FAIRFAX - Sean Mathiowetz had two important matters to take care of on Friday, both of which he accomplished in fine fashion.
First and foremost, Mathiowetz paced the Sleepy Eye St. Mary's boys' basketball team with 30 points in a 92-68 Tomahawk Conference victory against Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop. Not to be lost in the fray, however, was that Mathiowetz broke his school's all-time scoring record in the process.
Needing 17 points in the game to break the school scoring record of 1709, which was set by his sister Molly in 2007, Mathiowetz entered halftime already with 15 points. He was sent to the free throw line just six seconds into the second half, tying the record with his first free throw and then breaking it with his second.
Staff photo by Daniel Kerwin
Sleepy Eye St. Mary's senior Sean Mathiowetz (3) takes a shot over Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop senior Shawn Jensen (40) during the second half of Friday's boys' basketball game in Fairfax.
"It wasn't that much on my mind, I knew I had a couple games left," Mathiowetz said. "We just want to get wins as of right now. We're fighting for the No. 1 seed in our section, and that's a big thing, so if the points come, they come, if the records come, they come, but team comes first. We played well tonight, and we got a 'W'."
The Knights never trailed in the contest, increasing the lead to as many as 32 points before the Thunderbirds fought back midway through the second half. However, by that point, the result of the contest was in little doubt.
"In the first half, we kind of just let the scoreboard get to us and stuff," said GFW senior Cade Leitheiser, who paced his team's rally with 11 points during a four-minute stretch. "When we were down in the second half, we just kind of let it go and just played the way we know how to play, and didn't worry about the score. Then we played a whole lot better."
Mathiowetz was joined by teammates Kansas Adams and Jordan Anderson in leading the Knights in the game, with the trio of seniors combining for 70 points.
After junior John Brandl paced St. Mary's with six points early in the first half, Mathiowetz, Adams and Anderson accounted for the team's final 25 points in the half to put the Knights ahead 38-22 at halftime.
Mathiowetz had a late flourish in the first half with seven points in the final two minutes to fall just a single basket shy of breaking the school scoring record in the half.
Once Mathiowetz broke the record with his free throws, there was a brief pause in the game to acknowledge the feat, but then he got right back to playing defense.
"It means a lot," Mathiowetz said of securing the record. "I've been working towards that since I was little... just writing goals down and then finally reaching them, it's gratifying, especially when the team's success is coming too. It would be different if we were losing a lot, but we're pretty successful and we're having a good year, so I feel pretty good about it."
The Thunderbirds did themselves no favors early in the second half, registering 13 team fouls just 8:40 into the half. During that stretch, St. Mary's scored 16 of its points from the free throw line to build a 71-39 lead.
After a timeout, Leitheiser hit a quick 3-pointer to spark an 18-3 run for the Thunderbirds. Brett Rickheim added a 3 during the stretch and Tony Weber scored five points, including a successful three-point play.
"When you play with a little bit of spirit, it's amazing what you can get done," GFW head coach Rich Busse said.
Despite the Thunderbirds' resurgence, they were never able to cut their deficit to fewer than 17 points. After cutting the lead to 79-62 with 2:52 remaining, consecutive 3s by Adams and teammate Jared Rothmeier sealed the deal for St. Mary's.
"I thought we defended pretty well overall, and I thought our transition game was good tonight," St. Mary's head coach Tim Milliard said. "I thought we did a good job of really pushing it offensively in transition. We got a lot of good layups, put a lot of pressure on the basket, and I just thought it was a good, solid game for us."
Mathiowetz advanced the record to 1723 by the end of the contest and will now have three more regular season games in addition to the playoffs to continue adding to it.
Mathiowetz also had team highs in rebounds (nine) and assists (seven) in the contest. Adams had 27 points and Anderson finished with 13 points, with both players adding eight rebounds apiece.
Though breaking the school scoring record adds an incredible individual accomplishment to Mathiowetz's resume, he was quick to thanks his teammates for making it all possible.
"I think our whole team, my teammates helped me through it all, we've got kids that can shoot and they're spreading the floor so I can get to the rim," Mathiowetz said. "It's a team award, a lot of it, because if I didn't have teammates, I wouldn't be getting any of the success I have right now."
After breaking the record, Mathiowetz spent most of his efforts looking to set up teammates for open looks. It's that kind unselfishness in the midst of amassing such a huge career point total that most impresses Milliard about Mathiowetz.
"Certainly I've enjoyed coaching Sean, he really is a diverse kind of player, he can do a lot of different things," Milliard said. "I thought he really showed that tonight, where he could do a number of different things, he makes everybody else around him better. He does a nice job of balancing his responsibilities as the point guard, but also as a primary scorer, and that's not easy to do."
GFW was paced in Friday's game by Seth Schuette (four assists, three steals) and Rickheim (four assists, three steals) with 13 points apiece. Leitheiser (eight rebounds) had 11 points and Weber (eight rebounds) finished with 10 points.
GFW (7-14, 5-10) will play at Minnesota Valley Lutheran on Tuesday.
St. Mary's (18-3, 13-2) is at Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart on Tuesday for its final Tomahawk Conference contest. A victory for the Knights would assure at least a tie of the conference title.