N.E.W. Lutheran can’t quite complete comeback
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – With the game on the line, the N.E.W. Lutheran boys’ basketball team had its best shooter with the ball in his hand.
Down one point with 25 seconds remaining, Tristian Lynch found himself open above the 3-point arc.
The senior launched a shot that rimmed out. Kewaunee got its hands on the loose ball.
N.E.W. Lutheran didn’t get another shot the rest of the game as Kewaunee escaped with a 62-59 road win in Packerland Conference action on Monday night.
“We had a great look,” N.E.W. Lutheran coach Mark Meerstein said. “I told (their) coach after, I said, ‘Man, we couldn’t have got a better shot.’ We shoot 3s, we shoot bunnies, we shoot mid-range, it doesn’t matter — but that one, four feet, five feet off of him, he had a good look at it. I would take that in a heartbeat again, and he’s going to make it.”
N.E.W. Lutheran, ranked No. 9 in Division 5 in the latest WisSports.net Coaches Poll, was possibly just that one basket away from pulling off an important victory. It would have pulled the Blazers into a tie with Kewaunee for third place in the conference race.
This N.E.W. Lutheran-Kewaunee game was tight compared to their matchup on Dec. 15 in which the Storm won, 73-50.
“It’s just learning; we’re still learning. Even though it’s late in the season, we can always learn,” Meerstein said. “The effort was there, we took care of things, we didn’t turn the ball over like we did the first time against them and we had a shot. That’s what we told ourselves, we wanted a shot to win it and we had a shot to win it.”
N.E.W. Lutheran (14-5, 8-4 Packerland) got a 3-pointer from Lynch to put his team up 17-13 midway through the opening half. Kewaunee (12-5, 9-2 Packerland) answered with a 15-5 run to take a slim 33-32 lead into halftime.
The Storm took its biggest lead of the game at 10, 55-45, after an 11-4 spurt with just over 6 minutes remaining in the game.
The Blazers had a run of their own, scoring 12 straight points. Lynch and Jack Henschel each nailed 3-pointers and Griffin Steffel converted a layup to give N.E.W. Lutheran the lead back at 57-55.
“They were on cruise control. They were just doing stuff and making it easy and we turned up the gas a little bit,” Meerstein said. “We put a little more pressure on them.”
Lynch noted that during that critical run, N.E.W. Lutheran kept pushing the ball.
“We kept the pressure up,” Lynch said. “We knew that they were going to miss shots or make mishaps — they threw a couple of turnovers — and we knew that if we sprinted on the floor we would have got easy buckets.”
Kewaunee tied the game at 57-57, but Lynch came back and hit a transition layup. With 1:42 left on the clock, the Storm swung the ball over to guard Thomas Stangel, who buried a 3-pointer to put the visitors up, 60-59. He finished with a game-high 25 points.
“I think the reason we lost this game was lack of communication,” Lynch said. “They had a wide open 3 at the end there, that just shouldn’t happen. We just need to communicate more on the defensive side.”
Steffel was fouled with 1:23 remaining, and in the 1-and-1, he missed the front end. Kewaunee got possession of the ball, but turned it over to N.E.W. Lutheran. That set up the open look where Lynch missed a 3-pointer.
Kewaunee made a layup with 14.2 seconds left to go up three points, and N.E.W. Lutheran promptly committed a turnover. A one-and-one free throw attempt with 6.6 seconds remaining was missed by Kewaunee, but it tracked down the rebound and ran out the clock.
Lynch led the way for N.E.W. Lutheran with 22 points. Elijah Meerstein tallied 10 points.
Stangel was the top scorer of the game for Kewaunee with 25 points.
N.E.W. Lutheran is now in the backstretch of its regular-season schedule. Coach Meerstein knows it’s time to really make a push right before the start of the postseason.
“I just told the guys at the end, I said, ‘We’ve got five games left and this was a learning experience. We played well, unfortunately we didn’t get the win, but we played hard. We did what we were supposed to do. There’s not a lot of teams that are going to be able to keep with you when you play hard like that,’” coach Meerstein said.