St. Vincent rallies past St. Helena

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

PETALUMA — Mike Meiswinkel scored 22 of his 38 points in the third quarter Tuesday night as host St. Vincent rallied to defeat St. Helena, 67-64, in a North Central I-South boys basketball game.

St. Vincent's Michael Meiswinkel scored 36 points, including 22 in the third quarter, in Tuesday's win over St. Helena. Photo by Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

The 5-foot-11 guard scored six points in 85 seconds as St. Vincent erased a 36-30 halftime deficit. In the first 4:10 of the third quarter, Meiswinkel had 17 points. At that point, the Mustangs led 46-39.
St. Helena battled back to take a 47-46 lead following back-to-back 3-pointers by Alex Fetzer.
Meiswinkel answered with a 3-point goal of his own. He scored 22 of his team’s 25 points in the quarter.

The Saints, however, refused to go away. They tied the game at 62 with 2:15 left on two free throws by Peter Delbondio. Meiswinkel again responded, faking a long shot and then driving to the basket for a layup. That put the Mustangs in front for good.
St. Helena had a chance to tie with one second left, but Fetzer’s foot was out-of-bounds when he went up for the shot.

Meiswinkel has been the Empire’s most prolific scorer the past week. The senior scored 31 points in wins over Upper Lake (Jan. 18) and Clear Lake (Jan. 21). He came into the St. Helena game averaging 20.

“That 22 in the third has to be a school record,” coach Lance Phillips said. “What was most impressive was that he scored from everywhere. He got a couple of 3s to drop and that made the defense come out to guard him. When they did, he faked the shot and took it to the bucket.”
Meiswinkel had only three points in the opening quarter as his team fell behind, 17-8. He scored nine in the second and four in the last quarter. Overall, he connected on 15 of 28 from the field had four 3s.

“At halftime, coach pointed out we missed a lot of opportunities to score,” Meiswinkel said. “The message was we needed to get points on the board because St. Helena is a very good offensive team.
“I got a few open looks at the start of the third and when that happened, I started to feel it. Everything I was putting up was going in. I’ve never had a quarter like that in my life.”
St. Helena coach Tom Hoppe gave Meiswinkel props, but also lamented his team’s defensive effort in the second half.

“We made mistakes that allowed them to outscore us 14-3 at the start of the third quarter and that was the difference in the game,” Hoppe said. “Meiswinkel is a very good player. When he made a couple of shots from behind the arc, we had to go out and guard him. Then he’d go the basket and our defenders didn’t help each other out.
“My kids worked hard and never quit. I was proud of the way they kept coming back in the second half. That’s tough to do on the road.”
Fetzer and Cole Ballentine led the St. Helena offense with 18 apiece. Both came in averaging 15. Delbondio ended up with 14, four above his average.

This has been a turnaround season for Saints basketball. Coming off back-to-back seasons with losing records, they are 13-5 and 1-1 in conference.
“We haven’t won a league title since the ’70s,” Hoppe said. “We’ve got a good team this year, but we’ll have to win the rest of our league games to get it this year.”
Tuesday’s victory puts St. Vincent at 3-0 in league and 12-7 overall.

“This was a big win for us,” coach Phillips said. “Not only does it put us in good position in league, it’s one of the few times this year we’ve come back to win a game.
“We keep trying to climb the hill and this time, we finally did it.”

Evan Knight was also in double figures for the Mustangs. The sophomore guard contributed 15, including three 3-pointers in the first half and a free throw with nine seconds remaining that increased the Mustangs’ lead to 67-64.