Sunday, June 24, 2018
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Saints bumped off by Hempstead

It was easy to look at the Xavier Saints this year and think they had  a good chance to win another Class 3A state title with lots of talent back from last season.

They still might get back to Des Moines and take a crack at a state  crown, but so far it's been a struggle.

The Saints fell apart in the third quarter Friday night and lost to  Dubuque Hempstead, 63-44, in a Mississippi Valley Conference boys basketball game at Ron Thillen Gymnasium.

The loss left Xavier with a 4-7 record heading into a special  event Saturday in Omaha against Papillion-LaVista.

Matt Mims, Max Techau and Jackson Joens returned to the starting  linuep this season after helping the Saints win the 2016 state title. Nolan Butkowski, a part-time starter, and Bryce Schulte, a key  reserve, also returned this year.

"There was every reason to be optimistic when you return those guys,"  Coach Ryan Luehrsmann said Friday.

Luehrsmann is still optimistic, but the season is half-over and the  Saints have yet to hit their stride.

"Right now, last year is so far in the rear-view mirror and we're so  far from that," he said. "I told the guys we have to do some  soul-searching, individually and collectively.

"I told them I believe in them and what this group can do," he said.  "But potential is one thing and realizing it is another."

The Saints lost two key starters from their state champs when Ryan  Stulken and Mitchell Burger graduated and they have not been able to  put another cohesive unit together.

Xavier gave Hempstead a good battle in the first half and trailed by  only two points, 25-23, but Lucas Duax hit a 3-pointer for Hempstead at the buzzer to make it 28-23 at intermission.

The third quarter was a disaster for the Saints. The Mustangs scored  the first eight points of the second half and punished the Saints in the third stanza 20-6 to put the game out of reach at 48-29.

"In the third quarter we just got smoked, and that was the difference  in the game," said Luehrsmann. "Twenty-to-six is too hard to recover  from against a really good team like that.

"I thought we got a little loose with the ball. We had some critical  tournaments that led to each baskets. The perfect storm."

The Saints have played a tough schedule this season and Hemptead was  the latest in a long line of talented opponents.

"They're one of the better teams in our league, for sure," Luehrsmann  remarked. "Awfully tough to guard. They've got terrific athletes,  great quickness on the perimeter. They shot the ball really well  tonight."

The Mustangs (8-3) featured a three-man attack with Keith Johnson  popping in 19 points, Lucas Duax 17 and Connor Duax 15.

Techau, a 6-foot-7 senior, had a strong game for Xavier with 16  points, seven rebounds and four blocks, but none of the other Saints cracked double figures. The 44 points were the fewest Xavier has  scored in a game this season.

"We're disappointed," said Luehrsmann. "We're angry, and we should be.

"I told them to continue to grind away at it. This team has potential  to have some success, I believe. We just have to stay the course and we have some things we have to correct.

"It's frustrating," said Luehrsmann. "I can't totally explain  everything, but it's not like we're losing to chumps."

HEMPSTEAD (63): Martin 1 0-0 3, L.Duax 4 6-6 17, Courtney 0 2-2 2,  C.Duax 6 2-2 15, Crowder 0 0-1 0, Dolan 0 0-0 0, Muehring 0 0-0 0,  Johnson 8 0-0 19, Cooksley 2 0-0 5, Sindberg 1 0-0 2, Vance 0 0-0 0,  Beck 0 0-0 0, Kemp 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 10-11 63.

XAVIER (44): Ropp 0 0-0 0, Lux 0 0-0 0, Mims 2 0-0 5, Butkowski 3 1-1  7, Joens 1 0-0 3, Dempewolf 0 0-0 0, Q.Schulte 1 0-0 3, Bartels 0 0-1  0, Moeder 0 0-0 0, Techau 7 2-3 16, Johnson 4 0-0 8, B.Schulte 1 0-0  2, Angstman 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 3-5 44.

Halftime - Hempstead 28, Xavier 23. 3-point goals - Hempstead 9  (L.Duax 3, Johnson 3, Martin 1, C.Duax 1, Cooksley 1), Xavier 3 (Mims 1, Joens 1, Q.Schulte 1).


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