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HUNTINGBURG - Brett Bueltel hit four three-point shots in the second half as Mater Dei overtook Tell City to win the Huntingburg Class 2A basketball sectional 54-41 Saturday.
Tell City's defensive strategy was "to make them beat us from outside because their big guys (6-foot-9 center Jake Hassler and 6-6 forward Matt Dickerson) were so good inside," said Tell City Coach John Hayes.
That strategy meant playing a 2-3 zone and double-teaming Hassler whenever he got the ball inside.
It worked to perfection for 19 minutes, as the Marksmen took a 23-17 lead on Eric Henrickson's second consecutive basket with five minutes left in the third quarter.
At that point the Wildcats had not made a three-point basket--they were 0 for 5 from that range in the first half. And Hassler had only two points after going 1 for 4 from the field in the first half.
Then Bueltel got hot.
The 5-9 senior guard hit two consecutive three-pointers to tie the score 23-23 with 3:42 left in the third quarter.
After Evan Rothgerber hit two free throws to put Tell City back on top, Hassler made 1 of 2 free throws to pull the Wildcats within one.
Then Bueltel hit his third consecutive three-pointer in less than two minutes to give the Wildcats their first lead since the first quarter.
Tell City stayed close for the next seven minutes, tying the score once and still remaining within two points after Henrickson scored inside on an assist from Ryan Zuelly.
Then Bueltel struck again.
As the Marksmen collapsed on Hassler in the lane, he passed the ball out to Bueltel. The guard promptly hit his fourth three-pointer to put Mater Dei up 42-37 with 3:26 left in the game.
Tell City had committed only four turnovers in the game to that point. But Hassler stole a pass in to Henrickson on the Marksmen's next possession.
That led to two free throws by Mater Dei guard Hank LaRue.
After the Marksmen missed a three-point shot, they had to foul. Bueltel hit two more free throws to give Mater Dei a 46-37 lead with 1:56 left.
The Wildcats would go on to hit six more consecutive free throws to build a 52-37 lead with 0:59 left.
Bueltel finished with 20 points - 18 in the second half - to lead the Wildcats.
"We'd never seen him hit three or four three-pointers in a row in any of the tapes we had," said Hayes. "But we knew he could shoot. Still we'd rather make him beat us outside than let Hassler beat us inside.
"I think they had some open looks (from three-point range) in the first half (when they did not hit any)."
Tell City outrebounded the taller Wildcats 16-13 in the first half but got outrebounded 21-8 in the second half.
That was partially due to the Marksmen's missing more shots in the second half, when they had to put several shots up quickly in the closing minutes.
Hassler grabbed eight of his game-high 12 rebounds in the second half.
Joseph Kohnert led Tell City with eight rebounds and Henrickson added six.
Henrickson led the Marksmen's balanced scoring with 14 points despite sitting out part of the game - including the final 4:06 of the first half - in foul trouble.
Ryan Zuelly added 13 points, including two consecutive three-pointers that gave the Marksmen a 16-10 lead with 5:36 left in the first half. He also had six assists.
Kohnert scored 11 points.
Mater Dei outshot the Marksmen from the field 42.9 percent to 32.0 percent.
Tell City finished the season with a 16-7 record.
Mater Dei advances to the Huntingburg regional with a 13-9 record.