On a milestone night the New Knoxville Rangers left little doubt as to their dominance in MAC womens’ basketball, blowing challenger New Bremen away to claim the outright conference crown by 25 points.
New Knoxville, OH – They packed the place – New Knoxville and New Bremen did.
That tiny gym at New Knoxville? They packed it Thursday in anticipation of seeing something special, either the MAC girls title shared between New Knoxville and New Bremen, just three miles apart as the crow flies…or New Knoxville claiming it outright with a win over the 15-5 (7-1 in MAC) Cardinals, who had enjoyed a number of good and exciting such nights since early December. But as it turned out…the Cardinals ran out of good and exciting nights right when they needed one most.
New Knoxville’s defense, their trump card all year in knocking out Marion Local, Minster, and the other MAC challengers, showed to be sufficient again to knock out that one last challenger in New Bremen. They held the Cardinals to just 18 points, 30% shooting, turned them over 19 times, totally denied points in the paint, and in the end handed retiring coach Tim Hegemier his eighth conference title in 20 years as the Rangers’ head coach…with a 43-18 win.
And one more, and significant milestone…senior Ellie Gabel notched her 1,000th career point with a splash, her fourth three-pointer for the night, to land exactly on 1,000 points, and with some room to grow. The Rangers will be a top seed in the upcoming Division IV tournament.
Highly anticipated, it was in two words…no contest. The Rangers defense choked the paint, and every New Bremen effort to inlet the ball to one of their post players (and they tried all night) was soundly rejected.
“We played some pretty good defense tonight,” Tim Hegemier said, the understatement of the season, thus far. “They’ve got some great athletes on that team, so when you can hold a team like Bremen under 20 points you’ve accomplished something.”
New Bremen never got going…from the outset when it took both teams almost two minutes for someone to score. The Cardinals tried to go inside and were blunted by the superior height of the Henschen twins, Avery and Carsyn. New Bremen would eventually score on buckets by Kaylee Freund and Chloe Homan, but New Knoxville hung 9 on the board for the quarter and did Bremen a ‘solid’ by missing at least six point-blank looks at the rim.
With New Knoxville leading 11-4 to start the second, the Rangers were still struggling at the rim, and had some issues with turnovers. But that was nothing in comparison to New Bremen’s frustration to score. They were tentative against Knoxville’s swarming defense, and weren’t nearly strong enough with the basketball, allowing the Rangers to knock it loose, or just rip it out of the hands of Cardinal ball-handlers. Still, the score was 20-9 by halftime in favor of New Knoxville, and the respective partisans – both sides – sensed that it could have been so much more. Carsyn Henschen, Ellie Gabel, and Haley Fledderjohann had yet to heat up.
Within a span of four minutes in the third quarter Gabel erased all doubts about the outcome, the outright title, and about her sights being set on the final 16 points needed to reach the 1,000 mark. While the Rangers defense would totally flummox the Cardinals, holding them to just 2 points for the quarter, Gabel would hit back-to back-to back three-pointers to push the advantage to 25-9, then 28-9, and at 2:07 of the quarter her final bomb pushed the score to 34-11. At that point New Bremen coach Andy Timmerman called a timeout to try and stop the bleeding.”
Gabel’s three-point trio would account for 9 of New Knox’s total of 15 in the quarter, who led going into the fourth, 35-11.
Needing just three more points to reach 1,000, that came on her first attempt of the fourth quarter, a shot five feet behind the three-point line that swished, bringing a roar from the crowd…and at the next timeout she seized the basketball and took it up in the crowd to her parents for safe keeping.
“It was a good way to get the thousandth point,” she said after the game. “Luckily, I was hitting, except for the air ball on my final shot. I knew I was close (to 1,000), but after I made it then I realized that I had it.”
Academic at that point, Hegemier would begin to sub, the Rangers would outscore Bremen 8-7 for the final eight minutes, and Gabel had her personal prize, and the league trophy to share with her teammates and to pose with for pictures.
Chloe Homan would account for 10 of New Bremen’s 17 points, while Kaylee Freund had 7 and Riley Trentman had 1.
Gabel finished as game-high scorer for New Knoxville (20-2, 9-0 in MAC), while Fledderjohann added 12, Carsyn Henschen had 7, Melisa Waterman had 6, and Avery Henschen had 2.
“This is a really special way to finish because these girls are my best friends,” Gabel smiled. “All six of us were on the volleyball team, then we came over to basketball, and we’ve worked so hard for this. This (winning the league) is the first goal of every team, so it’s awesome to get it.”
And, she would also admit, it was an awesome way to send Tim Hegemier into retirement at the end of the season, whenever and however that might come.
“He’s so awesome…I wouldn’t want anyone else as a coach. He does a great job, obviously. What we got tonight…that was all him. I’ve been with him for all four years, and I managed for him before that. I’m really gonna’ miss him.”
Hegemier, with 20 years and 250-plus wins at New Knoxville, had his own milestone moment with brother Dan, the three-time state champion coach at Loramie and New Knoxville, and currently coach at St. Marys.
“Yeah, he came up to me and shook my hand and said he was going home and going to bed,” said Hegemier.
“Yeah, I guess he was here for the game. He shook my hand and said he was going to bed.”
His defense, that had held Marion Local, Minster, Versailles, Fort Recovery, Coldwater, Delphos St. John, St. Henry and Parkway to an average of 23 points, had topped itself when the title was at stake.
“You have to play defense every night in this league,” said Hegemier. “Whenever you play a MAC game you strap it up and go at it. But this is such a great group of girls, and I’ve coached so many of them all the way through.
“I was a little big nervous tonight. I didn’t want to lose this game. One, I didn’t want to share the MAC. And the other reason was it’s my last game coaching in this gym. It’s just a sweet ending.”
And probably some sweet dreams.
Suffice it to say, he and brother Dan both had a good night’s sleep.