TEUTOPOLIS — The outcome was known at game’s end.
The state’s fourth-ranked Class 2A boys’ basketball team, Teutopolis, defeated the 10th-rated St. Joseph-Ogden squad 45-41 on Friday.
The meaning won’t become clear for some time.
“This is a game that will help us,” SJ-O coach Brian Brooks said. “You can’t simulate that environment in practice.”
With a near-capacity crowd of 1,500 looking on, a Teutopolis program that has won more boys’ basketball games than all but three schools in state history (1,673 and counting) bolted to a 12-3 lead. It wasn’t lights out for the visiting Spartans.
“We responded well,” Brooks said.
Despite missing all five first-quarter free throws — “it was a combination of nerves and the atmosphere,” senior Corbin Hesterberg said — the Spartans pulled within a point midway through the second period, 12-11, on a layup by Brent Schluter.
It wasn’t until Schluter converted a three-point play with 1:37 left in the third quarter that SJ-O took its first — and only — lead, 30-29.
“This shows we’re right there with those kind of (highly regarded) teams,” Hesterberg said.
That’s the benefit Brooks hopes the team will derive as the season progresses into the one-and-done postseason series.
“We expected to come down here and win,” he said, “but we didn’t perform well until we relaxed, and that made the difference in the game.”
What is clear is that the Spartans are not overrated. Their entire program is on an upswing.
The freshmen are unbeaten. So is the junior varsity after an overtime win Friday against Teutopolis. The varsity record is now 15-2.
“Across the board, the kids are playing well,” Brooks said. “The freshmen and sophomores come in the gym and are competing every day.
“They all have the right attitude, and we have great people at the junior-high level developing them.”
Schluter and Chase Patton led the Spartans with 13 points apiece. Nate Michael scored 11 points, including eight in the final 61/2 minutes to keep SJ-O in contention.
The overlooked starter in the group — offensively — is Hesterberg. He’s not underrated, Brooks said.
“Corbin’s our blue-collar guy,” Brooks said. “His role is always to guard the other team’s best player. He’s our glue guy. He does the little things for us.”
It’s a role Hesterberg relishes.
“My job is to bring energy and play good defense,” he said.
The Spartans won’t be discouraged by Friday’s setback.
“If we keep doing the little things it will lead to success,” he said.
SJ-O’s early woes from the free throw line were matched by Teutopolis’ late-game problems. The Wooden Shoes (14-3) were 5 of 11 from the line in the final quarter, but three SJ-O turnovers in the final 1:08 thwarted the comeback bid.
“We defended well the second half, much better than the first,” Brooks said, “but made some key turnovers.”
Like Hesterberg, the coach is confident if his team finds itself in the same position later in the season the outcome will be different.
“We have a veteran team, and they will get mentally tough,” he said.
Schluter (six) and Hesterberg (four) were the top SJ-O rebounders.