Strasburg Tigers

Tigers ‘D’ up and take home another IVC North crown with 45-30 win over Cards

Mike Neidenthal and the Tiger's leap at the chance to grab a piece of the IVC North crown

On Tuesday, Feb. 5 at Strasburg High School, the Big Bad Wolf of the North, also known as the Strasburg Tigers, found a way to overcome a talented Sandy Valley team that had beaten them earlier this year to secure at least a part of the Inter-Valley Conference North crown, something the Tigers owned last year. Coming off a 2017 season that saw them win the old IVC outright, it makes three straight league crowns for this senior-laden Strasburg team.

Standing in Strasburg’s way on this night was Sandy Valley, which dealt the Tigers a 37-30 loss earlier this year. However, a big start led by Mike Neidenthal helped ignite an early Strasburg lead it would never relinquish, and the Tigers would go on to post a 45-30 victory that oozed of a team effort.

“They made a couple of runs, and our guys responded,” Strasburg head coach Adam Hall said. “I’m really proud of our guys and how they played tonight, and we did it as a team.”

While the Tigers were laying down the law on defense, Mike Neidenthal was lighting it up inside, where he battled amongst the trees to ignite an early 10-2 Strasburg lead through one quarter.

The biggest influence in the game was the way the active, hustling Tigers were ruling the glass, creating second and third opportunities while holding the much-bigger Cardinals to just one shot on the other end.

“We gave up nine or 10 offensive rebounds by the half, and that was disappointing,” Cardinals head coach Gary Offenberger said. “They were basically daring us to run by, sending four and five guys to the glass, and we didn’t check out. That’s what happens.”

“Our emphasis was to crash the boards and leave one guy back, and we felt like we could get some scores off the offensive glass tonight, and the guys did that, and we built a lead with it,” Hall said.

Sandy Valley crept back to within three when Demetrius Evans hit two free throws and Keegan Offenberger banked in a long trey, but Mike Neidenthal kept coming up big, scoring six straight to push the lead back to 16-7. The teams basically traded scores the rest of the half, and Strasburg’s defense played a huge role in carving out a 20-12 half-time advantage.

It took Offenberger less than one minute to call a time-out off the intermission when his team misfired and allowed an easy score from DJ Seward inside.

Sandy Valley came out of the time-out and quickly got to within 22-16 on a score inside from big Bryce Kelly and a drive by Carl Cordie. However, Strasburg was about to turn to its other Neidenthal, Mitch, who took over, scoring nine points in the final five minutes of the third period to give Strasburg a 33-23 lead with eight minutes to play.

Any hopes Sandy Valley had of mounting a comeback went out the window when Mike Neidenthal dropped an and-one that was accompanied by a mighty roar followed by Mitch Neidenthal’s triple.

“They play so well together and know where each other are going to be on the court,” Hall said of the twins.

Leading 39-23, a 16-point lead for Strasburg feels like about a 30-point deficit because of the Tiger’s floor presence, patience and free throw shooting skills.

“They do a nice job defensively, especially whenever they are allowed to get up in you,” Offenberger said. “They were allowed to be physical tonight and ran us off the 3-point arc. Once we got behind in the fourth quarter, it was tough because Strasburg is extremely well-coached and they are very disciplined and don’t blow sets, and that was evident, and unfortunately we didn’t do those things.”

Sandy Valley’s Dante Tucci scored five points including a 3-pointer, but Strasburg ran a ton of time off the clock and salted away the win and a piece of the North crown.

Mitch Neidenthal ended the night with 19 points while Mike Neidenthal scored 17, but the defensive presence of Jacob Farthing, Jerod Willoughby and Art Plaza out front forced Sandy Valley to rush shots and take off-balance shots all night.

In addition Seward continued to prove himself as one of the premier post defenders in the league. Seward has shut down a host of much bigger post players all year, and on this night he limited Kelly to just five points.

“He’s been a stopper in the post, and everybody knows it,” Hall said of Seward. “He’s held some really great talent well under their average. He has earned all the accolades for his hard work.”

“You’ve got to be physical, and you can’t back down from anyone,” Seward said of patrolling the paint against the giants. “But I could never do that without my teammates. They put tremendous pressure on the ball, and I get great help defense on the backside, so it becomes a team thing. I do love the challenge of playing kids who on paper are bigger, stronger and faster than me. I take it as a personal challenge to try to shut them down, but again, my teammates are the ones who make it possible.”

As for the league crown, Hall said they will cherish it, but there are bigger fish to fry.

“We have been in this position before and haven’t really gotten to the end goal, so we are really focused on the tournament right now,” Hall said.

But that would have to wait. Because on this night, fans and friends celebrated a senior night to remember in style.

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