CHASKA – Mayer Lutheran High School senior Kobey Woolhouse has experienced a lot of things throughout his high school basketball career. Friday night was something new.
Woolhouse and his teammates found themselves in an 18-point deficit at one point, but in the end, it was Woolhouse who stood by himself at the free throw line with a chance to win the game with no time on the clock.
With 0.7 seconds left on the clock in a tied game, Woolhouse was fouled in air on the inbounds pass, sending him to the line with a chance to win the game. After missing the first free throw, Woolhouse calmly knocked down the second, completing the comeback and giving Mayer Lutheran a thrilling 71-70 victory on the road to kick off 2018.
“It was a long break,” Mayer Lutheran coach Pat Buchanan said about the layoff. “Two weeks off. Takes a team to smack us to wake up. They woke us up, and we were ready to go. I told the guys that this was the game I was nervous about. I’m not nervous about the games down the road. I’m nervous about this one. Coming off a break and a new year. It’s something that’s great to build off. Hopefully, we can move forward and keep getting better.”
It wasn’t easy one bit for Woolhouse and the Crusaders. They were held to 23 first-half points, and struggled to find any rhythm on either end of the floor.
The second half was a different story. Woolhouse scored 23 of his game-high 30 points in the second half as the Crusaders got back to their style of play to claw their way back into the game.
“We let them dictate how we played,” Woolhouse said. “We knew, coming into the second half, we had to play our game and do what we do best. It showed in the second half.”
A 10-0 run brought the Crusaders within five with just over 10 minutes to go, but like all game long, the Stars had the answer. After watching Mayer Lutheran tie up the game at 47, the Stars answered immediately with a bucket of their own. They were just getting started as they increased their lead back to nine points with just over six minutes left to play.
A 3-pointer from Woolhouse, followed by a bucket from Baden Noennig got the Crusaders back within three in a hurry with four minutes to go. Woolhouse was just getting started as he knocked down another 3-pointer, tying the game at 61 with under three to play.
“This was his first night,” Buchanan said about Woolhouse’s second-half performance. “It was his coming out party tonight. Kobey’s coming out was tonight. The first eight games, was not even semi-moderate Kobey. Tonight, you saw Kobey Woolhouse. That was big time for us.”
With Woolhouse leading the spark, it was time for Noennig to get involved. After a 4-0 run gave the Stars a 65-61 lead, Noennig took a pass coast-to-coast, electrifying his team and the crowd with an emphatic dunk to bring Mayer Lutheran within two.
“It was a rough first half, but we’re a second-half team,” Noennig said. “We came out like we always do. The dunk definitely energized us a little bit.”
After another Woolhouse 3-pointer, he went to the line with a chance to give Mayer Lutheran the lead with just over a minute to go. Woolhouse knocked down both free throws, giving Mayer Lutheran its first lead since 9-7 in the first half.
“It just shows our fight and grit that we have as a team,” Woolhouse said. “We never give up and always give 100 percent effort. It just shows that we can do anything. I have a lot of faith in this team, and it just shows that we never give up and we’re very resilient in whatever happens. We just keep fighting until the end.”
With a four-point lead, the Stars had their chance to tie it thanks to back-to-back turnovers. The Stars made them pay, as Jalen Wight went coast-to-coast for the game-tying basket, setting up Woolhouse’s heroics with no time on the clock.
“It won’t happen again,” Buchanan said. “Coming out of break, it was tough. “We’ll be more focused and more locked in moving forward.”
“We take every game and build off it,” Woolhouse said. “Make every game make us better. This is a game we can get better off of. Take the good things and bad things, and learn what we can work on.”
Despite the sloppy play, Noennig and the Crusaders know how important playing a complete game is and not relying on a strong second half is.
“That’s what we’ve been struggling with the whole season,” Noennig said. “We’re a second-half team, but we got to play that way in both halves. If we do that, we can play against any team.”
Following the thrilling win, the Crusaders turn their focus to conference play. Three of the next five games for the Crusaders will be conference games, as they’ve had only one thus far this season.
“I’m excited for conference play,” Buchanan said. “We’ve only had one conference game. I’m looking at a lot of teams and they have multiple conference games. I’m excited to finally get into conference play now and see what we can do. Our conference is going to make us better. We’re going to make teams better, but they’re going to make us better. We want to take advantage of that.”
If the Crusaders want to bring home a conference title, something that hasn’t happened since 2014, they’ll need to continue to get great minutes from their bench like they have all season long.
“Keeping that depth is important,” Buchanan said. “I think it’s one of the most important things that’s going to help us get to where we want to get to, and it’s going to help us get better. You never know when your number is going to be called. Being ready, that’s the most important thing. Being ready everyday and being prepared like you’re going to be a starter. The depth is big, but right now, guys are stepping up.”
“That’s really big for us,” Noennig said. “It doesn’t matter that we got some guys hurt. It would be nice to have them, but we got guys that can fill in.”
Mayer Lutheran has two key players out with injury right now. Senior sharpshooter Cole Hagen will most likely miss the rest of January with a knee injury. The Crusaders are eyeing a return next month for Hagen.
Jacob Pallas, who’s been a great spark off the bench and tough defender this season, is also dealing with a knee injury. Pallas is hoping to be back in a couple of weeks, but for now, Mayer Lutheran will be without Hagen and Pallas for the meantime.
MAYER LUTHERAN 71, SW CHRISTIAN 70
Friday, Jan. 5
at SW Christian
MAYER LUTHERAN: Branden Carlson 5, Kobey Woolhouse 30, Brendan Feltmann 5, Baden Noennig 12, Sawyer Kubasch 14, Zander Flucas 5,
SW CHRISTIAN: Jalen Wight 18, Max Steensland 11, Tyler Czoch 7, Jack Seltz 2, Hunter Wight 19, Isaac Velgersdyk 8, David Solfelt 5.