Effingham Daily News
The Stew-Stras Comets trailed second-seeded Altamont 32-20 entering the second half of the National Trail Conference tournament Wednesday.
Despite being outscored 36-6 in the game’s second half, it was the first 16 minutes Stew-Stras coach Shane Smith looked back to for answers.
“The game was lost in the first half,” Smith said. “We had the right defensive combination, we just didn’t rebound. They got most of their points off rebounds and turnovers. If we play the way we’re supposed to play, I don’t think they’re 40 points better than us.”
Altamont had little trouble putting away Stew-Stras in the second half after a more up-and-down first half, and advanced to the NTC semifinals Friday against Dieterich with the 68-26 win.
It was a defensive effort that led to the offensive outburst, said Altamont coach John Niebrugge.
“The second half, we made some really good adjustments,” he said. “We kept giving up the middle of the floor, and penetration breaks us down. The boys contained more. Our offense usually extends from our defense.”
The Indians took the elad early despite solid scoring from Bryse Bugger and Brandon Helmuth in the first half for Stew-Stras, leading 13-6 after one quarter.
The biggest moment of the game took place with 37 seconds left in the second quarter. Altamont senior Garrett Ziegler entered the game seven points short of 1,000 for his career, and was sitting on five in the half’s final minute.
Ziegler stole the ball at halfcourt, in front of the Stew-Stras defense and cruised for a wide-open layup for point 1,000.
“Every point he got tonight was in the flow, it wasn’t forced,” Niebrugge said. “I don’t think he knew, we tried to keep it from him so he would just play basketball.”
From there, the Indians would take a 12-point lead to the locker room, and it was all over from there.
Altamont went on a 15-0 run after a Jason Fry layup in the first minute, and a Helmuth layup with 46 seconds left was the Comets’ only other basket until the game’s waning moments.
Helmuth and Bugger each had 10 points. Stew-Stras (7-12) falls to the loser’s bracket, where they’ll face Beecher City Friday night.
“Offensively, we came down the floor and didn’t do much,” Smith said. “Second half, we put the ball on the floor and continued to do what we did in the first half. We’ll take a lot of things from it.”
Ziegler led all scorers with 12 points, while Cole Borders had 11 and Jake Seidel, Justin McGinnis, Derek Jahraus and Klaiton Wolff all scored eight apiece.
“Offensive rebounding helped,” Niebrugge said. “Derek Jahraus had an excellent game rebounding, he probably got most of his points from that. It’s part of our offense.”
Altamont (15-2) advances to the NTC semifinals Friday, where they’ll face third-seeded Dieterich at 7:45 p.m. The Movin’ Maroons bested Altamont last week.
Stew-Stras 6 14 4 2 26
Altamont 13 19 20 16 68
Stew-Stras: Kremer 2, P. Blythe 2, Fry 2, Helmuth 10, Bugger 10
Altamont: Jackman 2, McGinnis 8, Ziegler 12, Borders 11, Goeckner 3, Armstrong 4, Seidel 8, Kuhns 2, Jahraus 8, Wolff 8, Mayhaus 2