Walter centralizes Indians offense as No. 1 Four Winds/Minnewaukan tops Shiloh Chrisitan in quarterfinals
A lot of the Indians systems work through their "big man". Standing 6-foot-10-inches, senior center Bronson Walter is hard to miss, and match up against, and defend. The Region 4 senior athlete of the year has been cemented in the paint for the Indians all season long.
Indians head coach Rick Smith has mentioned earlier this season that teams either take a chance on Walter or their shooters because the opposition hasn't been able to focus on both. On Thursday against Shiloh Chrisitan, the Skyhawks chose the Indians shooters.
Heavy hands on the arc in junior guard Jayden Yankton, senior guard JaeShaun Shaw, and senior forward Caelen Lohnes had little to no room to breathe on the outside, eventually seeing them hit with a double-guard, something that teams throw more Walter's way.
"It was very tough tonight to get shots up or even get open by the way they were defending me, but you play through it and set up your teammates, hoping that they can capitalize," Yankton said.
When the Indians shooters couldn't find their lanes, they turned to Walter, who was able to finish at the rim drive after drive. The center would finish with a game-high 24 points, shooting 10-17 from the field and 100 percent at the line to power No. 1 Four Winds/Minnewaukan past Shiloh Chrisitan, 68-52, to advance to Class B state semifinals Friday against Kindred.
"Offensively, I thought we were going through Bronson the way we were supposed to," Smith said. "We were giving him good looks, especially when they were doubling him, however, this was the first time that he didn't see the double or triple-team too much. We had to keep getting the offense through him and sometimes we didn't, which led to lulls...We had third-quarter blues again and that's been out M.O. this year and we have to knock that off."
Four Winds didn't have too many slow points in its matchup against the Skyhawks, but the early third quarter saw what has been its base throughout the postseason sting them a little bit. Coming out of halftime, the fouls would begin to pile up for the Indians, seeing them already with five to Shiloh's zero before the quarter was over.
Four Winds would eventually put Shiloh in the bonus, but by that time the Indians had built up a solid lead, with time in their favor. Focus continues to be big for the Indians going into this tournament and it's what pulled them out of the "third-quarter blues" heading deeper into the game.
"We just needed to get them refocused," Smith said. "We came out and we were slow a-foot. We had to sub right away because we had to get these guys focused. You're in the state tournament and anytime you lose your focus, teams are going to take advantage of that, and Shiloh did that. We had some nice stops to get us back going and we just kept battling. That's what you need to do."
Yankton was one of those who hit the brunt of the fouling in the third quarter, committing his third foul early in the second half. Smith said there wasn't any concern in playing Yankton for the rest of the game with three fouls, and it wouldn't be a point of concern as he would finish with a team second high nine points. He may have not had a lot of room on offense, but the guard managed to go 4-5 from the field.
"There were a couple of cheapies that I didn't think were fouls, but I didn't let that get to my head," Yankton said. "I just kept playing aggressively and tried hard not to get those last two fouls."
Yankton added that he was also working into Walter in the point in facing so much pressure. He seemed to be the popular target as he was the only Indian to break into double figures on the night, seeing Yankton, Shaw, and senior guard Keldon Keja near that mark, but not break it. Shaw was a big feeder on the night as he would dish out a team-high four assists alongside his seven points.
It all comes back to the equation of how teams want to attack the Indians and Shiloh chose to focus on their shooters. Smith said Walter wasn't facing a double or triple team, making him an easy option to go to when their point-getters couldn't drive.
"We worked him in a lot on offense, especially when they're not throwing a double on him, which we don't see a lot," Smith said. "When there isn't a guy on him, the ball has got to go through him. If he doesn't have the shot he wants he's going to give and I thought we had some quick shots that didn't go through him. If he's not getting doubled, the ball has to get to him. If he's getting doubled, the ball still has to get to him."
Walter may run into a different situation tomorrow against Kindred as he faces off against a taller Viking squad, specifically in 6-foot-9-inch Gavin Keller. Like Walter, Keller was a central figure in the Vikings' narrow win over Dickinson Trinity, seeing him down 17 points, shooting 6-12 from the field and 100 percent from the line.
Kindred and Four Winds come to the court in very similar places. They both have rosters that can go deep and put up a lot of shots. However, Kindred has been more hesitant from outside the arc than the Indians. Semifinals are setting up to be a battle between the champions of Region 4 and Region 1, but the matchup shouldn't come as any surprise to the Indians as they watched the entire game between the Vikings and the Titans.
"We'll watch the game, have the shoot around tomorrow, go over somethings and watch some film tonight," Smith said. "We're one step close to where we want to be and it's not going to be any easier. We gotta continue to fight, stay together, play hard because the games are going to get tighter and tighter. Our kids are veteran basketball club and played in a lot of big games. Tomorrow is not going any different."
Four Winds/Minnewaukan 68, Shiloh Chrisitan 52
Four Winds/Minnewaukan - 15, 20, 17, 16 - 68
Shiloh Chrisitan - 6, 14, 19, 13 - 52
Four Winds/Minnewaukan -- Walter 10 4-4 24, Yankton 4 0-0 9, Keja 3 1-2 8, Shaw 2 2-2 7, Jackson 3 0-0 6, Lohnes 2 0-0 5, LaRock 2 1-2 5, Deng 2 0-0 4. Totals 28 8-10 68.
Shiloh Chrisitan -- L. Wanzek 6 1-1 16, Englund 5 4-4 15, Baker 4 4-9 12, Wanzek 2 2-4 7, Decoteau 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 10-16 52.
3-pointer: Four Winds/Minnewaukan 4 (Lohnes 1, Shaw 1, Yankton 1, Keja 1). Shiloh Christian 6 (L. Wanzek 3, J. Wanzek 2, Englund 1).