Defense lifts Tigers to third in BEC Tourney

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff

JACK BALDWIN of Howards Grove attempts to score against Kohler’s Ben Maki in Saturday’s BEC Basketball Tourney. – Photo by Terry Schaller JACK BALDWIN of Howards Grove attempts to score against Kohler’s Ben Maki in Saturday’s BEC Basketball Tourney. – Photo by Terry Schaller HOWARDS GROVE – The Howards Grove Tigers struggled on offense but their defense came through to key a 42-32 win over Kohler in the third-place game of the Big East Conference Boys Basketball Tournament Saturday afternoon at Lakeland University.

HG shot only 37 percent from the field and was just 10 of 22 at the freethrow line but held the Blue Bombers to a paltry 28 percent.

Three-point shooting proved crucial to the outcome as the Tigers were an excellent 6 of 11 (55 percent), compared to 0 of 12 for Kohler.

The No. 4-seeded Tigers, who won the inaugural BEC Tourney last year, ended their regular season with a 16-6 record. The No. 7-seeded Bombers dropped to 15-6.

It was an ugly first half for both teams, punctuated by poor shooting and sloppy ball handling. The Tigers were 4-for-18 from the field and 4-for-12 at the foul line. HG shot much better in the second half from the floor at 53 percent. Kohler was just 5-for-22 from the field in the opening half.

HG led 15-14 at halftime, sparked on offense by Bryce Pedrin’s 10 points.

During one stretch HG committed all seven of its first-half turnovers out of 11 possessions. Kohler had two turnovers and then missed four straight field-goal attempts before fi- nally scoring on Joe Bugbee’s layup 4:40 into the game.

The Tigers grabbed a 6-0 lead with 14:00 left in the opening half on a pair of three-point goals by Pedrin. HG led most of the first half.

The lead seesawed back and forth until the Tigers gained the lead for keeps, 19-18, on a layup by Derek Stauss on an assist by Pedrin with 12:38 remaining.

A 9-2 run by the Tigers upped their advantage to 28-20 at the 7:40 mark. Caleb Holzman’s three-ball capped off the spurt. Stauss hit a layup and a follow-up basket, and Jack Baldwin contributed a driving layup during the stretch.

Pedrin’s trey and Eric Reinemann’s free throw gave HG a 32-22 lead with 5:52 left. Kohler wasn’t able to come any closer than a sevenpoint margin the rest of the contest. Baldwin made 3 of 4 foul shots to help seal the win.

“At this time of year you just have to survive and advance,” said Tiger head coach Wade Georgeff.

“It’s something we talk about all year that when your offense isn’t going good you have to hang your hat on something and it just happens to be defense. When you give up about 32 points you have to be pleased.

“I thought Jack Baldwin [sophomore point guard] did a nice job controlling the tempo and handling the ball. Derek Stauss [junior forward] did a nice job down low. Bryce Pedrin [senior guard/forward] and Caleb Holzman [senior forward] did well too,” said Georgeff.

Pedrin led HG in scoring with 15 points. Dalton Free had a team-high six rebounds. Stauss led in steals with three.

“It [the game] was ugly. We’re not really happy with how we played but we got the job done and that’s all that matters,” said Stauss.

“Our defense kept us in the game. We were having good help on everything [on defense]. We had good team defense.

“Our defense has been solid all year. We know that’s our backbone and that’s what gave us the win,” added Stauss.

Ben Maki paced Kohler in scoring with eight. Sean Farrell had a team-best eight boards and three steals.

Hilbert defeated Ozaukee in Saturday’s championship game, 62-44.

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