ST. JOHNS – Ben Feldpausch and the St. Johns boys basketball team have been seeking validation.
It was only a season ago that the Redwings won just six games and stumbled to a fourth-place finish in the CAAC Red, while undergoing the growing pains of a program that ushered in several newcomers and a new head coach.
That St. Johns basketball team is far in the past, and the Redwings have been on the hunt for the one victory to show.
St. Johns got its vindicating win Friday night, and it came against the conference’s three-time defending champions.
The Redwings, at home, were able to knock off DeWitt, 53-44, to move to 3-1 on the season.
“Waverly was the start – that was the first little shocker – but now that we got this win, we have eyes on us,” said Feldpausch, who scored 17 points in the contest. “We’re going to be the target now.
“We’re coming. We definitely have the talent to keep going.”
St. Johns’ talent pool may have lost one of its top players for a substantial amount of time. Junior forward Jacob Dorn, one of the team’s top scorers, collided with the Panthers’ (1-2, 1-1) Tanner Reha just 30 seconds into the second half. Dorn injured his knee during the collision – the same knee that caused him to miss all of last year – and didn’t return to the game.
It looked as if it was going to be a turning point, as the Redwings’ (3-1, 2-0) two-point lead going into halftime was quickly erased. But St. Johns was able to get a helping hand from its senior guard.
Trailing 24-23 less than two minutes into the third quarter, Redwings senior Brandon Huhn hit a bucket to hand his team the lead. DeWitt went on a 5-2 run to recapture the lead, but Huhn, who had a game-high 18 points, hit one of his four 3-pointers to give St. Johns a 30-29 lead. His team didn’t trail the rest of the way.
Huhn’s contributions ended up being the difference, as both Dorn and 6-foot-5 center Caleb Paksi, who recorded five blocks, were both held in check offensively by DeWitt.
The Panthers were able to tie the ball game at 40 midway through the fourth quarter when a 3-pointer from Reha ignited an 8-2 spurt. But another 3-ball from Huhn started a 7-0 run for St. Johns and DeWitt was unable to recover.
“We just wanted to keep playing the game we were playing,” Huhn said of his team’s conversation going into the final eight minutes. “Everything was going the right way when we were playing our game, and everything was going their way when we weren’t playing ours.”
With his team dominating the league over the past three years, Panthers coach Ron Marlan has had many conversations with his squad about the bullseye on its back. However, this particular DeWitt team is young, and it’s still trying to find its footing in the early part of the season.
Marlan credited the difference in veteran leadership as the reason the Redwings were able to pull out the victory over his team.
“We’ve got some kids that have played a lot of minutes, but, also, we’re pretty young,” Marlan said. “Our backcourt is young. We’re learning, we’re making some plays, and then we’re not making some plays.
“Give them credit. The Feldpauschs’ have been through this, Paksi has played a lot of minutes. They have a really nice senior-laden team. We knew it was going to be tough to come in here.”
The Panthers were led by eight points from Reha and Luke Hyde. Senior Eddie Daley added seven.
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.