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Mooseheart's Wale Sanni grabs a loose ball off the floor in the first half of the Ramblers regional semifinal contest with Westminster Christian.
Mooseheart's Kevin Gbadebo takes a shot in the free throw lane during the third quarter of Mooseheart's 44-35 loss to Westminster Christian in the Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock semifinals.
Mooseheart senior Jessie Mennis looks for a passing option during the second half of the Ramblers regional seminfinal loss to Westminster Christian. Mennis scored 9 points in his final high school contest.
Feb. 22, HINCKLEY – On another night, the furious second half rally Mooseheart's boys basketball team engineered against Westminster Christian might have brought a positive result.
But Wednesday night, the Ramblers roared from the start of the third quarter, erased a 22-13 deficit and eventually tied the game at 30-30 with over 5 minutes to play – only to see Wesminster answer with a run of its own and win the Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional semifinal 44-35.
“We played a very nice second half for us,” Mooseheart coach Ron Ahrens said. “We knew coming in that we were going to have to play defense to win. Being down 9 at half, I was a little concerned. We came out and played well in the second half.”
The Ramblers (12-18) got the rally going immediately thanks to a three-pointer by Peter Kurowski and a basket by Jessie Mennis. Westminster Christian (17-12) only scored 4 points in the third quarter and Mooseheart closed to 26-24 just before the quarter ended when Mennis converted a turnover with a layup.
“I said in the locker room that I felt we were going to get blown out if we didn't cut into it,” Ahrens said. “If we didn't cut it with a bucket or two, I felt like it was going to be a long second half for us.”
The Warriors opened the lead to 30-26 early in the fourth quarter but the Ramblers answered with a pair of Hameed Odunewu free throws and a Mennis layup with 5:48 left that brought the teams level at 30-30 – the only tie of the game.
Robert Kleczynski hit a free throw, Will Woodhouse hit a basket and Colin Brandon hit a critical three-pointer before Woodhouse scored again in an eight-point run that left the Ramblers trailing 38-30 with 2:48 to play.
Although Wednesday's game was the fourth time the teams had played this season, Mooseheart found a few wrinkles in its attempt to gain a split in the series with the Warriors, notably a triangle-and-two zone in to try to shut down inside shots and limit Wesminster Christian's outside game. At other times, Mooseheart moved into a 1-3-1 zone.
“We switched everything for them tonight,” Ahrens said. “We ran two different defenses that they haven't seen. They know what we're to do offensively, obviously.”
Kurowski and Mennis led Mooseheart with 9 points apiece while Wale Sanni added 8 points. The game marked the final high school contests for Mennis and Daniel Tucker.
“I'm extremely proud of the two seniors,” Ahrens said. “They finished the year and they were good role models. They were good leaders because they worked hard for their four years. I haven't had two better seniors than Daniel Tucker and Jessie Mennis. I told Jessie that, as a sophomore, I wouldn't have thought he'd be our best player as a senior – and he was.”
Brandon scored 11 points to lead all scorers while Josh Beachler added 10 points for the Warriors. Wesminster Christian faces the host Royals on Friday at 7:30 p.m in the regional title game. Mooseheart's season came to a close with the defeat.
Mooseheart: Tucker 0 0-0 0, Odunewu 2 3-4 7, Hart 0 0-0 0, Kurowski 3 1-2 9,
Mennis 4 1-2 9, Gbadebo 1 0-0 2, Sanni 4 0-0 8. Totals 14 5-8 35.
Westminster Christian Woodhouse 4 0-0 9, Carani 0 0-0 0, Wiewel 3 1-2 7, Kleczynski 3 1-3 7, Beachler 3 4-4 10, Brandon 4 0-0 11. Totals 17 6-8 44.
Mooseheart 4 9 11 11 - 35
Westminster Christian 10 12 4 18 - 44
Three-point goals: Mooseheart: Kurowski 2. Westminster Christian: Brandon 3, Woodhouse 1. Fouled out: None.