For the Daily News
Playing with mere intensity on the defensive end would have sufficed for the Teutopolis boys basketball team over the weekend at the Lawrence County Capital Classic.
But the Wooden Shoes opted to play like a team possessed — the biggest reason T-Town won a record ninth championship in convincing fashion.
After allowing just 73 points in a pair of wins on Friday, the Wooden Shoes took things to a whole other level on Saturday, surrendering just 48 points in a pair of wins, the latter one a 54-28 thrashing of Pinckneyville in the championship game.
The defensive stats against the Panthers were staggering: Pinckneyville finished with 24 turnovers and had more giveaways than points (24-23) midway through the fourth quarter. Thirteen of those were forced on T-Town steals, and the Panthers shot just 31 percent from the floor.
“I felt that our boys were very focused in the locker room before we even took the floor,” T-Town coach Andy Fehrenbacher said. “They knew defensively we needed to come out and set the tone, and we did.”
The performance capped an impressive tournament in which T-Town allowed just 30.2 points-per-game and won each game by at least 14 points.
“I think we got better each game,” Fehrenbacher said. “Tonight was definitely the best we’ve played of all four games. We were as focused tonight as we’ve been all tournament. You could tell our seniors were hungry for it.”
Pinckneyville (3-1) hung tough with the Shoes (4-0) early on, as it enjoyed a 12-9 lead heading into the final three minutes of the first quarter. But it was all T-Town after that — and defense set the tone.
The Panthers turned the ball over on its final five possessions, helping T-Town score the final 10 points of the quarter for a 19-12 lead. Tournament MVP Derek Smith kicked off the decisive run by finding Reed Hardiek for one of his five assists, and he finished off the quarter with a steal and a fast-break bucket.
Devin Falbe scored nine of his game-high 15 points in the first half to help the Shoes take charge, and T-Town quickly extended its run to 14-0 in the second quarter, as all-tournament pick Kyle Pruemer scored back-to-back buckets on a lob from Smith and a nice spin move in the lane.
Suddenly, T-Town was up 24-12, and it was all downhill for Pinckneyville from there.
The Panthers suffered a seven-minute drought without a field goal during the middle of the first half and were down 33-17 at halftime.
It got worse in the third quarter, as the Panthers were just 1 of 8 from the field and committed nine turnovers against the Wooden Shoes relentless pressure.
“We had guys diving on the floor getting loose balls,” Fehrenbacher said. “We had a number of deflections. And when you do that defensively, you just make everything difficult for the opposing team’s offense. That really wears on a team. I think that’s what happened tonight.”
The Panthers played without injured standout Dylan Hardin, but it’s unlikely he would have been able to get Pinckneyville over the hump against the deep and determined Shoes.
“They are state-ranked for a reason,” Pinckneyville coach Bob Waggoner said. “They return a lot of players from a super-sectional team. Their length, their athleticism — they did to us tonight what we’ve been able to do with the other three teams we played.”
Falbe took game-high scoring honors for T-Town, but his defense on a sequence to finish off the third quarter defined the Shoes night. After coming up with a steal, Falbe gave the ball right back to Pinckneyville with an unforced turnover. Falbe didn’t hang his head, however, as he raced back on defense and stole the ball right back, denying the Panthers a last-second shot.
Falbe finished with four steals in the third quarter alone and five overall, capping a fine tournament.
“Devin Falbe could have easily been an all-tournament selection, no doubt about it,” Fehrenbacher said. “We had three others who had tremendous tournaments as well.
That’s just the way that goes. I don’t think anybody’s too worried about it, they’re just concerned about getting the four victories and winning the tournament.”
Jared Waldhoff — who kicked off the title game with a steal and one-handed dunk early in the first quarter — joined Smith and Pruemer on the all-tournament team.
Pruemer had 13 points, seven rebounds and two steals to cap his second-straight all-tourney performance, and Smith stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, three steals and five assists.
T-Town showed off its tremendous depth all tournament, as seven players registered in the scoring column. Freshman forward Brett Mette opened a lot of eyes with a pair of nifty post buckets, and Fehrenbacher used his bench liberally even before the game got out of hand, keeping fresh legs on the floor at all times.
“If we can do that as much as we can, we certainly will,” Fehrenbacher said. “We feel you have to earn a varsity spot on our team, and if you’ve earned it, we’re gonna try to find a way to play you. We have 13 kids on the roster, and all 13 played in about every game, I believe. If we’re gonna bring them down here, we’re gonna use them.”
T-Town will be back in action on Friday when its hosts defending Class 2A state champ Breese Central in its homecoming game.
Notes: T-Town is now 49-7 all time at the Capital Classic … T-Town held Red Hill to just 20 points in its first game Saturday, setting a new record for lowest point total allowed… Fehrenbacher has now coached T-Town to three Capital Classic titles.
T-Town 54, Pinckneyville 28
T-Town 19 14 12 9 — 54
Pinckneyville 12 5 4 7 — 28
T-Town Scoring — Waldhoff 1-3 0-0 2, Schultz 2-3 2-4 6, Falbe 5-10 4-7 15, Pruemer 6-9 1-3 13, Smith 3-8 2-4 8, Mette 2-4 0-0 4, Hardiek 3-5 0-0 6. Totals 23-42 9-18 54.
Pinckneyville Scoring — Miller 0-7 1-2 1, Priebe 4-8 5-6 13, Ruffino 0-4 0-2 0, Edwards 4-6 0-0 10, Dahn 2-5 0-0 4, Taylor 0-1 0-0 0, Lazenby 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 10-32 6-10 28.
3-point goals — T-Town 1 (Falbe). Pinckneyville 2 (Edwards 2). Rebounds — T-Town 20 (Pruemer 7, Smith 3, Schultz 3), Pinckneyville 19 (Priebe 6, Miller 5). Assists — T-Town 10 (Smith 5), Pinckneyville 2. Turnovers — Pinckneyville 24, T-Town 10. Steals — T-Town 13 (Falbe 5, Waldhoff 3, Smith 3, Pruemer 2).