Saints stop New Ulm

Staff photo by Steve Muscatello New Ulm’s Charlie Osborne gets drives past Ethan Volk (2) of St. Peter during the second half Thursday at New Ulm High School.

NEW ULM — For the first 18 minutes of the St.Peter-New Ulm boy’s basketball game Thursday night, it looked like the Saints were going to run the Eagles out of their own gym.

But in the second half, it was the Saints who were reeling.

St. Peter jumped to a 34-13 half-time lead only to see the Eagles cut the Saints’ lead to 47-42 on a Reece Melby basket with just over two minutes left in the game before hanging on for a 58-44 win in a Big South Conference game.

Josh Johnson led St. Peter (10-3, 4-1) with a game-high 22 points.

Cole Rhode led New Ulm (3-10, 1-4) with 14 points. Charlie Osborne added 11 and Reece Melby ended with eight.

For the Eagles and head coach Matt Dennis, the first half was the Josh Johnson show for St. Peter.

The 6-foot-4 senior forward for the Saints hit six-of-eight 3-pointers in the first half and St.Peter made eight-of-14 shots from beyond the arc as St. Peter scored 24 of their 34 first half points from the 3-point line.

“We had no answer for him in the first half,” said New Ulm head coach Matt Dennis about Johnson who scored 20 points in the first half. “We talked about switching or jumping out – he just knocked them down. They set good screens for him for him.”

Back-to-back 3 from Johnson gave the Saints a 20-10 lead before he buried two more 3s sandwiched around a 3 from Shea Hildebrandt for a 29-13 lead before Johnson’s sixth 3-pointer upped the lead to 34-13 at the break.

While the Saints hit 57 percent of their 3-pointers, the Eagles shot poorly.

New Ulm made only five of 17 shots from the floor and missed all 11 three-pointers.

Down by 21 at halftime, Dennis said he gave his team a message in the locker room about winning the first four minutes of the second half.

“That was our only focus,” Dennis said. “And when you break that down into chunks that are believable, all that you have to do is worry about those four minutes. That makes it more possible. Our boy’s believed it and they went out and they did it.”

The Eagles scored the first six points of the second half on baskets from Josh Wenninger and Rhode with Osborne burying a 3-ball to cut the lead to 34-20.

St. Peter regained some momentum by increasing their lead to 44-26 before a Brayden Garrity basket sparked a 10-0 run by New Ulm that cut the lead to 44-38 on a Rhode putback at the 6:16 mark.

“We got great shots on offense — had some great passing,” Dennis said. “When Cole (Rhode) was double-teamed he found an open man. And we got stops.”

The Eagles also got a good defensive effort on Johnson.

“I challenged Brody Bolduan to step up on defense and he took Johnson away,” Dennis said.

Bolduan and the Eagles held Johnson to just two points in the second half.

Those two points came with 45 seconds left in the game and gave St. Peter a 54-44 lead.

Dennis said that the New Ulm defense fueled the Eagles offense in the second half as New Ulm outscored St. Peter 31-24.

“We just did not have an answer for Johnson in the first half,” he said. “And offensively for us was the Achille’s heal for us.”