Michael shoots to the top
ST. JOSEPH — Nate Michael came out Tuesday doing what Nate Michael does best: shooting the basketball.
His first three-point attempt came 18 seconds into St. Joseph-Ogden’s Class 2A regional semifinal game.
He made it.
Before two minutes had elapsed, the senior sharpshooter had hit two more from long distance as the fifth-ranked Spartans built their lead to 10-0.
Michael wound up with 27 points — and the school-record for career three-pointers — as SJ-O overpowered an Oakwood team playing for the second consecutive night, 82-39.
“We executed, moved the ball, my teammates set screens and I happened to be open,” Michael said.
He was an efficient shooter, making 6 of 7 from beyond the arc.
“He’s mentally locked in,” SJ-O coach Brian Brooks said. “He knows the next time we get beat will be the last time he plays in high school.”
Michael wasn’t alone in shooting well. The Spartans (25-3) hit 32 of 50 shots (64 percent) from the field and 10 of 12 free throw attempts. All eight players who shot the ball at least twice made at least half of their attempts.
“The most important thing was to play well,” Brooks said. “You can’t turn it off and turn it on.”
The Spartans led 48-23 at halftime and didn’t let up.
“I thought our first four minutes of the second half were maybe better than the first half,” Brooks said. “Across the board, we played very well. We hope to carry this momentum into Friday.”
Michael’s fifth three-pointer — which came with 5.3 seconds left in the opening period — was the one that shot him past 1992 graduate Kevin Taylor as the career leader. Taylor hit 183 treys. Michael has made 185 entering Friday’s regional championship game against Bismarck-Henning.
“It’s not about me,” Michael said. “It’s about the team and how many wins we can get and the type of run we can go on.”
SJ-O teammates Hunter Hart (16 points) and Brent Schluter (14 points) also scored in double figures. Schluter grabbed a game-high six rebounds.
Oakwood’s leaders were Parker Lee (16 points), Lee Mascari (10 points) and Skyler Slade (10 points).
“We start five seniors and we’ve been there before,” Michael said. “We can’t come out flat. If you come out flat, anything can happen.”
Bismarck-Henning 42, Westville 33. The Blue Devils, ranked sixth in the state, scored all six of the first-quarter points and made enough second-half free throws to complete a 3-0 sweep of Westville.
“The third time, everybody knows everybody’s strengths and weaknesses,” B-H coach Jon Clapp said, “and they take away things you do well.”
Westville’s methodical style caused problems even when B-H got the ball.
“When we got to the offensive end, we weren’t aggressive,” Clapp said.
Dylan Allen’s basket 15 seconds into the game accounted for the only points until the 2:25 mark of the opening period, when Chase Connelly scored.
“In the first half, we were 4 for 17 and we had some awfully good looks,” Westville coach Jeff Millis said. “I’m not sure we took any bad shots. The story of the game was shooting percentages.”
Westville finished 13 for 39. B-H was 15 for 29.
Andy Bott was the lone player for B-H (26-3) to score in double figures. After making all five fourth-quarter free throws, he ended with 12 points. Freshman Colton Story came off the bench to sink 4 of 4 free throws in the last 10 minutes.
“Free throws in a game like this are valuable,” Clapp said. “He’s a freshman in a pressure situation, and he knocks them down. He played well.”
Westville’s Kyle Brazas scored a game-high 18 points. Jeffrey Thompson added eight points for the Tigers (15-13). Brazas and Thompson are part of Westville’s five-member senior class.
“These seniors have given our program three very good years,” Millis said. “No complaints with them.”
Connelly was the game’s top rebounder with eight. Clapp said he is often an unsung hero.
“Chase has a knack for finding the ball,” Clapp said. “He’s a quiet stat-filler. He gets out and does his job.”
Westville was within six points in the final three minutes.
“We were never out of the game,” Millis said. “Our kids hung in there. Defensively, we were pretty sound.”