For The Tribune
Coach Aaron Rudzinski likes the way his Trinity Lutheran boys basketball team is playing heading into the homestretch of the season.
Trinity outscored New Washington 34-23 in the second half and left the Bollinger Athletic Complex Saturday afternoon with a 53-47 win.
The Cougars (14-6) have won 10 of their last 11.
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“It seems like there is a confidence now that we are playing with, kind of what you would expect out of an experienced group like this,” Rudzinski said. “There is kind of a learning curve with these guys because all seven of these seniors haven’t all really played together that often. They had been split between the varsity and junior varsity team.
“Having Bobby (Tabeling) back, he is starting to really do a good job of jelling with the team. They’re starting to know where each-other are. They’re playing with a lot of confidence. Having (Jacob) Schult back is really important. He’s not the most agile of players, but he knows how to play. He throws his weight around, he’s good at defense, and he’s pretty good around the basket. He knows how to get shots off.”
The Mustangs held a 24-19 lead at halftime before the Cougars opened the third period on a 7-0 run, and moved on top 26-24 on a 3-point basket by Chad Stuckwisch with 3:54 on the clock.
The Cougars outscored the Mustangs 12-4 in the period to hold a 31-28 lead going into the fourth. New Washington didn’t score until there was 1:33 left in the period, and the Mustangs had one 3-point goal and one free throw during that quarter.
“We decided to go into a 2-2-1 press, at the start of the third quarter, after made baskets, and we did that a little bit in the second quarter,” Rudzinski said. “We also changed up our defense in the second quarter to a 2-3 zone. We were just getting dominated in our man. It’s kind of strange, at times this year we do really well in our man, depending on the match ups.
“Today we struggled early on (trailing 17-8 at the end of the first period), and we changed up to that zone and they seemed to really struggle against that.”
A pair of basket by Tabeling, and a goal by Daniel Horton helped the Cougars increase their lead to 37-31 with 6:12 remaining.
The Mustangs made 10 3-point baskets on the day, and three of those came during a span of 1:31, and those baskets closed the different to 44-42 with two minutes remaining.
Keegan Rebber scored off an offensive rebound on the Cougars’ next possession, Horton added a basket and free throw, and Horton and Rebber both scored two free throws in the final 12 seconds to seal the win.
The Cougars had 31 rebounds with Tabeling leading with 9, Horton grabbed 8 and Rebber 7.
“Our guys did a good job,” Rudzinski said. “We were facing a taller team than some of the teams we play. Boxing out, especially on the defensive side, we did a really good job controlling the rebounds. It didn’t seem like they had a lot of extra opportunities.
“Bobby did a great job getting the rebounds when we needed him. We were actually rotating him in and out at the end of the game with Schult because of his ability to rebound, and Schultz’s ability to shoot free throws.”
Schult scored seven of Trinity’s points in the middle of the fourth period, and Rudzinski praised Schult for his play in the third and fourth quarters.
“I was really happy the way the guys stepped up and held (6-foot-7) Mack to five points,” Rudzinski said. “We’ve been focused on him all week. They did a good job of shutting him down.”
Horton and Stuckwisch topped the Cougars with 11 points each.
Lind topped the mustangs (11-6) with 18 points on six 3-pointers.
Trinity will travel to Christian Academy on Thursday night.