Call it practice for the snowstorm.
Little by little, the Union boys basketball Wildcats were able to dig out of a large early deficit Friday, eventually winning a Four Rivers game at Owensville, 61-55.
“I thought our team showed a lot of grit being down 13-2 and battling back,” Union Head Coach Chris Simmons said. “It wasn’t all at once. It went a little bit at a time, and, in the second half, we were able to get a lead.”
Things started out great for Cullen VanLeer’s Dutchmen (6-11, 1-2). Owensville jumped out to a 13-4 lead after one quarter and already were in the bonus as Union committed the first eight fouls.
Union (10-10, 2-1) worked back little by little. The Wildcats scored 13 of the first 20 points in the second half and cut it to 20-17 before the Dutchmen went on another small run.
Union came back to cut it to 27-21 at the half.
In the third quarter, the Wildcats followed the adjustments and outscored Owensville, 17-7.
Nkosi Hanley, who missed much of the first half due to foul trouble, scored to tie it twice, at 30-30, and 32-32.
Collin Gerdel gave Union its first lead, 34-32, converting a pass from Mason Bailey.
“The comeback really was because we rebounded better and we played through Collin Gerdel in the paint. All of our guys are better when we play inside out. Collin may not lead us in scoring, but he’s the reason we score the ball. When we play it through him, we’re a much better team.”
After three quarters, Union led, 38-34.
Union built up a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Owensville pulled back late in the game.
Derek Brandt and Zaid Epstein hit three-point baskets in the fourth quarter and the Dutchmen fouled quickly to put Union on the free-throw line.
In the final minute, Union went 5-7 from the free-throw line to seal the win, 61-55.
Kaden Motley led the Wildcats in scoring with 22 points.
He knocked down one three-point basket and went 7-8 from the free-throw in the fourth quarter.
“If it wasn’t for him in the first half, we would have been down by 15,” Simmons said. “He’s doing the things good players do. When you do things the right way, you get rewarded with made shots. He’s just playing under control. He played really well tonight.”
Hanley netted all 11 of his points in the second half.
“He can finish with the best of them,” Simmons said. “We need scoring out of him and Ryan Rapert every night. They’ve got to put points on the board to give us that third or fourth scorer consistently. I thought Nkosi was a spark tonight.”
Gerdel closed with 10 points.
Matthew Seely hit a pair of three-point baskets and finished with eight points.
Ryan Rapert netted eight points.
Both Liam Hughes and Lance Corum scored two points in the second quarter.
“I thought Liam, Lance and Tanner Hall gave us really good minutes tonight,” Simmons said. “They executed. Defensively, they were impressive. They were doing things the right way. They don’t always get the minutes they want, but they were ready for the chance and stepped up.”
Brendan Decker was Owensville’s leading scorer with 12 points.
Brandt netted 11 points with three three-point baskets.
Bryce Payne also concluded with 11 points. He was 3-4 from the free-throw line.
Epstein knocked down a trio of three-point shots in the second half for his nine points. He also drew two crucial charges in the second half.
Tyler Heidbrink scored six points.
Charlie Whelan and Landon Valley each closed with three points.
“Give them credit,” Simmons said. “They made shots. When you see a lead going away late, it’s easy to be sped up. Our guys just did the right things and made the easy play. Overall, I thought it was a team effort from top to bottom.”