The beginning was a little haywire, but Bishop Dwenger settled into a rhythm in the second half Wednesday night to top Norwell 50-40. The game was the Saints’ first of the season as one of the last boys basketball teams in Indiana to start their 2018-19 campaign.
“There are things to clean up, but we’ll get there,” Bishop Dwenger coach Matt Kostoff said with a smile post game.
It was Norwell’s first loss of the season.
Fresh off a championship celebration for a state football title, several football players have been with the team for just over a week before Wednesday’s opener. They football carry over aggression may have shown a few times. But in the end, it was the smooth mid range shooting of senior Hayden Smithey that leveled out the torrid pace set by the Saint defense and even by their run-and-gun styled offense against Norwell (2-1).
“We want to get out and get up and down the floor more this year. We wanted to play free and flow to the offense,” Kostoff said. “We don’t have much in right now, but I think we are deep enough that we can get up and down and the guys like to get up and down so they have to buy into it. I think we are a pretty athletic team this year.”
Kostoff says it is his goal to get Bishop Dwenger to scoring around 65 points per game with their pace. The last time the Saints averaged over 60 points per game was the 2009-2010 season.
Smithey shot 7-of-12 from two point range and added six of seven free throws to lead the way. It was a good start from Smithey as the Saints put up a lot of shots, still feeling out their outlook for the young season. But in that 14 to 18 foot midrange, Smithey seemed calm as he comfortably knocked down jumpers.
“There is that jump between junior and senior year where he knows this is his team this year. He has to be the scorer for us. He knows he is going to be number one on the opponent’s scouting report and he will have to step up,” Kostoff said. “He was confident, hit some big free throws in the second half.”
Even though Bishop Dwenger connected on just 3-of-15 three point shots and found themselves looking raw in stretches, they maintained a lead throughout the game. After the first quarter, they led 7-4, stretching the lead to 20-14 at halftime and 34-27 after three quarters.
Norwell did their best to match Bishop Dwenger’s intensity. Will Geiger put up another 20 point game, adding 11 rebounds and three blocks. Trying to slow Geiger down was clearly a big focus of the Dwenger defense as they threw the aggression of Jared Lee and John Hoffman at him as well as several traps and even a triple team here and there.
“I think we made him work. I think Jared and John, they battled every possession down there and he is a tough player,” Kostoff said. “I’m happy with the defense, happy with their effort; they played hard.”
Lee, one of those football carry overs, was physical throughout on both ends of the court, finishing with a team high seven rebounds and getting to the free throw line seven times down the stretch of the game. Another football player, sophomore Brenden Lytle was a pace setter defensively as the Saints pressured Norwell in the full court. Lytle’s five steals helped turn defensive pressure into a quick offense for Bishop Dwenger.
Eli Riley added nine points for Norwell on 3-of-4 shooting from deep, all in the second half. Hunter Burns added seven points for Bishop Dwenger while Lee and Lytle each scored six.
Bishop Dwenger will have just one more home game this calendar year, hosting Concordia on December 14. They will not return to their home court other than that until January 18.