VAN WERT — Sectional basketball is all about moving on.

The Fort Jennings boys did just that Tuesday night in game one of the Division IV Van Wert Sectional, sliding past Lima Temple Christian 48-44.

It came down, as is generally does in the playoff opener, to the final period. The Musketeers (4-19) led 37-36 to start the fourth and scored first on a basket by junior Connor Wallenhorst (16 markers, five boards) at 6:57. The Pioneers’ Taylor Zwiebel (six assists) hit the second-of-2 singles at 6:05 but Musketeer junior Austin Kehres (9 points, 5 rebounds) put back his own miss to make it 41-37. The Pioneers (6-17) rallied and tied the score at 42 on a three-ball by sophomore sharpshooter Keaton Good (23 markers on seven triples) at 3:10.

Sophomore Alex Berelsman stepped up big for the Orange and Black, driving for a pair of baskets to put them up 46-42. Joey Hutchison (8 markers, 8 caroms) put the Pioneers within two on his basket at 1:11 and LTC called time. The Musketeers ran down the clock, taking one timeout and forcing the Pioneers to foul twice. Kehres was fouled at 19.3 ticks but missed the front end of the bonus. The Pioneers called time at 13.7 ticks and out of that, got the ball to Good; however, he fell trying to drive to the basket and Musketeer junior Mark Metzger (5 rebounds) got the steal and junior Nick Von Sossan (9 markers, 4 assists) was fouled with 3.3 ticks showing. He hit both ends of the bonus to seal the deal.

“The second half was much more of an all five kids’ effort. We rebounded better on the defensive end and we talked a lot better,” Musketeer first-year coach Keith Utendorf explained. “If you are talking on defense, you aren’t playing defense. We switched into a 1-2-2 half-court trap and that got our juices going. We needed to do something to change it up for us and it worked both ways; it got us more into it and it bothered Temple.”

LTC coach Bruce Bowman gave credit where it was due.

“They just played better than we did overall. They made the halftime adjustment and it threw us off,” Bowman explained. “We still got some good shots but they simply weren’t falling as they had done the first half; that’s basketball.”

In the early going, the Musketeers struggled sealing the Pioneers off the offensive boards, giving up four in the first period (13 for the game). Despite this, LTC could not take advantage as they only downed 2-of-13 shots (15-of-48 for the contest, 8-of-25 long range, for 31.3 percent). The Musketeers, meanwhile, netted 6-of-10 in the canto (19-of-37 overall, 4-of-11 trifectas, for 51.4 percent). When Wallenhorst drained a 3 from the right corner with 50 ticks to go, they led 13-9.

Good, who netted five points in the opener, got hot in the second against the Musketeer man-to-man, draining four triples, all from the right corner. On the other end, Jennings went the first 4:09 of the stanza without scoring — missing four shots and turning it over once (15 for the game versus 12 for their foe). When Good buried his fourth bomb at 43 ticks, LTC led 29-22.

The Musketeers switched from a 2-2-1 press into that 1-2-2 3/4-court trap to start the third period and that did something to the Pioneer offense. It limited Good’s open looks, only giving up one trey and helped them stage a needed rally. LTC took its final lead, 36-34, on a layin by Ethan Rex at 2:27 but Von Sossan drilled a three-ball from the right wing at 1:45 to give the eventual victors a 37-36 margin heading into the fourth.

“The first half, we weren’t boxing out on the defensive end and we weren’t communicating very well. We were constantly reminding the kids we had to all box out and talk defensively,” Utendorf added. “Our half-court trap has been something we have played effectively most of the second half of the season. We only play three seniors and rotate in up to nine guys, so we have a lot of youngsters getting their first taste of varsity tournament action. I think the nerves bothered us early but we settled in.”

Lima Temple Christian ended up 4-of-7 at the stripe; with 27 boards as Markus Howell had eight.

“We executed better offensively the first half and got some open looks. Tonight, they were from 3-point range a lot,” Bowman added. “My kids played awfully hard but we just weren’t quite up to what Jennings did for 32 minutes. When our shots stopped falling, we weren’t good enough out of our matchup zone to compensate. Their trap turned us over and gave up a few too many easy shots.”

The Musketeers advance to take on second-seeded St. John’s in game 1 (6:15 p.m.) Friday back at Van Wert.


Nick Von Sossan 3-2-9, Alex Berelsman 3-0-6, Aaron Neidert 0-0-0, Connor Wallenhorst 6-3-16, Mark Metzger 1-1-3, Josh Wittler 2-0-5, Austin Kehres 4-0-9, Nate German 0-0-0, Logan Sickels 0-0-0. Totals 15-4-6-48.


Markus Howell 1-1-3, Michael Breaston 1-0-2, Taylor Zwiebel 0-3-3, Brock Bowman 1-0-3, Keaton Good 8-0-23, Joey Hutchison 3-2-8, Ethan Rex 1-0-2. Totals 8-7-6-44.

Score by Quarters:

Ft. Jennings 13 9 15 11 - 48

Lima Tem. Chr. 9 20 7 8 - 44

Three-point goals: Fort Jennings, Wallenhorst, Von Sossan, Wittler, Kehres; Lima Temple Christian, Good 7, Bowman.