Grand Island Central Catholic took care of business Saturday night as the Crusaders defeated Fullerton 54-35 in the finals of the GICC Holiday Tournament.
The Crusaders relied on their inside game in the first half as they built a 26-18 halftime lead. Center Youhanna Ghaifan scored 10 of his gae-high 17 in the first half, as the smaller Warrior team struggled to control the lane. But in the second half, the Crusaders saw Brett Wiens connect four times from outside the arc as Central Catholic pulled away in the final minutes of the game.
Fullerton (2-4) gave the Crusaders all they wanted in the first quarter as the Warriors stood and slugged things out. Cynan Wetovick drew the defensive assignment against Ghaifan, and acquitted himself well despite a significant size disadvantage. Fullerton coach Pat Larsen said the depth and athleticism of the Crusaders proved to be more than his team could handle.
"We did what we wanted defensively early on," he said. "We obviously wanted to limit Ghaifan’s touches and keep him off the boards, and to keep (John) Rohweder out of the offense. We did a lot of nice things, but they were able to work the ball inside and the Wiens kid really got hot from outside.
"We got into a drought offensively. We got within striking distance, but then we started forcing things and gave up the ball too many times. We just got worn out as the game went on - Central Catholic has a lot of depth and we couldn’t keep up with them."
Crusader coach Tino Martinez gave the Warriors credit for refusing to be intimidated and challenging his team.
"They made us work for everything tonight," Martinez said. "We just couldn’t get a defensive stop in the first quarter - they kind of punched us in the nose early on. We gave good effort and once we made a few adjustments, such as how we were switching on ball screens, we did better. But turnovers hurt us, and Fullerton was good in the transition game. We have to do a better job of valuing the ball."
After trailing by one entering the second quarter, things looked good for Fullerton. Brady Brokaw opened the scoring with a long jumper for Central Catholic (6-2), and Tyson Hellbusch countered with a quick bucket for the Warriors. The good news for Fullerton was that they would hold the Crusaders to just nine more points before half. The problem was that the Warrior offense went AWOL for nearly six minutes, and Fullerton was unable to make up any ground. Seth Wetovick scored inside with two minutes left in the half, but Wiens countered with his first three of the night to give the Crusaders an eight-point advantage at half.
Central Catholic kept up its momentum in the third period, opening with a 9-2 burst that pushed the lead into double digits. Eli Hunter hit a long jumper, then Brokaw got the feed inside to Ghaifan. Rohweder scored on a putback, then Hunter dished one of his nine assists on a fast break to Ghaifan. Fullerton was able to get a brief rally, as Cynan Wetovick hit a pair of free throws and then hit a short jumper. That’s when Wiens really went off, hitting three long-range shots in a row. The Crusaders rode that momentum into the fourth quarter, where the lead got as high as 22 before the final buzzer.
Martinez said his team has plenty of things to work on as the post-holiday schedule unfolds.
"We’ve emphasized daily that we have to have focus and concentration from everyone on the team," he said. "It needs to be there daily. We have parts of our game when we were lacking those qualities at times tonight."
Fullerton (2-4): Saum 2-8 0-2 4, Ostransky 1-1 0-0 2, Hellbusch 3-5 0-0 6, C. Wetovick 3-7 5-5 11, Shotkoski 3-8 0-0 6, S. Wetovick 3-6 0-0 6, Conway 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 15-36 5-7 35.
Central Catholic (6-2): Pfeifer 1-1 0-0 2, Stevenson 2-4 0-0 5, Brokaw 3-7 0-0 6, Rohweder 1-8 0-0 2, Hunter 3-11 0-0 7, Wiens 5-8 0-0 15, Beck 0-1 0-0 0, Ghaifan 8-9 1-7 17. Totals 23-49 1-7 54.
Fullerton .................................. 14 4 12 5 — 35
Central Catholic ...................... 15 11 18 10 — 54
3-point shooting — F 0-9 (Saum 0-4, C. Wetovick 0-1, Shotkoski 0-2, S. Wetovick 0-1, Conway 0-1), CC 7-18 (Stevenson 1-2, Rohweder0-3, Hunter 1-5, Wiens 5-8). Rebounds — F 26 (C. Wetovick 6), CC 22 (Stevenson 4). Assists — F 9 (S. Wetovick 3), CC 17 (Hunter 9). Turnovers — F 25, CC 15. Personal Fouls — F 6, CC 11. Fouled Out — None. Technical Fouls — None.
The Crusaders broke a four-game losing streak as they defeated Fullerton in the consolation game of the GICC Holiday Tournament.
Things seemed to be slipping away from Central Catholic in the fourth quarter, as the Warriors came back to take a five point lead midway through the period. What ultimately won the game for Central Catholic was its performance at the free throw line in the late going. The Crusaders scored 13 points in the last four minutes, and 11 of them came from free throws. Sophomore Sadie Goering hit six straight shots in the final two minutes as Fullerton saw the chance for a win slowly slide through its hands.
Fullerton proved to be a worthwhile challenge to the Crusaders (3-6), as they found offensive success with a patient passing game that proved very effective at getting the Warriors consistent inside looks. As a team Fullerton finished with 17 assists, including seven from Jolene Shotkoski.
"The number one thing that hurt us was that we didn’t jump to the ball on basket cuts," Central Catholic coach James Lowry said. "Our on-ball defense was pretty good, but we have to do a better job limiting passes. We had more luck in the second half, because we went to a zone. Coach (Stacia) Rice suggested that we try it, and it worked."
After a very close first half, the Crusaders appeared to be making a move midway through the third. Central Catholic took a 32-31 lead on a three from Elyssa Kohmetscher, and then Kelsey Flaherty hit back to back treys as the lead suddenly expanded to seven. However, Fullerton battled back, finishing the quarter with a 6-1 burst. The Warriors then grabbed the lead on consecutive baskets by Cheyenne Ostrander and an inside shot from Kelly Steenson. But with just under four minutes to go, the Crusaders started heading to the free throw line, and Fullerton would not score again until the game’s final seconds.
Flaherty had 13 points to lead the Crusaders, followed by Kohmetscher’s 11 and Emma Benton with 10. Lowry gave Benton credit for her start-to-finish effort on the night.
"I love seeing Emma work," Lowry said. "When she works hard, she makes things happen. I told her I wanted her to go after boards, and that I didn’t care if she fouled out or not. There were two or three rebounds she got simply because she wanted it more."
Lowry also noted that his team understands that the win is a stepping stone for the rest of the season.
"We’d lost four in a row, and with the moratorium, the girls could have given up on the season," he said. "The girls showed tonight that it’s important to them to play hard. We’ve been in some close games that we haven’t finished, but I know that we’ll compete."
Fullerton (3-3): Ostrander 3-3 0-0 6, Steenson 3-11 0-0 6, Peregrine 5-10 3-5 13, Frenzen 2-4 0-0 4, Shotkoski 4-12 1-2 10, Herman 4-14 1-2 9. Totals 21-54 5-9 48.
Central Catholic (3-6): Herbek 0-0 1-2 1, Anspauch 0-3 1-4 1, Flaherty 5-9 0-0 13, Kohmetscher 3-7 4-6 11, Goering 1-2 6-8 8, Krajicek 0-2 1-2 1, Moravec 2-7 1-2 6, Benton 4-5 2-2 10, Lowry 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 17-39 16-26 55
Fullerton .................................... 13 14 10 11 — 48
Central Catholic ........................ 14 12 13 16 — 55
3-point shooting — F 1-8 (Steenson 0-3, Shotkoski 1-4, Herman 0-1), CC 5-11 (Flaherty 3-6, Kohmetscher 1-3, Moravec 1-2). Rebounds — F 30 (Peregrine 11), CC 29 (Moravec 6, Benton 6). Assists — F 17 (Shotkoski 7), CC 10 (Lowry 4). Turnovers — F 16, CC 19. Personal Fouls — F 19, CC 10. Fouled Out — None. Technical Fouls — None.