By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
Maybe it was the college gym being at Rock Valley College, the large crowd and the noise. Or maybe it was just an off night.
Whatever the reason, Winnebago’s Matt Reinke was struggling with his 3-point shot against Rockford Lutheran, missing his first eight shots from behind the arc.
With his team trailing by 2 with just under a minute to go in the game, however, Reinke picked the perfect time to knock down his first trey of the night.
“I try not to get too frustrated with my threes,” Reinke said. “In the back of my mind, I knew I’d hit one of them. I got the open 3, and I took it. I thought, ‘It’s now or never.’”
Two free-throws put the Indians up 68-65. Two missed free-throws by Winnebago gave the Crusaders one final shot to send the game to overtime.
Thomas Kopelman was on fire all night for Lutheran, scoring a game-high 26 points and carrying his team for long stretches all night. He had already made two 3-pointers on the night, but his attempt at the buzzer fell just short, giving the Indians the win in a big matchup of Big Northern West teams.
“When it left my hand, I knew the shot was flat and it was going to come up short,” Kopelman said. “It was a tough pull-up from deep.”
The game was moved a week-and-a-half before the showdown, going from Lutheran’s small gym to the facility at Rock Valley College. That allowed more than 2,000 people to see a great back-and-forth game.
Lutheran had their chances to put the game away. They led by 3 at the half, and held a 4-point lead with just over 2 minutes left in the game.
But Jacoby Posley kept Winnebago in the game in the second half, scoring 13 points in the third quarter on his way to 16 total, helping set up Reinke’s heroics at the end.
“He was able to get to the hole a few times and basically take them one-on-five,” Winnebago Head Coach Joe Murphy said of Posley. “That was real big, and he’s done it all year.”
This was after Winnebago let an early lead of its own slip away. Lutheran had turnover problems early in the game, as Winnebago raced out to a 9-0 lead that the Crusaders were able to cut down to a 3-point deficit by the end of the quarter.
“We were a little sluggish to start the game, and we got back into it,” Kopelman said. “We’re a better team than we showed tonight, and hopefully we show it the next time we play.”
Murphy said his team won by executing down the stretch. He said he didn’t know if his team was better all night than Lutheran, but they made enough plays to stay undefeated.
“This was a great high school game,” he said. “Lutheran played their hearts out. We just got lucky and won.”
From the Jan. 23-29, 2013, issue