Head Coach Aaron Peirick thought his New Haven Shamrocks had a chance to beat Warrenton if they did the right things, but he never dreamed it would turn out to be a 30-point win.
New Haven hit five three-pointers in the first quarter, en route to a 17-11 lead, and went on to post a 61-31 win over the Warriors in the consolation game of the 40th Annual Hermann Invitational Basketball Tournament Saturday night.
“It was probably as good as we played all year,” said Peirick, whose Class 2 Shamrocks were facing a school two classes higher. “We did a lot of things right and never let up. We dogged them on defense and never backed down.”
Senior Ethan Groner, who led the Shamrocks with 18 points, hit the first shot of the game on a baseline cut to the basket and New Haven’s next five baskets were all behind the three-point arc. Jay Eichelberger, Martin Lewis, Luke Gerlemann and Groner all hit threes in the opening quarter, and Lewis made two of them.
“We were patient and got off to a hot start,” Peirick said. “One guy hits a three, and it’s contagious. They see one of their teammates hit one and they believe they can make one, too.”
Warrenton (6-13 overall) never had the lead, and the Shamrocks went on to build a 29-18 lead at the half. Groner scored six straight points to give his team a 25-18 lead, and New Haven finished out the first half with a pair of free throws by Christian Paterson and a basket inside from Gerlemann.
The Warriors, whose offense sputtered in the first half as New Haven contested every one of their shots, had a brief spark to start the second half. They scored the first six points of the third quarter on baskets by Jake Tonioli, C.J. Schwerdt and Travis Toebben. But then the Warriors scored just two points in the final 2:30 of the third quarter.
New Haven took a 36-26 lead into the final eight minutes after regaining control late in the third quarter.
“We got back on target late in the third quarter after getting off to a real good start where we were knocking down shots,” said Peirick. “Our team defense was really good; we guarded them tough. We talked out there and got to their shooters, helping out each other. Team rebounding was outstanding with five guys boxing out, and we had five guys going after it.”
The Shamrocks blew the game open early in the fourth quarter when they scored the first 12 points. Groner started that run, too, with a driving layup that was followed by a trey from Lewis. When the Warriors were assessed a technical foul with 4:40 left to play, Groner knocked down both shots and New Haven had its largest lead at that point, 47-26. They ended the final quarter with a 25-5 scoring advantage.
“We had a lot of guys who really played well,” said Peirick. “Luke (Gerlemann) did a tremendous job on offensive rebounds, and Jay (Eichelberger) and Martin (Lewis) played their tails off. Jay was on their No. 15 (Tonioli) most of the game and he knew that he had to do a good job. That kid is a good player and we tried to make him work (for his shots). Martin spent some time on him, too.”
The Shamrocks made 16 of 23 free throws in the fourth quarter and hit 23 out of 32 for the game while Warrenton was 6-8 at the line.
New Haven, now 12-6, has gone 8-1 in its last nine games and has shown a marked improvement in its play since late December. That’s because they spent some time in the gym during their holiday break, getting a lot of reps on a few new wrinkles on offense.
“We were able to put in a couple of sets, yet not change our base offense,” said Peirick. “We are all about moving the ball. It’s something we put on the white board every day. If we are working on our offense, it’s something we pound into our kids’ heads.”
In addition to Groner’s 18 points, Gerlemann finished with 12 points, Lewis had nine while Eichelberger and Paterson each had seven. Joseph Rethemeyer and Trent Kormeier scored three points apiece and Colton Ruediger had two.
Tonioli led Warrenton with 11 while Toebben and Dylan Smith each had seven.