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Schmelter comes through in the clutch as Cor Jesu rallies past Nerinx Hall

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AFFTON • Kristina Schmelter didn’t have much of an explanation.

A freshman on the Cor Jesu basketball team, Schmelter was at a loss for words when trying to figure out how the Chargers rallied out of a 12-point halftime hole to knock off Metro Women’s Athletic Association White Division rival and No. 6-ranked large school Nerinx Hall 48-44 Thursday night at home.

“I don’t know,” the 6-foot freshman said shyly. “Our team had a lot of energy and we were making shots.”

Schmelter, a reserve, made some big ones, almost all of them at the foul line, as she converted eight of her 10 attempts in the fourth quarter, including seven straight, to score a team-high 16 points.

“She was playing against some really seasoned people,” Cor Jesu coach John Neff said. “We don’t have a lot of size, especially compared to a team like Nerinx.”

It was a tale of two halves, as No. 8 Cor Jesu (17-7 overall, 2-1 league) went into the break trailing 25-13 and having scored a single basket, a breakaway layup, in the second quarter.

“We’ve managed to have some really bad quarters,” Neff said with a chuckle. “We’ve talked about going a full quarter with just losing focus.”

The Chargers opened the half with a 3-pointer from Chaley Poth, her first points of the game, and had already exceeded their offensive output in the second quarter. On their next possession, the Chargers got a layup from Natalie Chrisco, who finished with 15 points, and the rally was on.

“Our team had a lot of energy,” Schmelter said.

Nerinx Hall (15-9, 0-4) crumbled under the full-court pressure of the Chargers. The Markers struggled to get into their half-court sets, which had been so effective in the first half. They owned the glass in the first two quarters, so even when the ball didn’t go in, there were plenty of second-chance points to be had. But as the Chargers pushed the tempo, Nerinx Hall wilted as its lead withered to 30-24 heading into the fourth quarter.

“Poor execution, poor defensive rotations,” Nerinx Hall coach Mike Slater said. “Just an overall poor second half. That’s what was different.”

Nerinx managed to keep its nose in front until just over three minutes remained in the game. But they weren’t able to corral a rebound on Chrisco’s missed free throw and the ball found its way into Poth’s hands. She knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer to push the Chargers ahead 36-34. They wouldn’t trail the rest of the way. It left the Markers and Slater searching for answers.

“We made it difficult on Chaley Poth in the first half and I told our kids she’s not going to quit,” Slater said. “If I’m their coach, I’m going to make sure she gets more touches and more opportunities. It was no surprise. We knew what was coming. We didn’t do as good of a job in that first half.”

“I wish I could give you an answer as to why that happened.”

Maddie Simonds led the Markers with 19 points. Susie Mathias had 10.

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