HARTINGTON — The Osmond Tigers earned redemption Monday on the way to the Lewis & Clark Conference Basketball Championship.
Coming into the game at 18-1, Osmond’s sole blemish to the season record came on Jan. 22 to Laurel-Concord-Coleridge in an 80-54 loss.
The Tigers set out to avenge that loss when they faced off in the conference championship game.
The Tigers did more than that, though. They dominated as they earned an 81-64 win at the Msgr. Werner Activity Center in Hartington to claim the title.
Osmond’s head coach Todd Schulze admitted he was unsure how his team would respond after that loss two weeks ago, but his team answered him.
“There was a little bit of questioning going on in my brain of whether this team was tough enough because I hadn’t seen it yet, and then in the Winnebago game and the Wakefield game I saw it.”
Osmond earned wins over the two teams after starting the tournament with a win over Homer, and it brought together the top two teams in the 17 team conference.
After a three-pointer by Merrix Denn started things off for Osmond, Justus Maertins emerged to score eight straight.
Schulze said after the game the strong start really helped his team earn the victory.
“It probably won us the game. He is a guy that over the last couple of games has taken a few more of those shots that his teammates have wanted him to take but, he wasn’t too comfortable to take them. Tonight it wasn’t even a hesitation of being uncomfortable. It was I got it, I’m open, and I’m going to score. That was a huge confidence boost for him and everyone else.”
Meanwhile, on the other end, LCC started off slow. A team that is known to be able to get a hot hand early, the Bear’s were overwhelmed by a man defense that pressed and forced decisions.
“I think the biggest thing is we just didn’t shoot the ball very well, not terrible, but their defense is tough,” said LCC coach Todd Erwin. “They are quick, they are low, and they caused a lot of havoc on shots that could have been easy but they made tough.”
Noah Schutte and Ty Erwin had most of the production for the Bears in the first half, as senior point guard Izac Reifenrath faced traps, double-teams, and tight coverage as soon as he brought the ball across mid-court.
Reifenrath made a 3-pointer in the first quarter and then fell silent until making a buzzer-beater from just inside half-court at the end of the third quarter.
“It was a tough night for him, they guarded him well and got him outside of his comfort zone, but he still had a great game for us,” said Erwin. “Just nothing came easy and they did a great job.”
A lot of the defensive pressure on Reifenrath came from Tigers point guard Aaron Chishiba. Listed at 5’3”, Reifenrath has about eight inches on him according to roster listings.
He didn’t allow the difference to become a factor in the game though, effectively locking Reifenrath down for 10 points on the night. The senior was averaging 22 points per game coming into the night.
“I am going to quote Mitchell Schultze," said the Osmond coach, “if you guys know who he is, but he always talks about guys either being Charmin Soft, like toilet paper, or like sandpaper. Aaron is sandpaper. He is rough, he is gritty, and he will compete for every second of the game.”
The Osmond offense exploded in the second half, adding 47 points to the total and securing the victory.
Both sets of bleachers were colored in orange and black, the school colors of both LCC and Osmond, and each side was packed with fans for the championship game.
Athletes from a number of Lewis & Clark conference schools attended the game to see the matchup, and Schulze says it all just added to the vociferous atmosphere.
“It’s great to play in these games. For one it is really fun and it is great for these kids to be able to play in front of a large crowd. It obviously gets you ready for Districts and State and things like that. So just the experience playing against a quality team, and it is nice that we have teams in our conference coming here to watch. I think everyone appreciates the quality that this conference is every year. That top half every year is as competitive as can be.”
Osmond handed LCC its third loss of the year, dropping the Bears to 19-3 on the year, while the Tigers improve to 19-1.
LCC next hosted Wisner-Pilger on Thursday, while Osmond hosted Winside on Thursday and traveled to Wausa on Friday.
LCC 15 17 16 16 — 64
Osmond 17 17 22 25 — 81
LCC - Noah Schutte, 24; Ty Erwin, 16; Izac Reifenrath, 10; Evan Haisch, 6; Cael Hartung, 4; Austin Hall, 4. Osmond - Merrix Denn, 24; Justus Maertins, 21; Keaton Timmerman, 15; Graysen Schultze, 10; Nick Reikofski, 7; Aaron Chishiba, 4.
LCC - Noah Schutte, 9; Austin Hall, 4; Ty Erwin, 4; Cael Hartung, 4; Evan Haisch, 3; Izac Reifenrath, 1. Osmond - Merrix Denn, 4; Keaton Timmerman, 4; Graysen Schutlze, 4; Justus Maertins, 3; Nick Reikofski, 2; Aaron Chishiba, 2.
LCC - Izac Reifenrath, 5; Evan Haisch, 3; Noah Schutte, 2; Austin Hall, 1; Ty Erwin, 1; Cael Hartung, 1. Osmond - Aaron Chishiba, 8; Keaton Timmerman, 5; Graysen Schultze, 4; Justus Maertins, 2; Merrix, Denn, 2; Nick Reikofski, 1.
LCC - Izac Reifenrath, 3; Ty Erwin, 2. Osmond - Merrix Denn, 2; Aaron Chishiba, 1; Keaton Timmerman, 1; Graysen Schutlze, 1.
LCC - Izac Reifenrath, 1. Osmond - Keaton Timmerman, 3; Anthony Heiman, 1; Nick Reikofski, 1.