For the Daily News
Playing three games in 21 hours is never ideal. But its something Altamont coach John Niebrugge's team had to do Thursday and Friday at the 41st Annual Vandalia Holiday Tournament, and fortunately, it's something his team was prepared to do after going through a rigorous conditioning program in the summer.
The Indians' reward for their hard work? How bout something Altamont hasnÕt done in 17 years?
Just hours after an excruciating loss to Vandalia late Thursday night, Altamont battled back to win Friday's opener against Shelbyville 48-45 with a game-closing 9-0 run capped by Cole Borders' buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The Indians then topped St. Anthony for the first time since 1995 with a 66-57 win in its second game of the day.
"This win was for all those Altamont Indians who didn't get that victory," said Niebrugge, a former Teutopolis standout who is very familiar with the Bulldogs' proud tradition.
The victory gave Altamont (10-2) a fighting chance to advance to today's championship with a 3-1 tournament record. But the host Vandals relegated the Indians to the third-place game with a 62-57 win against Maroa-Forsyth in the game immediately following the Altamont/St. Anthony contest. Vandalia and Altamont both finished with 3-1 record in Pool B, but the Vandals' aforementioned three-point win against the Indians proved to be the tie-breaker. The seventh-seeded Indians will face top-seeded Flora at 6:30 tonight.
Niebrugge's team could have been crushed after its loss to Vandalia -- as they nearly came back from a 15-point second-half deficit before falling short -- but the Indians responded with a gritty effort on Friday, finishing off the day with a rare win against the Bulldogs (2-10).
"It was a very good win," Niebrugge said. "They are a perennial NTC powerhouse, and we knew coming into the year they were gonna be one of our top rivals for the NTC (regular season) championship and tournament. They were kinda one of those we circled on the calendar at he beginning of the year."
Fueled by the hot shooting of Jacob Schuette, the Bulldogs enjoyed a seven-point lead midway through the first half against the Indians, but Garrett Ziegler caught fire at the end of the first half, scoring 12-straight points for Altamont to help the Indians take a 34-32 lead into the locker room.
Ziegler went just 6-for-18 from the field earlier in the day against Shelbyville, but regained his shooting stroke in a big way against St. Anthony, as he went on to score a game-high 29 points.
"I told him that you've got to get it (going) off your defense and running the floor," Niebrugge said. "He got an easy layup at the start and then the 3s started falling. We need him to score for us to even get in the 50s."
Schuette scored 16 first-half points for St. Anthony, but the senior guard picked up his third foul just before halftime, foreshadowing bad things for the Bulldogs in the final 16 minutes.
Ziegler made it 15-straight points for his team by hitting a 3-pointer just six seconds into the second half, and Schuette was forced to the bench soon after, as he was whistled for his fourth foul on a charge.
The wheels fell off a bit for the Bulldogs after that, as St. Anthony committed nine of its 18 turnovers in the third quarter, helping Altamont extend its lead out to double digits entering the fourth.
Schuette re-entered the game at the start of the final frame and quickly hit a jumper. His return helped the Bulldogs make a late run at the Indians, as St. Anthony managed to make it a two-possession game down the stretch, but any momentum the Bulldogs seized was vanquished when Schuette fouled out near the three-minute mark.
Schuette and Derek Jahraus were having a few physical exchanges and one in particular caught an officials' eye. Jahraus hit a pair of free throws to push AltamontÕs lead back out to seven, and the Indians never looked back.
"That last foul was absolutely ridiculous," Tovey said of Schuette's fifth infraction. ÒHe might as well have went over to the referee and said, "You might as well blow your whistle, because I'm gonna foul this guy." It was a retaliation-type thing. But when you're the top scorer on a team, you've got to keep yourself on the floor and not go and try to retaliate."
Schuette finished with 19 points, but just three came in the second half. Niebrugge gave a lot of credit to guard Logan Hill.
"That's probably the best defensive stopper we've had this year. He did a heck of a job."
The Bulldogs had no such luck slowing down Ziegler, who finished 10-for-18 from the field.
"He was hard to locate and he's a very good player," Tovey said.
Jon Kuhns added 13 points and six rebounds for Altamont, and he helped limit St. Anthony big man John Goeckner. Goeckner finished with 14 points and six rebounds, but the Bulldogs struggled getting him the ball.
"They used a second defensive post player almost every time he was on the low block," Tovey said. "We've got to be more selective when we try to get the ball into him and our other post players."
Alex Hoelscher pulled down 14 rebounds for the Bulldogs, helping St. Anthony to a 29-23 advantage on the glass, but ToveyÕs team fell to 0-4 in the tournament.
"It was a matter of inconsistency again," Tovey said. "We have to take care of that. We saw some good things, then we saw some things that we've seen before that we don't like."
The Bulldogs will see a potential postseason opponent when they take on Greenville. Both teams will play in the Hillsboro Regional.
Borders chipped in seven points on 3-for-7 shooting against the Bulldogs, continuing the momentum from what transpired in an afternoon thriller against Shelbyville.
Borders had been 0-for-4 from the field against the Rams when he nailed his game-winner.
"Cole's gonna be a really good ballplayer when he gets that confidence," Niebrugge said. "Hopefully today gave him that confidence."
Ziegler had 17 points in the win, and Ryan Mayhaus had 14 points and seven rebounds.