The Pardeeville boys basketball team almost crashed Brad Clark’s welcome back party.
In his first season back as head coach at the high school level in four years, and his first with Lourdes, Clark’s Knights blew a 17-point lead midway through the second half, but were able to hold on to a 78-72 win over the Bulldogs in a Trailways-North Conference game played at The Castle Tuesday night.
“We got a little comfortable with where we were at, we didn’t have that urgency like we had when we battled back from eight points down in the first half but we found a way to win,” said Clark, who spent the last three years as an assistant at Ripon College. “I told the guys they weathered the storm and it’s going to be like this all year because we’re so young and we have to find ourselves.”
Lourdes, a very inexperienced team, relied on their so-called veterans (juniors) late in the game and they delivered. Sam Gelhar and Evan Ganther connected on two 3-point plays after Pardeeville tied things up to help Lourdes take a 70-65 lead with under two minutes left. The Knights were able to hit free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Ganther finished with a game-high 34 points while Gelhar added 21 for Lourdes.
“It was probably the most intense game I’ve ever played, and the most fun I’ve ever played in my life,” said Ganther, who hit six 3-pointers and made 7-of-9 free throws in the final minutes. “I think the score was closer than what we would have liked. Our defense wasn’t great and we’ll get that figured out in practice because our coach is a defensive minded coach and we work on defense all the time but I like how we brought the energy. It’s so fun when we play like that.”
Clark credited the inexperience of the Knights that allowed Pardeeville to get back into the game. He said they felt too comfortable with having such a big lead, but knows that comes with the territory of having young players.
“People need to understand that we have three guys who have varsity experience from last year so everyone that steps on the floor is different, new,” Clark said. “It showed, we showed our youth. When we needed stops we didn’t get as many as we needed but we still made plays when we needed to.”
Bursting out to a huge lead early in the second half, where Lourdes led 55-38, Pardeeville went on a 24-6 run to tie things up at 61. It was the first lead for the Bulldogs since the start of the game.
However, Pardeeville wasn’t the only team to make a run Tuesday night. Lourdes trailed 8-0 to start the game, but then the Knights went on a 17-0 run to help them take a 34-25 halftime lead.
“I thought we started out slow, I mean, which is expected in your first game trying to find your groove a little but I was impressed with how we battled back and took the lead,” Clark said. “We were up 18 there and second half we came out a little flat, and that’s my fault.”
It didn’t surprise Ganther that they started out so slow.
“We started slow out of the game, I think it was the nerves and the rust,” Ganther said. “But I remember Sam Gelhar hit that jumper and he started (our run), then we all kind of settled in. We followed his lead.”
Gelhar hit that jumper and then converted on a 3-point play on the next possession to make it 8-5, and then his teammates did the rest of the work.
Sam Russo and Ben Seibold chipped in six points for Lourdes. Tyler Young and Daniel Walton led Pardeeville with 18 points a piece.
Prior to Clark’s last three years as an assistant with Ripon College, he spent 12 years at Oshkosh West where he was the head coach for five years.
Even though he’s been a part of college teams and state-level high school teams at Oshkosh West, he still had butterflies before Tuesday’s tipoff.
“Of course I did,” Clark said. “My wife told me to relax and that I’ve been through this before. But it’s different and there is a lot of excitement. Then you’re nervous for the guys because you’ve been with them for two weeks and you just want them to do well and have success. It’s good to get back on the sideline and get a W.”
Pardeeville — Stollfus 8, Balzer 3, Hentrich 11, Kuhl 5, Walton 18, Henke 9, Young 18. 3-pointers: 9 (Young 6, Henke, Kuhl, Hentrich). FTs: 11-19.
Lourdes — Seibold 6, Ganther 34, Huizenga 2, Ryan 3, Gelhar 21, Brooks 1, Barfknecht 2, Noone 3, Russo 6. 3-pointers: 11 (Noone, Gelhar 2, Ryan, Ganther 6, Seibold). FTs: 17-28.
Alex Wolf: (920) 426-6661; firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @Wolfa07