The Teutopolis Wooden Shoes have found themselves a new home away from home. It is the Assembly Hall in Nashville.
Riding the strong inside play of 6-foot-6 senior Kyle Pruemer and a defensive effort that slammed the door shut on a high-powered and highly-regarded 1A team Waterloo Gibault Catholic, Teutopolis made its 91-mile trek back home Saturday night with the championship of the 31st annual Nashville Invitational Tournament, 51-31.
After having spent most of the last century participating in a National Trail Conference and its annual conference tournament, the Wooden Shoes are now an independent with a toughened up schedule this season, which included this annual event.
In its first year playing at the NIT, coach Andy Fehrenbacher's club took home the big prize.
Teutopolis topped 3A Mascoutah, defending 2A state-champs Breese Central and Gibault this week to improve to 17-3 on the season.
Pruemer scored 19-points to lead all scorers and T-Town used its signature defense and rebounding persona to pull away from the Hawks in the second half to secure the crown.
"Our defense was terrific. Coach Rueter is a fantastic coach and I knew he would have his kids ready tonight and they have a really nice team. But I think our defensive pressure really took its toll on them as the game wore on," Fehrenbacher said. "They (Gibault) have pretty good athletes and their guards are good and can put it on the floor. I think our defensive pressure wore them down."
Leading 24-17 at the half, the Shoes kicked off the third quarter with a 10-0 run to knock the Hawks back on their collective heels.
Jared Waldhoff got the party started by nailing a 3-pointer from the top of the circle on a set play to give Teutopolis its first double-digit lead with just over a minute gone in the third frame.
Pruemer, who would have probably earned MVP of the tournament if there was such an award in the event, scored seven points in the quarter.
The senior forward took a pair of assists from Waldhoff and reserve Cody Will in the run.
By the time Pruemer finished his scoring spree with a shot in the lane at the 3:08 mark, the Wooden Shoes were firing on all cylinders at 36-22.
"We have been putting a lot of time in our half-court offense execution," Fehrenbacher said. "It is nice to see that all of the time and effort you put into practice work during game situations. Especially playing against a quality team like (Gibault)."
Gibault had few bright spots as the Hawks saw their mark slip to 17-4.
Wes Degener led Gibault with 11-points while teammate Nick Row finished with 10.
Gibault started the game well, jumping out to a 10-4 early advantage behind a drive to the basket and a 3-pointer on back-to-back possessions by senior guard Matt Schreder.
Teutopolis stormed back to even the contest at 13-all at the end of the first quarter.
Using his deep bench, Coach Fehrenbacher brought in reserve Devin Falbe who provided some instant offense.
Falbe finished with seven points and nailed a three pointer in a run that got the game tied.
The Wooden Shoes carried that momentum into the second quarter with Derek Smith and Will getting in on the scoring act.
A 3-pointer by Will and a drive to the basket by Smith forced a Gibault timeout at 18-13 Shoes.
Degener tried to keep his team close, scoring twice in the second quarter on drives to the basket.
However, Pruemer scored twice in the quarter himself, and when his deuce from near the basket with 1:25 left found the bottom of the net, T-Town led 24-17 at the break.
Gibault attempted a rally in the fourth quarter, getting a score from Degener on a in-bounds lob to open the final frame, which cut the Wooden Shoes lead to just 36-26.
However Teutopolis made another run, fueled by its defense, to remove the drama.
Forcing Gibault into five fourth quarter turnovers, the Shoes outgunned the Hawks the rest of the way.
A 13-2 sprint, with Pruemer scoring twice again in the paint, provided the championship celebration setup.
“He (Pruemer) had a fantastic tournament. He has really stepped up into a leadership role on our team,” said Coach Fehrenbacher. “Him and Derek Smith have accepted their leadership roles and the guys are really following them.”
Following Pruemer and Falbe in scoring were Smith with six points; and five points each from Will and Waldhoff.
The Shoes were very good from the floor, hitting 19-of-37 overall attempts, and 4-of-9 from 20-feet.
The key to the contest was their defensive effort, holding the Hawks to just 28 percent overall (13-of-45) as Gibault connected on just 2-of-10 from behind the arc.
Teutopolis held the high scoring Hawks well below their normal production as Gibault entered the contest averaging 57.2 points a game.
Pruemer and Smith were named to the first team all-tournament squad as was Degener.
“The kids were excited about this tournament. Going to the NTC was great, the tradition and convenience for the fans. But the competition level is great here,” Fehrenbacher said. “They do a fantastic job running this tournament and they made us feel at home. The kids loved playing here in this gym.”
Jack Bullock is the editor/web publisher of A Baseline View.com. Southern Illinois' Only Boys’ High School Basketball Web Publication providing Previews, Rankings, Schedules, Scores, Standings and Tournament Information for more than 100 teams.