Brickner’s last-second shot gives Tigers key win

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff


DEVIN GALLENBERGER of Howards Grove looks to drive past Sheboygan Christian’s Michael Alsum in Monday’s BEC basketball game. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley DEVIN GALLENBERGER of Howards Grove looks to drive past Sheboygan Christian’s Michael Alsum in Monday’s BEC basketball game. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley SHEBOYGAN – Senior forward Nick Brickner’s tip-in with only 0.7 seconds left gave the Howards Grove Tigers a thrilling 47-45 boys basketball win over Sheboygan Christian here Monday night.

It was a huge win for the Tigers as they raised their first-place Big East Conference record to 9-0 (11- 3 overall). HGHS, a winner of six in a row, is at least two games ahead in the loss column on the teams chasing them in the BEC title race. Ozaukee is in second place at 8-2. The Tigers have four league games left and Ozaukee has three.

Christian, which had hoped to pull within a game of the league lead with a victory, slipped to 6-3 (9-3 overall).

“That was nice. It meant a lot to me,” said Brickner about his game-winning basket as he walked off the court. “The coach [Eric Worth, head coach] always tells us to crash the glass on every shot and it paid off there.”

Brayden VanEss sank 1 of 2 free throws with 1:20 left which brought the Eagles even, 45-45. Senior forward Jordan Miller had given HGHS a 45-44 lead on its previous possession when he converted a three-point play with 1:30 remaining.

After VanEss hit his free throw, the Tigers then worked the ball around for a last shot. Derrick Grimm missed a three-point attempt in the waning seconds. HGHS got the rebound and missed a shot inside but Brickner worked inside for position and scored the game-winner.

The Eagles called a timeout and tried a long pass downcourt but the ball hit the ceiling which sealed the win for HGHS.

“It was very big to go on the road and get a win against a quality team,” said Tiger head coach Eric Worth. “It definitely helps staying out of the loss column in Big East play.

“However, we have a long way to go before it’s all said and done. I think the most important thing was coming out on top in a close game. Our guys don’t have a whole lot of experience with these type of games and they were able to get it done.”

The Tigers would’ve been kicking themselves if they lost this game after they squandered a 16-point lead, with poor free-throw shooting a key culprit. HGHS was only 7-for-20 at the foul line and missed six free throws in the final 6:03, including the front end of a bonus opportunity.

HGHS played a strong first half, fueled by a tight, man-toman defense and a patient offense which moved the ball well which led to many open shots inside and outside. The Tigers used a 22-4 spurt to seize a 28-12 lead at the 2:40 mark in the first half.

The Tigers drained three-point shots on four straight possessions to close out the run. Junior guard Bryce Pedrin hit three of the treys and Devin Gallenberger had the other one.

Pedrin, who came off the bench, scored all nine of his first-half points on his three-balls which sparked the 22-4 surge. Jordan Miller tallied six points during the run which included two layups off assists from Brickner and a follow-up basket. The Tigers led 28-16 at halftime.

“Our guys started off the game playing really well. I really liked our intensity level and communication on the defensive side of the ball,” said Worth.

“We did a great job forcing them into tough shots and did a great job rebounding the basketball. This allowed us to get out in transition and put a little bit of pressure on them.

“We did a really nice job moving the ball against their zone and Bryce hit some big threes for us to extend a little bit of a lead in the first half,” said the coach.

“I didn’t like the way we finished the first half. I thought we took some bad shots and continuously put them on the free-throw line.”

The Eagles scored their final four points of the opening half on free throws.

Christian came out strong in the second half and played more aggressively on defense and attacked better on offense. Junior guard Jacob Stecker ignited the Eagles’ offense in the final half with 13 of his team-high 16 points.

Stecker, who buried two threepointers in the second half, hit a turnaround jumper which gave the Eagles their first lead of the night, 41-39, with 5:50 left and climaxed a 13-2 spurt which erased a 37-28 HGHS lead. Stecker exploded for nine points during the run, including two fast-break layups and a three-ball, to lead the rally.

“In the second half Christian came out swinging and we responded but they came back and ended up taking the lead. We didn’t do a real good job of finishing plays and I thought our energy level was down a little bit,” said Worth.

“Credit to both teams for playing hard and battling. Our freethrow shooting was very poor and really hurt us down the stretch in both the first and second halves. I was happy with our guys finishing and gettting after it.

“Nick Brickner had a really nice game for us and made a huge play at the end of the game for us. I’m proud of the way we were able to weather the storm and finish a hard-fought game,” said Worth.

Miller led HGHS in scoring with 17 points and Pedrin hit 10. Brickner and Miller shared rebounding honors with six each.

Brickner had a team-high three assists. Gallenberger and Brickner forced three turnovers each on defense.

The Tigers’ defense held Van- Ess, one of the Eagles’ top scorers this season, to only six points, including just one field goal.

“Holding down VanEss [junior guard/forward] was huge. We did a great job forcing him into some tough scoring situations. Overall, it was a good team effort in slowing him down,” Worth pointed out.

“Sheboygan Christian really fought back in the game and played really good defense in the second half and that slowed us down,” said Brickner.


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