Clippers cool Thunder
Strasburg-Zeeland’s Nick Kramer was going to be ready for this one, and it shouldn’t have been a secret.
The Clippers now face a team they’ve already seen three times this season when they take on South Border at 6 p.m. in tonight’s semifinals.
“We knew who their shooters were and we did a pretty good job on defense,” Kramer said of Monday’s win. “We just knew we had to move the ball and play as a team.”
The Clippers last faced the Thunder during the Linton-HMB Jamboree in Jamestown on Jan. 21. They were without Kramer that night due to an ankle injury, and the Thunder rolled 61-52.
“We got to play them once before and I got to sit out and watch,” Kramer said. “It’s always frustrating sitting on the sidelines, especially when you don’t win.”
Probably more impressive than his stat line was Kramer’s effort defensively. He held the Thunder’s top scoring threat, senior guard Nick Blaskowski, to just 10 points.
Blaskowski lit up the scoreboard with 16 3-pointers and 71 total points during last week’s District 5 tournament in Leal. He was limited to just 10 points against the Clippers, going 4-for-17 from the field and missing eight 3-point attempts.
“He got some good looks at the basket. Normal looks for Nick, but he just couldn’t get them to fall,” Medina-Pingree-Buchanan coach Jared Hoff said. “We didn’t shoot very well from the floor tonight, and their defense got after it. We just didn’t respond to the bell.”
Kramer got the Clippers rolling early, rifling off nine of his 24 points during an 11-2 Clipper run to end the first period. The Clippers were up 30-21 at the half, as Blaskowski went 1-for-9 over the first 16 minutes.
“(Kramer) played really good defense tonight,” Strasburg-Zeeland coach Brent Kleinsasser said. “We knew (Blaskowski) could shoot 3s and stuff, and Nick just took him out of his game.”
The Thunder were able to chip away at the lead in the second half, cutting the Clipper advantage to just two points (39-37) with 6 minutes, 43 seconds left to play. But that’s when the Clippers’ Brody Nieuwsma swooped in.
The sophomore guard drilled a trey and scored five consecutive points to pump the lead back out to seven at 44-37, and the Clippers held on from there. Nieuwsma ended with a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds.
The Thunder, who finished the season at 12-11, were led in scoring by Cole Diede with 12.
Strasburg-Zeeland has won two of its three meetings with South Border this season, most recently defeating the Mustangs 48-43 in the first round of the District 6 tournament last week in Linton.
The Clippers are shooting for their first Region 3 tournament title since 2002.
“It’ll be the fourth time we’ve played them. We’ve just got to go play our game,” Kleinsasser said. “I don’t worry too much about the other team. We’ve got to make sure our kids are doing the right things.
“Tonight they played the defense. Tomorrow night, maybe it’s going to be the offense that saves us.”
Region 3 Boys Basketball Tournament
Strasburg-Zeeland 57, Medina-Pingree-Buchanan 44
Strasburg-Zeeland 20 30 37 57
Medina-Pingree-Buchanan 12 21 33 44
Strasburg-Zeeland — Nic Kramer 24, Brody Nieuwsma 17, Jacob Eberle 8, Jordan Nieuwsma 3, Scotti Scherr 3, Seth Aberle 2. Totals: 19-51 FG, 16-29 FT, 39 Rebounds (B. Nieuwsma 13), 13 Fouls, 1 Assist (Scherr), 9 Turnovers, 1 Block (Scherr 1), 7 Steals (Kramer 4). 3-pointers: 3-12 (B. Nieuwsma 2, J. Nieuwsma 1).
Medina-P-B — Cole Diede 12, Cody Horn 11, Nicholas Blaskowski 10, Alex Eissinger 7, Blake Zirbes 2, Wyatt Staloch 2. Totals: 16-54 FG, 8-12 FT, 39 Rebounds (Blaskowski 8), 20 Fouls (Horn, Blaskowski), 4 Assists (Staloch 2), 9 Turnovers, 1 Block (Staloch), 3 Steals (Diede 3). 3-pointers: 4-18 (Blaskowski 2, Diede 1, Horn 1).
Records: Strasburg-Zeeland 13-9; Medina-P-B 12-11.
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at email@example.com