By Ryan Kaczmarski
The first time the Lutheran West and Fairview boys varsity basketball teams faced each other this season was at Fairview High School on Dec. 18 of last year. It was a tight contest, with the visiting Longhorns winning over the Warriors, 66-60.
The game Friday night at Lutheran West was not that close, with the Longhorns taking it to the Warriors, 58-32, and completing the regular season sweep.
Lutheran West ran out to a 13-0 lead to open the game, but Fairview went on a 9-point run to close out the first quarter, 13-9. Both teams played great defense in the second quarter, keeping the score to a low 19-15 Lutheran West lead going into halftime.
“We expected a dog fight out of (Fairview), and that’s exactly what they gave us,” Lutheran West head coach Alan Januzzi said. “As far as our kids are concerned, they stepped it up on the defensive end. I thought we pressured them in the half court pretty effectively, got a lot of turnovers and settled down on offense in the second half.”
The second half saw scoring barrages from Lutheran West’s captains Chris Ranc (nine of his 13 total points were scored in the third quarter) and Dan Hillenbrand (who scored 11 of his game-leading 17 total points in the fourth quarter). The Longhorns scored 21 points in the third quarter and followed with 18 points in the fourth.
“In the first half I think we were a little jittery on offense, with some traveling calls, and we missed some easy buckets,” Januzzi said. “The kids settled in the second half and I thought they played well on defense and finished the game with offense.”
The victory gives Lutheran West an overall record of 8-8, and a 7-5 record in the Patriot Athletic Conference. Friday’s win also gives the Longhorns a four-game winning streak.
“We went through a tough little losing streak (earlier in the season),” Januzzi explained. “What’s good about this group of kids is they kept going to practice every day, taking it one day at a time and working hard, and they battled their way out (of the losing streak).
“We’ve got some tough games coming up, so we just have to try to get better each day and hopefully we can continue to build momentum as we head into (the postseason). You want to peak at (state) tournament time – that’s your goal – and in order to do that, you have to be smart, in terms of what you work on every day in practice. You have to keep your kids learning for every situation, whether it is the losing streak that we’ve gone through – if you handle those situations properly, like our kids had, that does nothing but make you better. Good, successful teams and people don’t dwell on what’s going wrong. You take a solution-oriented process, and figure out what we can do better, so we can get out of those kind of situations. One of the dangers of a four-game winning streak is that you can get complacent. You need to continue to focus on those things you need to work on (to get better).”
Earning the season sweep against neighboring Fairview was not as important to Januzzi as he thought it was for his players.
“That means a lot (to them),” he said. “I told the guys before that I’ve been at places where we didn’t have that (geographical) rivalry, and I told them to just appreciate it. Be respectful of Fairview and appreciate the fact that the rivalry exists, because a lot of people don’t get that experience.”
The loss gives Fairview an overall record of 4-13 (2-10 in the PAC). Despite losing the game, the Warriors head coach, Pete Maienknecht, had nothing but praise for how his team didn’t give up the battle after going down early in the game.
“I’m extremely proud of the class and the integrity that my guys showed,” he said. “We have a great group of guys in that locker room.
“We were down early and fought back hard,” he added. “We called a timeout and made a nice run to make it back into the game. We stayed in the ballgame until the first part of the third quarter, and I thought it wasn’t until the late part of that quarter that their pressure got to us. Their pressure and trapping created a lot of turnovers.”
Fairview committed 28 turnovers in the game.
“You can’t turn the ball over that many times; shoot a fairly low percentage and expect to win many ballgames,” Maienknecht said.
After Hillenbrand’s 17 points, Ranc followed with 13 and Greg Kunze chipped in 10 for the Pirates. Brian Arnold led the Warriors in scoring with seven points, followed by Kevin Kerchenski and John Miles, who each had six.