PERU – Woodland coach Connor Kaminke knew that his team needed to slow down St. Bede’s up-tempo offense to compete Saturday.
The two teams played twice during the regular season, splitting those two games. The third meeting came Saturday at the Class 1A Midland Regional opener at St. Bede.
Kaminke’s Warriors succeeded at slowing the Bruins, but it was St. Bede on the defensive side that pushed the tempo to its liking to come away with a 62-50 victory and a spot in the regional semifinals Wednesday.
Brendan Pillion scored the last four points of an 8-0 run to close the first quarter, giving the Bruins a 17-9 lead they would build to as many as 20 points late in the third period. St. Bede then held off a Connor Dodge-led Woodland rally that sliced that lead in half before coming up short.
Isaiah Hart popped in 22 points for the Bruins (10-21), matching the total posted by Dodge, to advance the Bruins to Wednesday’s 6 p.m. semifinal at Midland High School against old rival Marquette (23-6).
Film study showed St. Bede coach Brian Hanson that his team was too passive in the first clash, a 61-51 Woodland win in the season opener, but was more aggressive in their 46-41 win over the Warriors in their meeting at the Marquette Christmas Tournament. Kaminke was aware of that, too, so his charges showed real hustle to get back on defense.
Down 9-8 in the first quarter, St. Bede got a rebound and two free throws from Logan Potthoff to take the lead for good, then added a 3-pointer from Callan Hueneburg and a pair of buckets by Pillion to end the quarter on top by nine.
Eight points by Hart helped stretch that lead to 32-20 at the half and to 48-28 on a putback by John Brady with 46 seconds left in the third quarter.
“Isaiah did a nice job of letting the game come to him a little bit more today, and Logan Potthoff off the bench for seven points and was all over the glass,” Hanson said. “A lot of guys we can give nods to today. … Our defense kept the pace going. Our guards are really getting out there, pressuring the ball and speeding the game up, and they love doing it.
“Connor has those kids playing good basketball, and you know they’re never gonna quit, so we knew a run was coming. [Woodland] runs good sets, but our defense kept those from starting in a fluid motion.”
Faced with elimination, the Warriors rallied behind the sophomore Dodge, who scored 13 points in the final eight minutes. Six of those helped cut the deficit to 10 and, with 1:04 left, another basket set the margin at 55-45, but that’s as close as they’d get.
Pillion hit 5 of 6 free throws and Hart added two more, all in the final 46.5 seconds to help seal the win.
“If we had given the effort we showed in the fourth quarter for all four quarters, it would have been a completely different game,” Kaminke said. “It seemed like they got what they wanted in the first quarter offensively, beating us baseline, splitting gaps and hitting contested shots. Defensively, that’s what hurt us move. We’d been guarding well the last few weeks, but it just wasn’t there today. … We started out that flat after half of the first quarter and that stretch in the middle quarters really hurt us.
“But give our guys credit for playing to the final buzzer, coming back and making it a ballgame. It’s tough, but you can’t get down like that and expect to come back, especially in postseason play. … How hard our kids play and the heart they play with, it makes me proud to coach them.”