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Halftime adjustments help Lakeside Lutheran down Marshall

01/26/2022, 1:30pm CST
By Mark Miller

Levi Birkholz

To be sure, Lakeside Lutheran plays a very good brand of man-to-man defense, particularly help defense. 

If one of the Warrior defenders gets beat off the dribble, a teammate is usually there to help out. 

But in the first half of Tuesday's non-league contest with host Marshall, Lakeside Lutheran's help defense got torched.

Senior sharpshooter Craig Ward of Marshall scored 20 points in the first 18 minutes and helped his squad enter intermission trailing by a single point, 29-28.

Lakeside Lutheran coach Todd Jahns had seen enough of Ward and his shooting so he made an adjustment in the locker room -- no more help defense for the player guarding Ward.

So senior Jameson Schmidt (5-11) and sophomore Alex Reinke (6-0) took turns chasing Ward around the court, and neither left Ward to help other defenders.

That strategy proved beneficial as the Warriors rallied from an early second-half deficit to register a 69-54 victory, their 13th win in 16 games.

"We walk into a game a get a read on our opponent," Jahns said. "Our team is great at making adjustments. Schmidt and Reinke both were able to stay with Ward in the second half. We wanted to make his touches tough."

Ward did score 10 points in the second half, but most of those came in the closing minutes of the game after the game was settled.

Offensively, Lakeside Lutheran used a balanced approach to wear down a Marshall squad that played without senior starter Cole Denniston due to an ankle injury.

Junior wing Trey Lauber (6-4) led the way for the Warriors with 18 points. He made four three-point shots and all four of his foul shots while staying aggressive on the offensive end of the court for the entire contest. 

Another junior, 6-foot-3 guard Levi Birkholz, also had a big night as he finished with 15 points and continually got to the basket in the second half to either score or set up his teammates with his deft passing skills. 

"Levi has been good at letting the game come to him and involving his teammates," Jahns said. "That has made us a better team. When we need his scoring, he can score. 

"His off-the-ball defense is very, very good. He had a few deflections, a few steals and a few blocks tonight and that helped us get our lead and pull away a little bit."

Birkholz is ranked as one of the top class of 2023 prospects in the state and is receiving recruiting attention from a number of NCAA Division I and II programs. His physical strength, athleticism and ability to impact the game on multiple levels was huge for the Warriors against Marshall. 

Schmidt also reached double figures for Lakeside Lutheran with 11 points. He made three baskets from outside the three-point arc as the Warriors connected on 9-of-18 attempts from three for the game.

"That's a part of our game that has developed," Jahns said. "Trey Lauber is a guy we will run stuff for because he's such a good shooter, but our other players are starting to have the confidence to step up and take three-point shots as well."

Craig Ward

Ward had his game in full gear during the first half as he made shots all over the court while keeping his team within striking distance of Lakeside Lutheran.

The 6-foot-2 wing possesses deep shooting range and is accurate from the field in general. He is shooting 50 percent from the field, 70 percent from the foul line and 44 percent from three-point range. 

St. Norbert, Platteville and Whitewater are showing interest in Ward, a four-year varsity performer who has scored more than 1,500 points.

"Craig loves competition and he loves the game of basketball," Marshall coach Dan Denniston said. "But it's not a good idea to rely on one person to beat a team as good as Lakeside Lutheran.

"We tried to get Michael (Lutz) and Reid (Truschinski) going in the second half. We took a 37-33 lead and then had a tough time putting the ball in the basket."

Playing without Cole Denniston, a 5-foot-10 senior guard who missed the game with a badly sprained ankle, was a big hurdle for the Cardinals as well. Cole Denniston is averaging 9.4 ppg and has played over 80 varsity contests during his prep career.

"This is the third time Cole has rolled his ankle this year and this one is really bad," Dan Denniston said of his son. "We don't have much depth and when you rely heavily on four guys and one is missing, it makes it very tough."

In addition to Ward's 30 points, Truschinski reached double figures with 10 points while sophomore Jaxon Hornby came off the bench to contribute eight points as Marshall fell to 11-4.

For the latest and most up to date boys' basketball news and recruiting information, follow Mark on Twitter @wisbbyearbook. Email story ideas, recruiting info, etc. to Mark by clicking here.

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