For much of Monday’s opening round sectional game at Blackhawk Christian between The Howe School and Bethany Christian, Wildcat guard Conner Geiser was a non-factor. After drawing his third foul three minutes into the second quarter, Geiser spent the next 12 minutes sitting on the bench and not running the Howe offense.
But when the 5-11 senior transfer from Texas finally got back on the court, he let his presence be known.
Scoring the first 12 points of the fourth quarter, including two incredibly clutch three-point shots which helped stave off Bethany rallies, Geiser sparked the Wildcats to a 57-53 victory over the Bruins and a second straight trip to the sectional semifinals.
“He loves to take the big shots and he hit a few tonight in the second half,” said Howe skipper Tony DeFelice. “His presence on the floor makes us a better team on both ends of the court.”
After leading by as many as 15 points (41-26) in the third period, the Wildcats watched as the Bruins tallied the last 13 points of the frame to chop the lead to two (41-39). The difference narrowed to one (45-44) early in the final stanza on a three-point bucket by David DeLeeuw.
Geiser then stepped up to swish a triple from the right wing to boost the Howe lead to four. A few minutes later, Geiser canned another trey from virtually the same spot to again increase the Wildcat edge to four (55-51).
Henrikas Gelgota, whose four triples helped Howe build its big lead, put the Wildcats up six with 1:57 left on a steal and layup. DeLeeuw’s basket with 1:21 on the clock cut the margin back to four, but the Bruins could not get any closer.
Gelgota finished with 20 points to pace Howe. Geiser totaled 15 points and Renatas Issak delivered 12 markers and a team-high eight rebounds.
DeLeeuw led Bethany with 20 points. Caleb Morris was next with 11.
The loss not only knocked the Bruins out of the tournament, it also kept veteran head coach Jim Buller from becoming the all-time career wins leader in Elkhart County. Buller and John Longfellow are tied for that honor with 365 victories.
“Jim is a class act and part of me is sad that he didn’t win tonight,” said DeFelice. “I wish we could have both walked out of here with a win.”
But it will be the Wildcats who move on in the sectional. Next up for Howe (10-9) is a semifinal date with host Blackhawk Christian (7-15) this Friday at 6 p.m.
Howe School 57
Bethany Christian 53
Scoring by quarters
HS 13 16 14 14 -57
BC 13 8 18 14 -53
Arnas Zabarauskas 3, 0-0, 7; Patrick Kanamugire 0, 0-0, 0; Kortland Bryant 1, 0-0, 3; Conner Geiser 5, 2-3, 15; Algirdas Laurinavicius 0, 0-0, 0; Henrikas Gelgota 7, 2-2, 20; Renatas Issak 5, 2-2, 12; Totals 21, 6-7, 57
Three-point field goals 9 (Gelgota 4, Geiser 3, Zabarauskas 1, Bryant 1); Team Fouls 12 (Fouled Out: None)
Bryce Rheinheimer 0, 0-0, 0; Femi Hollinger-Janzen 4, 0-0, 8; Andy Slagel 4, 1-3, 9; Austin Mumaw 1, 1-2, 3; David DeLeeuw 7, 3-4, 20; Jesse Loewen 1, 0-0, 2; Caleb Morris 4, 1-1, 11; Totals 21, 6-10, 53
Three-point field goals 5 (DeLeeuw 3, Morris 2); Team Fouls 11 (Fouled Out: None)