Gardewine 3, Hoelscher 4, Z. Gardewine 2, Goeckner 6, Rios 6