MIDDLETOWN — Alter High School’s boys basketball team is riding a wave of success and brought out a big broom Saturday night at Middletown’s Wade E. Miller Arena.
The Knights completed a season sweep of Greater Catholic League Coed North Division rival Fenwick and shot a blistering 69.4 percent from the floor in a Division II district semifinal, soaring to a 72-51 triumph.
“I just told our kids that’s going to be a hard team to beat,” Falcons coach Pat Kreke said. “They’ve just got a lot of kids that shoot the ball well. I want to say, ‘Well, our defense didn’t get it done.’ But I thought we played hard. I thought we played well. We don’t make shots, they make shots … that’s the game of basketball.”
Senior forward C.J. Napier was outstanding in his final appearance for third-seeded Fenwick (16-9), compiling 30 points, seven rebounds and three steals.
It was also the last game for seven other seniors: Caleb Davis, Jared Morris, Thomas Vogelsang, Sully Janeck, Michael Boon, Travis Dahm and Craig Schuermann.
“I didn’t want to have any regrets,” said Napier, who put up 22 second-half points. “It hurts that we lost, but we all went out together. We had a great season. We didn’t get the GCL like we wanted to, but we battled every game.
“Being a Fenwick Falcon means a lot. Coach Kreke told all of us seniors after the game that we’re a part of this program forever. The community here is so great. I think there’s something special about our school.”
The Falcons were on the receiving end of three double-digit losses from Alter (16-9) this year.
The Knights got off to a slow start as football players Connor Bazelak, Derek Willits and Connor Meyer recovered from injuries. Now at full strength and using wholesale substitutions throughout games, Alter has reeled off eight straight wins.
Brady Uhl scored 21 points and Jack Smith tossed in 19 for the seventh-seeded Knights, who will face Aiken for a district championship at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at the University of Dayton Arena.
“I wouldn’t want to play us if I was an opposing coach, especially if we shoot the ball as well as we did tonight,” Alter coach Eric Coulter said. “I love it when teams come together. I think it’s something special.
“There’s been years when I was an assistant at Alter that we went 10-10 and just came together and ended up going on a run. This is one of those teams. The pieces of the puzzle have all come together, and now we’re rolling.”
The Knights converted 9-of-16 shots from beyond the arc, getting three treys apiece from Uhl and Smith. Fenwick shot a respectable 46.5 percent on field goals, yet simply couldn’t keep up on the scoreboard.
“Every time they went on a run, we seemed to answer with a big shot ourselves,” Coulter said. “Fenwick’s a good basketball team. I’ve said this many times and I will continue to say it: They are an extremely well-coached team. I have all the respect for Coach Kreke and the job that he does.”
Uhl hit a 3-pointer, Smith notched a three-point play and Stephen Harker sank a buzzer-beating layup in the last 69 seconds of the third period. That eight-point burst gave Alter a 48-36 lead at the third stop.
“They were 6-for-10 from 3 at halftime, and I don’t think they slowed down in the second half,” Napier said. “They’re high right now. They had a couple open looks on 3s, but I thought we had our hands up most of the time. They just hit shots. It’s hard to stop something like that.”
Coulter’s defensive philosophy is working well with the Knights’ depth.
“I know people probably hate it sometimes, but our substitution works because we’ve always got fresh legs,” he said. “We’re deep enough to do that type of substitution — a lot of teams aren’t. One of my friends that likes hockey said it’s like watching a hockey team come out and come in. We’ve got both groups well balanced as far as guys who can score and be good defenders and play really well together.”
Said Kreke, “I give Eric a lot of credit. He has to deal with football and maybe struggles a little bit at the beginning of the season, but at the end, he brings those kids together and they play their butts off for him.”
Dahm scored eight points for the Falcons. A.J. Braun contributed seven points and six boards.
Kreke said his team could’ve had a better record this season, but he couldn’t complain about 16 wins.
“I’ve been proud of the kids all year long,” Kreke said. “We weren’t a great shooting team this year, so you have to give our kids a lot of credit for getting 16 wins.”
He is planning to return for his 31st season at the Fenwick helm in 2019-2020. Kreke is 380-306 with the Falcons.
ALTER (16-9): Stephen Harker 3 1 7; Jack Smith 7 2 19; Conor Stolly 4 0 9; Brady Uhl 7 4 21; Connor Meyer 0 1 1; Richard Kolb 1 2 5; Connor Bazelak 2 2 6; Derek Willits 1 1 4. Totals: 25-13-72