By MICHAEL BURWELL
OTTAWA — Kalida head coach Dick Kortokrax knew getting off to a good start would be key if his Wildcats were to advance to the Division IV sectional finals.
With the help of a 13-0 first-quarter run and a 30-14 halftime lead, Kalida was able to do just that by knocking off Putnam County rival Pandora-Gilboa 55-39 in a sectional semifinal game at Ottawa-Glandorf High School on Tuesday.
Kalida (14-9) will face top-seeded Miller City for the title Friday at 6:15 p.m. Pandora-Gilboa’s season ends at 3-19.
“I was very appreciative of the fact that we came out and forced them to call a timeout with a 12-2 lead or something like that, then the rest of the game was basically, that was it,” Kortokrax said. “They fought very hard, which we thought they would, and as a result, it was our start, really, that I felt was the key to the game.”
After Pandora-Gilboa’s Hunter Hovest banked in a jump shot to start the game, Kalida took over, scoring the next 13 points. Junior Devin Kortokrax, who led the Wildcats with 20 points, scored five of the 13 points, including a 3-pointer from the corner and a jumper for two, to give the Kalida a 13-2 lead.
Kalida increased its’ lead to 16 with the help of a 12-6 run in the last four minutes of the second quarter.
“I think we lost our discipline in the zone,” Pandora-Giboa head coach Logan Smith said of the Rockets’ defense. “We let (Randy) Zeller get loose for a couple big ones at the top of the key, and then Kortokrax got on the wings a couple times for some threes, and they were kind of just momentum killers.
“We struggled offensively, so to give up 30 in the first half was tough.”
Pandora-Gilboa turned the ball over eight times in the first half, due in part to Kalida’s full-court pressure. Dustin Rieman, a starter at guard for the Rockets, did not play due to a concussion suffered on Friday against Continental.
However, Kortokrax knew that Pandora-Gilboa shouldn’t be taken for granted, despite having just three wins on the season.
“I’ve been around too long to think ‘I don’t care what their record is,’” said Kortokrax, who is in his 39th season as head coach at Kalida and his 54th season overall as a head coach.
And for the Rockets, it was 6-foot-2 senior Seth Schmenk who kept his team’s hopes alive.
Schmenk poured in a game high 26 points, including nine in the third quarter and seven in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. He scored 16 of the Rockets’ 20 points in an eight-minute stretch in the third and fourth quarters.
Schmenk’s 3-pointer with 4:13 left in the game cut Kalida lead to 45-36, its’ closest margin since the 6:15 mark of the second quarter when Kalida had a 15-6 lead.
“He’s had some great moments this year,” Smith said. “He’s had a game where he’s had 32 points, he’s had games where he had 19-20, and he’s a very streaky shooter.
“I told the coaching staff ‘The ball’s in his hands, make or miss, we’re gonna just go with that.’”
Kalida didn’t panic, though, and scored 10 of the game’s final 13 points. Devin Kortokrax scored six of those, including a pair of free throws with one minute left to give the Wildcats a 55-38 lead.
Zeller, Kalida’s 6-foot-4 senior center, added a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds. He scored nine of Kalida’s 11 points in the third quarter, including back-to-back put-backs off of an offensive rebound, a cut to the basket for two, and a 3-pointer to give Kalida a 39-22 lead with 2:45 left in the third quarter.
Colin Fenstermaker added 10 points, for the Rockets.
“We’ve had a lot of bad moments in our season, but these seniors, and our underclassmen and entire team, played pretty hard tonight,” Smith said. “We were outmanned a little skill-wise, but they competed. They played hard all the way through the 32 minutes, and I’m proud of that.”
Wauters 0-0—0, Schmenk 12-0—26, Schneck 0-0—0, Hovest 1-0—2, Osborn 0-1—1, Tousley 0-0—0, Fenstermaker 4-2—10. TOTALS: 17-46 3-4—39.
A. Langhals 0-2—2, L. Langhals 1-2—4, Kortokrax 6-6—20, Zeller 7-1—18, Gerding 1-0—2, Miller 4-1—9. TOTALS: 19-50 12-15—55.
Pandora-Gilboa 4 10 13 12 — 39
Kalida 13 17 11 14 — 55
3-Point GOALS: Kalida 5-21 (Zeller 3, Kortokrax 2); Padora-Gilboa 2-10 (Schmenk 2).
rebounds: Kalida 33 (Zeller 10); Pandora-Gilboa 23 (Schmenk 10).
turnovers: Pandora-Gilboa 14, Kalida 10.
By MICHAEL BURWELL