For The Tribune
Coach Aaron Rudzinski said he has had his Trinity Lutheran boys’ basketball team spend a lot of time focusing on defense in recent practices — and that work paid off Friday night.
“We’ve really been trying to stress the defensive side of the ball,” he said after the Cougars posted a 47-40 homecoming win against Indianapolis Lutheran in the Bollinger Athletic Complex.
“We have really struggled at times getting in position,” he said. “In a lot of different ways, over the last 10 games, we’ve struggled to shut teams down. Indy Lutheran is not a superb offensive team, but they’ve got some pretty good players on their team.”
Shane Miller topped the Saints (5-4) with 19 points with 14 coming in the first half.
“It was really important that we stop him,” Rudzinski said. “We just focused a little more on being in position and make them shoot over the top, and we did a good job of doing that. It was a good team win tonight.”
The Saints made 15 of 40 shots from the floor, and the Cougars made 15 for 43.
The Cougars held a 32-31 lead heading into the fourth period. After the teams traded baskets in the opening minute of the quarter, Chad Stuckwisch made a pair of free throws, Bobby Tabeling scored on a power move to the basket and Stuckwisch hit a 3-pointer at the 6:10-mark to give the Cougars a 38-33 lead.
The Cougars then missed scoring opportunities on their next three possessions and the Saints cut their deficit to 41-39.
Daniel Horton ended the dry spell with two free throws at 1:43, and Horton and Stuckwisch added four more free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal the win. Horton and Stuckwisch were both 4-for-4 at the line in the period.
Trinity made 12 of 17 from the line for the game, while the Saints made only six of 17 with eight of those misses coming in the fourth quarter.
The Saints held a 20-17 lead at the half, and were on top 24-20 early in the third when Keegan Rebber became a one-man scoring machine for the Cougars with two 2-point baskets, followed by a pair of 3-pointers that put his team on top 30-29.
Rebber topped Trinity with 17 points and Stuckwisch added 10.
Horton pulled down 10 rebounds, but the Saints held a 28-21 advantage in that department.
“They are a very good defensive team, and we knew that coming in,” Rudzinski said. “They don’t give up a lot of points, and some of that has to do with the style of play they have. We were able to execute just enough, especially late in the game, when it really mattered.
“We got to the point where we had a decent lead and stared to extend it a little bit and all of a sudden they started coming back because we got a little tentative offensively. We had a couple of time out where we were talking about needing to still be aggressive going to the basket, but we don’t need to force shots.
“We did a good job of putting ourselves in position to go to the basket. We really didn’t take any outside shots at that point.”
The Cougars (6-5) will travel to Henryville tonight.