For a 1 p.m. first-round game, the Mater Dei-Nashville clash at the Mater Dei Christmas Tournament on Saturday had all the intensity of a tourney championship.
Mater Dei hit 11-of-14 free throws in the second overtime and held off defending tourney champ Nashville 58-53 at a sold-out gym with Joseph Heimann’s 15 points looming large in the victory.
“Especially at the holiday tournament you expect a game like that,” said Mater Dei senior Nick Pollmann, who scored eight of his 14 points in the second overtime. “The crowd was crazy and it was a fun (game) to play in, glad we could get a win. The fans were awesome, they were behind us the whole game.
“They were loud and I can’t wait for the rest of the tournament.”
Mater Dei (5-1) trailed Nashville (5-4) 27-20 at halftime, but Heimann tossed in nine straight points during the Knights’ surge in the second half that got them back in the game and into the lead.
The Knights outscored the Hornets 18-8 in the third quarter with Pollmann, Heimann and Lucas Theising all hitting 3-pointers.
“Joe came up huge,” Pollmann said. “They played a box-and-one the majority of the game on me. I was having trouble getting some shots up and I wasn’t really hitting. Joe knocked down some some big shots, got to the hole and got fouled, and Lucas Theising had another great game.”
Theising added 13 points and the Knights sank 16 of their 25 free-throw attempts compared to 13-of-23 (56.5 percent) for the Hornets. University of Missouri football recruit Royce Newman led all scorers with 20 points despite being double-teamed much of the second half, but was just 5-for-13 at the foul line.
“He’s a load,” said Mater Dei coach Ron Schadegg, who tried to combat the 6-foot-7, 260-pound senior with a double team of Blake Langenhorst and Jordan Kampwerth. “God almighty. All we wanted to do was disrupt their offense a little bit. We knew we couldn’t stop it, but as long as we disrupted it somehow in some fashion and got them out of alignment, we thought that it would help us - and I think it did.”
Steals by Butchie Timmermann near the end of the fourth quarter and the first overtime gave Mater Dei two earlier chances to win. Heimann missed a 3-point try to end the fourth quarter and the Knights were unable to hit one at the end of the first OT.
A 3-pointer by Nashville’s Brady Bultman tied things at 48-48 early in the second OT, but the Knights outscored the Hornets 10-5 the rest of the way with Pollmann and Theising doing much of the damage at the free-throw line.
“Early on in the first half we didn’t feel we were attacking the basket enough and were playing at the 3-point line,” Schadegg said. “In the second half our emphasis was get inside of the defense and good things would happen for you. if you’re not making a shot, at least we’ve got a chance to get fouled rather than settling for perimeter shots
“I think getting inside helped us create a little bit of momentum, then it shifted to our favor.”
Nashville coach Brad Weathers stressed the many positive things his team did, but kept coming back to some key late possessions.
“A little bit of everything happened,” Weathers said. “We missed free throws; we hit a few late but we still missed some (earlier). We had a couple turnovers at inopportune times, at crunch time where we either had it tied up or the lead.
“We got beat defensively at crunch times in a couple of spots. At a couple points there we were in control of our own destiny and that’s the tough part.”
Bultman added 13 points for Nashville and Ryan Brink had 10, with all of Brink’s coming in the first half.