MINSTER — Minster looked nearly unbeatable during its first three games of the year. The next three sent the Wildcats into a downward spiral heading into Christmas break.
The week off appears to have done some good. Minster took control early against Russia in a nonconference game on Friday and won 68-46.
Minster (4-3, 0-1 Midwest Athletic Conference) hadn’t won since a 26-point win at Botkins on Dec. 8.
“Anytime you lose three straight, you want to get a win,” Minster coach Michael McClurg said. “If you look at the situations we were in, though, I think we grew a lot in that stretch.
“It’s easy to look at the situation and think, ‘We’ve got to have a win tonight,’ but you can’t. There are a lot of things you have to learn throughout the season, and our focus is to be really good in March. We want to grow and get better, and I think those three games we lost really helped us do that.”
Russia (5-2, 2-1 Shelby County Athletic League) lost its season opener to Jackson Center but had won five straight before Friday’s defeat.
“Defensively, we just weren’t what we could be tonight,” Russia coach Dave Borchers said. “I think that started a little bit offensively. We didn’t share it as well as we’ve been sharing it the last couple of weeks. We did a little bit of one-and-one tonight.
“… Tomorrow morning, it’s back to the drawing board. Minster played well tonight and deserved to win. They played very well. We’ve got to get better.”
Minster led 26-16 at halftime, and any hopes Russia had of a rally were quickly dashed.
Cody Frericks opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to increase the lead to 13, then Minster got a rebound after a missed Russia shot. The Wildcats quickly worked the ball up the court but nearly threw it away.
Frericks recovered a tipped ball on the left wing and threw a pass to Mike Ketner on the opposite side. Ketner paused and let a Russia defender run by him, then hit a nothing-but-net 3 to boost the lead to 31-16.
Mason Dapore scored nine late points in the third to help the Raiders close the gap down to 10, but the Wildcats quickly pulled away.
Ketner hit a basket with two seconds left in the third to increase the lead to 45-33, then opened the fourth with a 3 from the right wing to push the advantage back to 15. Noah Enneking hit a 3 with 5:57 left to increase the lead to 55-34, and the Raiders didn’t come closer than 19 points after that.
Frericks said putting the game away late was big for the team.
“We’ve been kind of lacking in the fourth quarter,” Frericks said. “We had a run there at the end of the third where we were turning it over, and that’s where we have been folding the last couple of weeks. But we put a cap on it tonight and didn’t let it affect us in the fourth quarter. We took control of the game.”
Frericks led Minster with 17 points while Enneking scored 16 and Ketner finished with 12.
Minster 6-foot-9 senior center Jarod Schulze sat on the bench most of the game in foul trouble, and McClurg was happy with how Frericks, 6-6 forward, stepped up.
“We played well together, we hit some shots, and we played well defensively,” McClurg said.
Dapore led Russia with 15 while Daniel Kearns added eight.
The Wildcats built an 8-3 early lead, but Kearns and Jordan York scored baskets in the paint to pull Russia within 8-7. Minster followed with a big run to take control.
Enneking made a 3-pointer, Frericks made a floater in front of the basket and Jacob Salazar hit a 3 from the right corner to give Minster a 16-7 lead with 2:16 left in the first.
After Adam Dapore made 1-of-2 free throws, Trent Roetgerman made a basket to push the advantage to 18-8 with 1:04 left. Minster’s lead hovered around 10 points for the rest of the half.
Minster has a week off before its next game. The Wildcats will resume MAC play on Jan. 4 at Fort Recovery.
Russia’s next game is on Jan. 4 at SCAL rival Houston.
Borcher doesn’t have any doubts the Raiders will be able to bounce back.
“I don’t have any doubt at all, because they’ve already shown they can (bounce back),” Borchers said. “If we go out and play together like we can and work the offense like we can, we’re going to be fine. I’m looking forward to the practice tomorrow morning.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.