Knights finally get rolling late
Metro-East Lutheran's big second half dooms CORL
CENTRALIA – The Metro-East Lutheran Knights were late arriving for their rescheduled game at Christ Our Rock Lutheran on Monday night.

The varsity only game was schedule for 6:15 pm start but the game got under way about 6:30 pm.

Their “game” basically didn't get off of the bus until much later as they fell behind the hot shooting Silver Stallions.

Nevertheless the Knights shook off their road rust in a hurry late in the second quarter.

Getting a monster game by 6-foot-5 junior A.J. Smith on both ends of the floor, including a dominating eight minutes in the third quarter, Metro-East Lutheran pulled away for a 75-60 triumph in a game that was originally scheduled for Saturday, February 1.

Smith ended up with 30 points and 15 rebounds as MEL improved to 12-13 overall.

The brother of University of Missouri standout and former Illinois Mr. Basketball Mark Smith proved to be unstoppable at times during the second half against the smaller CORL squad.

Despite foul trouble, which caused Smith to part of the fourth quarter, the Knights kept playing well in his absence.

Assistant coach Joel Rempfer, who was subbing for head coach Anthony Smith who was at his daughter's senior night at Edwardsville, saw his team wake up just before halftime with a much better performance in the final two-and-a-half quarters.

Besides Smith's double-double, the Knights got 17 points from senior Cameron Gusewelle and 12 from junior Luke Neath.

Junior guard Christopher Chipman added eight points and senior Brendan Steinmeyer added five.

Both scored points while Smith was “riding the pine” in the final quarter as MEL kept the hosts from making a run.

Smith picked up a pair of quick fouls in the first minute of the fourth quarter and went to the bench.

Even though they only hit 14-of-28 free throws in the game, the Knights cruised to the win.

“We have said that all year that our success is going to run through our defense and tonight early we were sluggish on recovering on defense and on the help side,” said Coach Rempfer. “Credit to them (CORL) they hit wide-open shots but we weren't playing defense early like we are capable of. Our other game-plan on offense was to work the ball around and prove that they could stop him (Smith). When he gets the ball we have to have cutters and guys moving.”

Coach Steve Britt saw his Silver Stallions fall to 9-18 on the season, with two of the defeats coming to Metro-East Lutheran.

Christ Our Rock Lutheran was topped by Colin Ramsour, a 6-foot junior, with 17 points.

Five-foot-nine junior guard Sam Britt added 16 points to the stats while senior Zach Wuebbels and freshman Ryan Wuebbels added 12 and 11.

Junior point guard Tymar Offutt rounded out the scoring for the Silver Stallions with a couple of baskets for four points.

“When you are as little as we are, you need to get every defensive rebound you can get,” said Coach Britt. “We had them (Metro-East) on the ropes but we let them off by not boxing out and not sliding over on defense. We would reach and that is why had so many fouls in the second half. He (Smith) is a heck of a player.”

While the Knights were suffering from road lag at the beginning, CORL came out firing in the opening quarter.

Four consecutive made 3-pointers, three of them by Zach Wuebbels, forced a MEL timeout as the hosts led 12-2 with 4:16 remaining.

Two 3-pointers from Guesewelle and Neath along with a bucket inside by Smith cut into the deficit for the Knights.

CORL closed out the quarter with Britt scoring his first points and Ramsour taking an assist from Z. Wuebbels to make it 21-14 Stallions.

Coach Britt's club was a outstanding 5-of-7 from the 3-point arc to start the game.

Ramsour hit a couple of 3-pointers in the second quarter as he and his teammates stayed hot from the floor.

He also was fouled in the act of shooting from long range and was awarded three free throws.

The junior forward knocked down all three of the shots for a 33-26 lead.

However the Knights began to get things going in the minutes before halftime.

Gueswelle scored 10 of his points in the second quarter with a pair of long range shots and a couple of nice drives to the goal.

His final points of the half on a fast break lay in evened the score for the first time at 35-all with 1:15 remaining before the break.

Britt hit 1-of-2 free throws and then closed the half by driving into the lane for a score to beat the horn for a 38-35 lead at the half.

The Stallions were a sparkling 7-of-10 from the arc and 13-of-22 overall in the first half.

Unfortunately they were only up three heading to the second half and things quickly changed.

After hitting just 12-of-27 from the field overall and 3-of-8 from the foul line, Metro-East was fortunate to be down just three.

Part of the reason why the Knights were so close was that the squad held CORL without an offensive rebound in the first half while holding a 17-8 edge on the boards; led by Smith with six.

As it turned out, Smith was just getting ready to change the game.

The junior forward dominated play in the third quarter.

Smith scored 18 of his points and ripped down eight of his rebounds in the eight minutes.

He hit a pair of free throws early in the quarter and followed it up with three baskets in the lane.

Trailing 47-44 with 4:40 left in the third, Metro-East Lutheran took control with a 13-1 run.

Smith scored 10 of the points, hitting yet another shot close to the basket before adding 1-of-2 free throws which tied the game for the final time at 47-all.

After Britt made 1-of-2 from the charity line, Smith hit two 3-pointers sandwiched around a long distance shot by Neath.

Smith added another 1-of-2 trip to the line to close the quarter at 57-48 Metro-East Lutheran.

CORL had a glimmer of hope early in the final quarter as Smith picked up two consecutive personal fouls, one on a charge, which were his third and fourth with still over seven minutes remaining.

With the junior forward on the bench, the hosts had a chance to make a run.

A driving score from Britt and a 3-pointer from R. Wuebbels got the Stallions as close as they would get.

The Knights went on an 11-2 blitz with 5-of-6 free throws from Gusewelle, Steinmeyer and Chipman getting it started.

Then Metro-East Lutheran began to spread the floor looking for easy shots and they got a pair of them to go on drives in the lane by Chipman and then Smith who had re-entered the game.

This ballooned the Knights lead to 71-56.

After hitting 59 percent from the floor in the first two quarters, CORL cooled down in the second half.

The Silver Stallions ended up 22-of-45 overall, 9-of-23 in the final 16 minutes.

Metro-East Lutheran held a commanding 37-15 rebounding advantage and they finished 26-of-50 overall from the field.

They hit half of their 3-pointers (9-of-18) in the game, their second win this season over CORL.

The two teams opened their campaigns against each other at the annual Metro-East Lutheran Turkey Tip-Off with the Knights winning 66-54.

Coach Britt and his club will travel to St. Elmo/Brownstown on Friday night while MEL will next play Madison on Tuesday night and then February 10 against St. Louis (MO.) Carnahan at home.

“Our three points shooters went 'ice cold' in the third quarter and if they had kept hitting maybe it would have been a bit closer,” said Coach Britt. “It is hard for us to comeback if we are not hitting 3's and we allow teams to get offensive rebounds. And that happened tonight.”

Metro-East Lutheran (12-13)
Christ Our Rock Lutheran (9-18)

Metro-East Lutheran (75)
– Tucker 0 1 0-2 3, Steinmeyer 1 0 3-4 5, Chipman 3 0 2-6 8, Williams 0 0 0-0 0, Smith 9 2 6-12 30, Neath 1 3 1-2 12, Gusewelle 3 3 2-2 17.
2FG-17, 3FG-3, FT-14-28, PF-11.
Christ Our Rock Lutheran (60)
– Offutt 2 0 0-0 4, Britt 7 0 2-4 16, Z. Wuebbels 0 4 0-0 12, Reynolds 0 0 0-0 0, Jackson 0 0 0-0 0, Ramsour 3 2 5-7 17, R. Wuebbels 1 3 0-0 11.
2FG-13, 3FG-9, FT-7-11, PF-19.
Fouled Out
– Offutt - Christ Our Rock Lutheran.
Technical Fouls
– None.