There's little doubt about the Class B team breathing the most fire entering next week's boys state basketball tournament.
Seventh-ranked Gretna beat the fourth team ranked ahead of it in 12 days with its 61-48 win against No. 3 Ralston on Tuesday night in the District B-2 final at Omaha Northwest.
The Dragons (17-7) earned their third trip to state in six seasons the hard way, with district wins against sixth-ranked Omaha Gross, No. 1 Elkhorn South and the Rams in four days.
“That's a great win for us,” Gretna coach Brad Feeken said. “There's no one in the state we don't think we can beat, either.”
Hard to blame Feeken and company after a district run that followed a victory over No. 4 Norris in the regular-season's final week.
Tuesday's sizzling start aided the Dragons, who held Ralston (19-6) without a field goal for the first seven minutes to build a 17-4 lead before the Rams scored from the field.
“They kicked our butt,” Ralston coach Bill Heard said of the start. “We were awful.”
Gretna led by as many as 18 in the second quarter, threatening to turn it into a rout before halftime. Ralston would battle back, though, closing within single digits on a couple of occasions late in the third quarter and early in the fourth.
Each time, the Dragons put an end to comeback thoughts with a three-point play. The clincher came with less than four minutes to play when Mitch Drey scored and was fouled to push the lead back to 11.
“Drey's been our guy since day one,” Feeken said. “I can't say enough about him.”
The 6-foot-5 senior scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half and added 11 rebounds in support of 21 points from teammate Trevor Leiting. It was three Leiting 3-pointers — part of six in the game's first 13 minutes for Gretna — that set the tone. The Dragons hit 8 of 10 3-pointers overall.
Though it was thought that the Rams were in the state tournament no matter the result Tuesday, Heard said that wasn't the mindset going in. He admitted, though, that he was concerned early with his team's disposition.
Heard was asked about cutting the Gretna lead to eight in the fourth quarter and said: “I don't know that I ever felt like we really had a chance to win.”
The Rams got 22 points from Jake Goltl, but the senior was 1 of 6 from the floor in the fourth quarter — a banked-in shot from the top of the key — and 2 of 5 from the foul line as Ralston tried to rally.
Ralston (19-6) ........7 9 21 11—48
Gretna (17-7)........17 13 17 14—61
R: Andrew Chleborad 1-7 0-0 3, Matthew Goltl 7-19 6-10 22, Daniel Moore 0-2 0-0 0, Joshua Belling 2-5 2-2 7, Jacob Evans 1-1 2-2 4, Tonio Fidegnon 1-3 4-4 6, Zachary Flott 1-7 4-4 6 Totals 13-44 18-22 48.
G: Trevor Leiting 5-6 8-9 21, Nathan Skrdla 3-5 0-0 7, Michael Johnson 1-3 0-0 3, Jackson Kallman 1-2 3-3 7, Jordan Batenhorst 2-5 0-0 5, Mitch Drey 6-9 4-8 18 Totals 18-30 15-20 61.
3-point goals: R 4-15 (Chelborad 1-6, Goltl 2-7, Belling 1-2), G 8-10 (Leiting 3-3, Skrdla 1-1, Johnson 1-1, Kallman 0-1, Batenhorst 1-2, Drey 2-2). Rebounds: R 23 (Flott 8), G 27 (Drey 11). Turnovers: R 3, G 10. Technical fouls: None. Fouled out: Evans, Batenhorst. Field goal percentage: R .295, G .600. Free throw percentage: R .818, G .750. Att: 600 (est).
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>> Video: See highlights from Gretna's win over Ralston: