Warriors boys hoops win 51-49 thriller over Winnetonka

Smithville junior guard Keltin Nitsche dribbles the ball during a basketball game Dec. 11 at Smithville High School.

SMITHVILLE — The Smithville boys basketball team finished off a season sweep of Winnetonka with a 51-49 thriller that was much different than the first time these two teams faced.

The Warriors got going early as they built a 14-10 lead after one quarter and stretched that to a 10-point advantage early into the second quarter. The Griffins rallied back before halftime, closing the gap to 24-22 at the break.

Smithville could never really pull away, even giving up the lead twice down the stretch. The Warriors thought they had things wrapped up when senior forward Brad Schram hit a 3-pointer to go up 6 with 1:38 remaining in the game.

Winnetonka was not done yet as the Griffins went on a 7-0 run to take the lead with just 28 seconds to go.

On the next possession, Smithville sophomore guard Ryker Edwards, who was limited to 9 points as he faced a diamond and one defense throughout the game, reeled in the defense by driving toward the paint before passing to junior guard Keltin Nitsche at the top of the key. Nitsche drove the ball along the left lane before the defense recovered and scored a go-ahead layup.

After a defensive stop and Griffins’ foul that led to Edwards going to the line with 2.6 seconds remaining, the 83% free-throw shooter missed the first attempt at the line.

Smithville head coach Eric Bennaka said in a post about the game that he thought back to his team’s heartbreaking loss to St. Michael’s in the LeBlond Tournament championship game, where the Warriors also had the lead with 2.6 seconds left. Smithville lost thanks to an almost buzzer-beater that a referee admitted after the game should not have counted as the shot was released after the clock hit zero.

Bennaka was not taking any risks as he instructed Edwards to miss the final free throw on purpose.

The Griffins got the board and the timeout, but were forced to take the ball 90 feet in 2.2 seconds without the advantage of the inbounds passer being able to run the baseline to get a better angle on the pass.

The Warriors smothered the Griffins on the last-chance possession and Nitsche pressured the passer so much that the ball ended up hitting the rafters to give Smithville the win.

Smithville senior guard Nick Dakon scored a season-high 18 points on the strength of his 6-of-11 mark from the 3-point line. Schram added 8 points, three steals and two rebounds while Nitsche had 7 points, three assists and two steals.

Junior forward Cody Simoncic led the team with seven rebounds while contributing 6 points, three assists and a steal. Junior Andrew Miller was right behind him on rebounds with six while also leading the team in assists at four.

Smithville won its first matchup with Winnetonka in a much different fashion as the Warriors ran away with a 63-33 victory in a game where the Griffins were missing their starting point guard and key playmaker off the bench.

Smithville (12-10, 3-6 Suburban Blue) will face Raytown South 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22 at Smithville High School before hitting the road the next night to face Platte County in the regular-season finale.

The Warriors will host Excelsior Springs 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27 in the opening round of the Missouri Class 5 District 16 tournament. Smithville beat the Tigers 91-31 on Feb. 9.

The winner will face No. 1-seed Platte County 6 p.m. March 2 at Platte County High School.

Sports Writer Mac Moore can be reached at 389-6643 or mac.moore@mycouriertribune.com.

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