Henschel 3-pointers help N.E.W. Lutheran escape
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – With two big-time scorers leading the N.E.W. boys’ basketball team, Jack Henschel knows when he gets an opportunity to hit big shots, he’s got to connect.
The senior did just that in a big way.
Henschel drained five 3-pointers to help the Blazers dig out of an 11-point, first-half deficit and come back to beat Hilbert 61-54 in the Sun Drop Showcase at the Kress Events Center on the Green Bay campus on Dec. 27.
“It’s a good win,” Henschel said. “We were down at half and I think that it’s really good that we persevered and just kept doing our stuff and came back in the second half and played how we really wanted to play.”
Henschel, who came into the game third on the team in scoring at 8.8 points per game, notched a career-high 15 points.
N.E.W. Lutheran’s top two scorers this season, Tristian Lynch and Elijah Meerstein, did their part in scoring 19 and 14 points, respectively.
Henschel knocked down three of his shots from beyond the arc during the second half. The Blazers, ranked No. 7 in Division 5 in the latest WisSports.net Coaches Poll, outscored the Wolves 37-22 in the final 18 minutes.
“I’m always happy when the other team plays a zone because I know that Tristian’s going to get his inside and that’s going to allow me to get some outside and the other guys on the team can get stuff from the inside game,” Henschel said.
Not having to be the focal point of the opposing team’s scouting report is certainly advantageous to Henschel.
“When teams are playing zones, he’s extending the zone, so we need him to shoot well,” N.E.W. Lutheran coach Mark Meerstein said. “Jack’s always been a guy like that and it’s always helped us. He’s starting to play defense this year, so that’s really helped and that’s why he can be on the floor a little bit longer. But a guy like that stepping up when other guys are not, finishing and doing things like that, it just keeps us in the game so that we can make a push at the end.”
N.E.W. Lutheran (7-2) had a rough shooting first half. It took a 5-2 lead early before Hilbert went on a 15-5 run to go up 17-10. The Wolves went up by double digits, but the Blazers got a 3-pointer by Jack Henschel to make it 24-19 with 6:17 remaining in the opening half. Hilbert took a 32-24 advantage into the locker room.
“We were behind on everything we wanted to do, the passes were slow, shots weren’t falling,” coach Meerstein said. “They had to shoot 70% in the first half, and a lot of it we weren’t anywhere near them and it made it easy for them.”
Henschel hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the second half and Lynch had a putback basket to cap a 20-8 run and give N.E.W. Lutheran a 41-40 lead.
However, Hilbert (2-7) scored the next seven points to take a 47-41 advantage with 7:28 remaining. The Blazers responded with the next eight points to regain the lead, 49-47, on a Henschel 3-pointer from the top of the key.
The contest was tied 53-53 with 2:56 left when Elijah Meerstein gave N.E.W. Lutheran the lead for good on a corner 3-pointer. The Blazers took their biggest lead of the game, 59-54, after Griffin Steffel drained a 3-pointer with 1:05 remaining on the clock.
“When Griffin shot that ball, I think our whole bench said, ‘No, no.’ And then it went in and it’s like, ‘Oh that’s five points (the lead) instead of two,’” coach Meerstein said. “That was a big shot.”
N.E.W. Lutheran’s defense forced a steal inside the final minute and the Blazers knocked down a pair of free throws to ice the victory.
“That was the defense we were supposed to start with,” Meerstein joked. “When everyone’s working on the same cylinder and we’re all watching what we’re supposed to do — we got a couple tips, which is a big part of what we do and when we did that I think it threw them off a little bit. For them, it didn’t help that (Matthew) Schneider fouled out and took a big presence away in the middle.”
In their seven wins, N.E.W. Lutheran is surrendering 49.6 points per game. In their two losses, the points against total spikes to 68.5 points per game.
“We really preach that defense is more important than offense and that our defense should lead to offensive opportunities, and I think we really held true to that in the final minutes of the game,” Henschel said.
Seven points is the closest margin of victory this season for N.E.W. Lutheran. Even though it has two losses, but facing a little adversity in needing a comeback could pay dividends for the N.E.W. Lutheran players down the road.
“It’s good because maybe later in the season we face this in a really meaningful game and then we have experience with it and we know how to approach the game from that point,” Henschel said.