HIGHLAND — Facing an undersized opponent Saturday at the Highland Shootout, there was no need for an elaborate game plan by the Mater Dei Knights.
They jumped out to a 10-0 lead and just kept funneling the ball inside to 6-foot-8 junior Nolan Gerling, who scored 23 points on 11-of-13 shooting in an 81-61 victory over the Wesclin Warriors.
"The post presence is starting to come around a little bit," said Mater Dei coach Ron Schadegg, whose 9-6 team built upon the momentum gained the night before with a 70-63 overtime victory over state-ranked Gibault. "I think we're starting to get comfortable with that and understanding that's where we need it to go for us to be successful.
"That's something we've been really working on for the last six or seven days, getting our post people a little bit more involved in our offense. It's helped us quite a bit."
Wesclin (5-8) had no answer for Gerling, the game's Most Valuable Player who may as well have been 7-foot-4. On most of his shots he took high passes and banked them softly into the net.
"I just put my hands up, Coach has been telling me to do that all year," said Gerling, who was averaging 7.7 points per game before Saturday. "I don't really know if there was a difference, they were a little undersized so it was easy to work it in."
Gerling had 13 points in the first half.
"He's been coming around and playing really well," Schadegg said. "At times he just rushes a little bit, but if he can continue to get better and perform like that consistently, I like the direction we're headed."
Mater Dei hit its first four shots and got baskets from five different players while putting Wesclin in a quick 10-0 hole.
The Knights got a balanced scoring effort with 13 points each from Zach Deiters and Ben Lampe and 12 from sophomore point guard Brendan Timmermann.
"They came out pretty intense and we weren't ready to play," Wesclin coach Andrew Wilson said. "We came out flat and when you spot a team a 10-0 lead, a good team, it gives them confidence and gives them momentum. It's tough to come back from that."
Wesclin trailed by as many as 23 points in the first half and was down 45-26 at halftime, but still managed to cut the Mater Dei lead to 12 early in the third quarter.
It took a barrage of 3s to get it done as Wesclin finished with 10 3-pointers. The Warriors were 10-for-31 from 3-point range.
Kyle Eversgerd topped the Warriors with 17 points while Jarad Steenbergen had four 3s among his 14 points.
"Now that we've got Eversgerd back we've got a little bit of size, but they outsized us at every position," Wilson said. "It was a really tough matchup for us. There's no excuses giving up 81 points, but we were definitely outmatched size-wise."
Beating Gibault, which was ranked fifth in the state in Class 1A, may have ignited a bigger competitive fire under the Knights.
"I think that was a big boost for us in regard to beating somebody that had a lot of respect," Schadegg said. "I think we're getting close to putting the entire package together where we can be pretty dangerous at the end of the year.
"We've still got a lot of work to do, but I like the direction we're going."