MILLER CITY — There’s nothing better than playing with a full deck.
That’s an advantage that Kalida boys basketball coach Ryan Stechschulte has not experienced this season.
However, in Friday’s key Putnam County League matchup with Miller City, Stechschulte finally had all his players healthy and ready to compete.
It paid huge dividends.
Kalida came out in the second half Friday and pulled away from Miller City for a 54-45 victory at Miller City.
With the win, Kalida improves to 11-7 overall and 3-3 in the PCL. Miller City slips to 11-7 and 3-3 in the PCL.
Luke Erhart led Kalida with 16 points, including two 3-pointers. The 6-foot-5 Erhart also pulled down eight rebounds. Erhart scored 11 of those points in the first half. Zach VonderEmbse had 12 points and five boards. Gabe Hovest added nine points and three steals for Kalida.
Stechschulte was pleased at how his team played Friday, with having everyone available.
“We’re excited about it, that’s for sure,” Stechschulte said. “We hope everyone stays healthy. These guys have been playing a lot of basketball together. Things happen, and we know it (injuries) is a part of the game. Hopefully, down the road at tournament time, it makes us a little tougher and little more battle tested.”
Jacob Koenig led Miller City with 15 points, on five 3-pointers. Austin Ruhe scored 10 points and came away with five rebounds. Ross Niese added eight points and six boards for Miller City.
Miller City started the game with a 7-0 run. Kalida did not get on the scoreboard until nearly midway through the first quarter, when Erhart hit a 12-footer to cut the deficit to 5, 7-2.
Kalida kept battling back – that is, mainly Erhart.
Erhart eventually cut it to 2, 9-7, on a 3-pointer from the corner.
Then with 1:35 left to play in the opening stanza, Kalida knotted the game at 9, on an inside move by Erhart. Erhart led the way in the first quarter with nine points.
“Luke (Erhart) is capable of doing that (taking the game over),” Stechschulte said. “But I tell our guys that we want to play around him. We don’t
want to just drill him the basketball. We want to keep the ball moving and get good shots.”
After Miller City reclaimed the lead, Kalida knotted the game at 11, with 55 seconds left in the first quarter, on an inside move by Hovest. That score held up until the first stop.
In the second quarter, neither team was able to gain a distinct advantage. Miller City slipped out with a 19-17 lead by the halftime break.
Erhart ended the half with 11 points and four rebounds.
Niese led Miller City with eight points and six rebounds. Ruhe added six first-half points.
Miller City shot 37 percent from the field in the first half, while Kalida connected on 30 percent of its field goal attempts.
Kalida came out aggressive to begin the second half.
Kalida pushed out to a 27-22 lead within the first four minutes of the third quarter.
Ayden Warnecke (six points, three assists) scored twice, while VonderEmbse hit a 3-pointer to jump-start Kalida.
VonderEmbse hit another 3-pointer with 3:25 left in the third to push his team out to a 30-24 lead.
Kalida led 39-31 by the end of the third.
Kalida was a sizzling 8 of 10 shooting from the floor in the third stanza. Kalida connected three times behind the 3-point line.
“We were a little flat-footed in the first half,” Stechschulte said. “Defensively, we weren’t as good as I think we could be. That kind of translated to our offense. … We were kind of stagnant and flat-footed.
“In the third quarter, we picked it up. It’s a tribute to them. They did a great job and shots started to fall. We ran the floor and got some easy ones, and got some layups. … That always helps.”
Kalida kept coming.
A 3-pointer by Hovest, less than a minute into the fourth quarter, extended the Kalida lead to 11, 42-31.
Kalida’s largest lead was 17.
Miller City did cut the deficit to 8, 49-41, on a 3-pointer by Koenig.
And then moments later, Miller City cut it to 49-42, on a free throw by Jon Burgei.
However, Kalida was able to stave off Miller City down the stretch. Kalida was 6 of 9 from the free throw line in the final eight minutes.
For the game, Kalida shot 50 percent from the field. In the second half, Kalida was 12 of 15 from the floor (80 percent).
Miller City shot 35 percent from the field, on the night.
Miller City committed 12 turnovers. Kalida turned it over 11 times.
Miller City held the slight edge on the boards, 27-23.
“We’re plugging away here,” Stechschulte said. “It’s February, and this is a good road win. It’s a tough place to play. They (Miller City) have some kids that play hard and they are well-coached. We will turn around and play another one tomorrow and hopefully get ourselves in a good position for the tournament.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.