What a difference three months makes.
Last Friday's Teutopolis/Breese Central game was easily the best high school sporting event I've ever covered. The drama, the storylines, the intrigue with everything on the line was unrivaled.
It was quite a turnaround from the first T-Town game I ever covered.
After arriving in Effingham in December, the first game I attended at J.H. Griffin Arena was the Teutopolis/Highland game on Dec. 18.
I'd heard a lot about the Shoes, but they came out about as flat as possible as they fell behind 29-13 at the half.
Coach Andy Fehrenbacher even replaced his entire lineup in the second quarter with all reserves, including a couple players who split time with the junior varsity.
Teutopolis found its stroke in the second half, but didn't come back. Fehrenbacher didn't mince words in the postgame interview, calling the effort "extremely frustrating."
At the time, I didn't know what it meant for Teutopolis in terms of their season. But a spark was lit that day.
Since that loss, Teutopolis is 21-1, and have won 20 straight. Those players who came off the bench? Among them was Reed Hardiek, who has turned into a good shooter and floor spacer for the Shoes. Cody Will also came off the bench that day, and he had double digit points Friday against BC in a gritty performance.
The final player to find his footing after that loss? Friday's hero Brett Mette, who soon after claimed a starting spot along with Will, and Mette is one of the few freshmen to ever start for Teutopolis.
Now, the Shoes are in very familiar territory for their program. They've advanced to their third straight Super-Sectional, and they couldn't have come closer to make the state finals in the past two seasons, losing by one point both years.
Harrisburg should be as tough a test, if not a tougher one. Harrisburg enters today's Super-Sectional at a whopping 30-1. Their lone loss comes to a nationally ranked Dyer County (Tenn.).
Tyler Smithpeters leads the Bulldogs with about 17 points per game, and Capel Henshaw averages 14.9 points per game as well.
Ultimately, it'll come down to two cliches of the postseason: senior leadership and defense.
Throw out the stats for Teutopolis. Kyle Pruemer may be second on the team in scoring, but he's been on both teams that lost in Super-Sectional play, missing a layup in the waning seconds of last year's loss to Normal University.
There's no stat that can quantify how much Pruemer, Derek Smith and the other Shoes will want to redeem themselves after back-to-back heartbreaks.
The team I saw in December probably couldn't have. The team I saw Friday night, that came back from three down in 40 seconds against the defending state champs?
Ryan Czachorski can be reached at (217) 347-7151, ext. 135, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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