Freeburg wins home opener
Midgets "big" first quarter proves too "tall" an order for New Athens to overcome

- The Freeburg Midgets have gotten off to a very fast start this season, as they went 3-1 at the Metro-East Lutheran Thanksgiving Tournament last week.

They opened their first home game of the season on Thursday in the same way.

With a very fast start.

Jumping out to a quick lead with a torrential downpour of made field goals, Coach Matt Laur's club rained on the visiting New Athens' parade on Thursday night.

Behind 20-points from junior guard Zach Muir and 13-points from senior Bryce Rutledge, Freeburg got on a roll early and managed to hold off every Yellow Jacket attack the rest of the game for a 68-56 win in a Cahokia Conference crossover contest.

Coach Laur's troops used outside shots and drives to the basket to build a big first quarter advantage and hit just enough free throws in the final quarter to improve to 4-1 on the season.

New Athens and head coach Conrad Widdersheim saw the overall record drop to 1-3 on the season.

The Yellow Jackets are involved in a tournament this week at Carlyle and managed to squeeze in a road game on Thursday night.

New Athens had some promising moments on Thursday night despite the outcome.

Six-foot-six sophomore Jaxon Heinz was very active in the post, scoring 14-points for NA.

Classmate 5-foot-6 guard Landon Deutschman added 10-points, hitting three 3-pointers for the Yellow Jackets.

Freeburg also got a double-digits from 5-foot-11 junior Quinn Haug.

Haug, Rutledge and Muir helped the Midgets get going in the opening minutes, taking the lead for good with a 17-2 run that broke the game's final tie.

A Rutledge 3-pointer from the left wing and consecutive scores by Haug on drives to the basket opened the scoring march.

A rebound bucket by senior Parker Weiss, two more scores by Rutledge on a mid-range shot and a fast break score on a pass from sophomore Carson Smith added to the New Athens misery.

Muir, who began the quarter with a score on a fast break, closed the Freeburg free-for-all with another long range 3-pointer and 21-6 spread.

“We thought coming in that their physicality, being a 3A team and a football school, might cause a problem so we didn't really want to see them cutting and slashing to the basket,” said Coach Widdersheim. “We wanted to keep them off of the offensive board and if that meant give up a couple of 3-point shots we were going to do that. They made a couple of them early.”

New Athens' Deutchman hit his first of his treys to close the quarter with the Yellow Jackets down by 13.

The Midgets appeared on the brink of blowing out New Athens with another quick run (7-0) with a pair of 3-pointers by Smith and Rutledge (who added 1-of-2 from the foul line) for a 28-11 advantage, the largest spread of the night with 6:17 left before intermission.

But to its credit, New Athens never went away as Coach Widdersheim saw his club battle back before the break.

The Yellow Jackets put together an 8-0 burst with Heinz scoring six of the points.

He scored all three baskets in the paint, posting up twice and grabbing an offensive board for a bucket.

Senior Noel Ivester added an inside score which cut the Freeburg lead to just 31-23.

Coach Laur's team managed to hit 3-of-4 free throws as they began to get NA in foul difficulties.

Ivester picked up his third foul during the free throw procession as New Athens went to the break down 36-24.

“Give them credit (New Athens) they didn't give up. We had them down 17 a couple of different times and a lot of folks would have just folded but they certainly didn't,” said Coach Laur. “They stayed at us and got some big shots and offensive rebounds. They fought all the way through to the end.”

As they had done in the first minutes of the contest, Freeburg got off to a good beginning of the second half.

Six-foot-four senior Alex Mack scored four of his five points on the night in the third frame, scoring on a pair of drives to the basket.

His second score, on an assist from Muir, made it 43-26.

Just moments earlier Heinz picked up his fourth foul on a charge call.

This sequence of events forced Coach Widdersheim into a time out with the Yellow Jackets in trouble.

The hosts extended the advantage later in the quarter, backed by a 3-pointer from freshman Luke Ervie and a rebound bucket by junior Chandler Bonta.

A conventional three-point play by Muir on a drive to the basket on an offensive set from a sideline out of bounds play pushed the Midgets advantage to 56-39 heading to the fourth.

But like a bad penny, the Yellow Jackets kept showing up and they made a final run that made things interesting in the fourth.

A 13-4 run, finalized by a three-point play by Ivester after grabbing an offensive board cut the lead to just 60-52 with 2:48 to go.

However Coach Laur's troops hit 6-of-8 free throws down the stretch to post the victory.

“Coach Laur's team is very fundamentally sound and they know when they have a lead what they are supposed to do,” said Coach Widdersheim. “They know what to do to succeed and hold that lead. They kept finding the open man.”

Coach Widdersheim can point to his teams' slow start with 13-turnovers in the first three quarters as a factor.

They didn't turn the ball over at all in the fourth quarter as they made their final move.

New Athens finished 21-of-51 (41 percent) overall from the floor, 6-of-20 from the arc.

They crashed the glass well in the fourth quarter, grabbing six offensive rebounds late.

Freeburg closed the contest going 22-of-46 overall (47.8 percent) but were just 7-of-23 from the 3-point line.

“Our guys, for the most part, did a really good job sticking to the game-plan. We changed a couple of things at halftime. We missed several foul shots, if we make our free throws we might close the door a bit earlier than we were able to,” said Coach Laur. “Its an early game and for a big chunk of the game we played a freshman and a sophomore. I told them you are going to make mistakes but you don't want one mistake become two or three. If we eliminate our turnovers and do a little better job on the boards then we will be just fine. We have a lot of weapons and it depends on what they (opponents) try to take away. Then we will counter.”

The good news was that they managed a 20-24 rebounding edge (10 offensive rebounds) and their 12-turnovers didn't factor into a loss.

“Like any good school and team, they came out ready for their first home game and I wasn't surprise to see them come out with a hot start,” said Coach Widdersheim. “But I'm real happy with our boy's the way they battled back.”

New Athens
New Athens (56) – Schneider 0 0 0-0 0, Deutschman 0 3 1-2 10, Marhanka 2 1 2-2 9, Dudeck 0 2 2-2 8, Ivester 3 0 1-1 7, Ruff 0 0 0-0 0, Heintz 7 0 0-2 14, Curry 3 0 2-4 8,
2FG-15, 3FG-6, FT-8-13, PF-20.

Freeburg (68) – Muir 3 3 5-5 20, Ervie 1 1 2-2 7, Haug 5 0 1-4 11, C. Smith 0 1 2-4 5, Rutledge 2 2 3-5 13, Mack 2 0 1-2 5, Bonta 1 0 0-0 2, Cockrell 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-15, 3FG-7, PF-15-24, PF-13.

Fouled Out – None.
Technical Fouls – None.