Wolverines use 27-point third quarter to beat Union

Sheffield’s Gabe Donato goes up for a shot over Union’s Lucas Bowser during the second quarter of Tuesday’s game in the Sheffield Christmas Tournament. The Wolverines won 65-54 to advance to tonight’s championship game against Kane.

Third quarters have been Sheffield’s achilles heel early in the 2016-17 season. On Tuesday, it was their biggest strength.

Trailing by one at halftime, the Wolverines outscored Union 27-12 in the third en route to a 65-54 win in their Christmas Tournament.

“The big thing with us, third quarters have actually been our bad quarter,” said Sheffield coach Mike Knapp. “We’ve been working on things in practice and making some conscious decisions at halftime to change some things we do in the third quarter to get us going and the kids responded well tonight.”

That might be an understatement for what is arguably District 9’s most improved team.

Roger Dunham ignited the charge, drilling 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to open the half to give the Wolverines (4-3) a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Sheffield’s Austin Simmer goes up for a layup during the first quarter of Tuesday’s game.

Sheffield also turned up the intensity on the defensive end, forcing six turnovers against the Golden Knights (2-4) that turned into easy transition baskets.

Matt Dunham had a steal that led to an easy layup and knocked down a 3 on the next possession to make it a 37-28 game and Drew Higby followed with a driving layup to extend the lead to 11.

The margin grew to as much as 15 on a layup by Austin Simmer late in the quarter.

The Wolverines maintained that lead as Union began to press in the fourth, with a Higby offensive putback making it 59-46.

“We’re preaching patience,” Knapp said in regards to how his team handled the pressure. “We’re telling them – don’t panic, we’ll put you in the spots to succeed against it, just stay patient.”

Sheffield’s Matt Dunham looks to split a pair of Union defenders during Tuesday’s game in their Christmas Tournament. Dunham scored 12 points in the win.

Union rallied, however, trimming the margin to five, 59-54 on a pair of freer throws by Lucas Bowser with 47.7 seconds left. It was part of a big stretch for Bowser, who scored eight of his game-high 24 points late in the fourth to keep his team in it.

No matter, as Matt Dunham and Cale Albaugh went 4-of-4 from the line in the final 45 seconds to preserve the win.

So what is the biggest difference in Sheffield’s improved play?

“I had between 20 or 30 kids here for every offseason thing we did,” Knapp said. “They worked really hard. We have over 40 kids in the program top to bottom right now and they’re buying in.”

Roger Dunham led a balanced scoring effort with 16 points, while Matt Dunham had 11 and Drew Higby 11 and 10 rebounds.

“We’ve been saying we want to be a team that’s hard to guard, you can’t stop just one guy, so we like that,” Knapp said.

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UP NEXT

Sheffield: Plays Kane in tonight’s championship game at 7:30 p.m.

Union: Plays Youngsville in the consolation game at 6.

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UNION (54)

Bowser 9-3-5-24, Montgomery 0-7-8-7, Hawk 5-2-2-13, Johnston 2-0-0-4, Louge 0-0-0-0, Moore 1-0-0-2, Saylor 0-0-0-0, Cumberland 2-0-0-4, Steward 0-0-0-0, Buchanan 0-0-0-0, Totals 19-12-15-54

SHEFFIELD (65)

R. Dunham 7-0-0-16, Simmer 3-2-2-8, Higby 4-3-3-11, Albaugh 2-5-6-9, M. Dunham 4-2-3-11, Donato 2-1-2-5, Retterer 1-0-0-2, Lobdell 1-0-0-2, Leichtenberger 0-1-2-1, Totals 24-13-17-65

By Quarters

Union         13   11   12   18 – 54

Sheffield     12   11   27   15 – 65

Three-point FGs: Union (4) -Bowser 3, Hawk; Sheffield (3) – R. Dunham 2, M. Dunham

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