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Saints’ fortune changes

Matt Kostoff is not sure exactly when the turnaround started. The Bishop Dwenger boys basketball coach’s best guess is around Feb. 11 when his Saints lost to Blackhawk Christian 52-47 in an uninspired effort.

“They beat us because they outworked us,” Kostoff said of the game. “It sunk into them then that was unacceptable. We didn’t have the most pleasant practice afterward. We always tell the kids you can live with a team being better than you. After that, they have been playing well.”

The exact timing isn’t important, only that it happened. The Saints straightened themselves out and have won five straight heading into a regional semifinals matchup today at Blackford.

Dwenger, which opened the season 1-7 and finished last in the SAC at 1-6, knocked off Concordia 46-40 Monday in the sectional finals.

If Kostoff can’t quite recall when the turnaround happened, he knows exactly where it happened – on defense.

The Saints (9-11) have given up only 44 points per game during their five-game winning streak.

Dwenger gave up at least 70 points five times in its first eight games.

The Saints’ zone defense totally stymied the Cadets, who had beaten them 64-62 in the season’s second game. In that matchup against Concordia on Dec. 9, Dwenger gave up 26 points in one quarter.

“Maybe they bought into it a little more,” Kostoff said of playing defense. “That’s the one thing you have to take ownership on is defense. That’s just hard work, pride and communicating. The first part of the year we would take like a quarter off defensively.”

Dwenger had a brutal start to the season – opening against Norwell, Concordia and Homestead, three teams who have a combined 59-11 record.

Then there were two games in a week against SAC champion Bishop Luers, a late loss to Carroll and then a loss to North Side that saw the Saints score only seven points in the first half.

But that rough start is in the past, and the team started to catch some breaks.

The Saints got the bye in the sectional.

In regionals, they play NorthWood (12-11) in the opposite bracket of Norwell (22-2) and Muncie Central (19-4).

“We were talking that our game against NorthWood is going to be the JV game and Norwell-Muncie Central is going to be the varsity game,” Kostoff said, half-joking. “NorthWood is similar to us, and they started slowly, and they have been building. They kind of play similar to us, and they are the same size. It will be a good matchup.”

Dwenger is doing something that maybe more talented teams in 2007-09 weren’t able to do – play in the regional.

“Those teams were more talented, but you have to have a little bit of luck,” Kostoff said. “We have had more touted teams who have had some crushing losses in the sectionals.”

Greg Jones is the High School Sports Editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in the Fort Wayne area since 1998. He can be reached by email gjones@jg.net; phone, 461-8224; or fax 461-8648.

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