Numbers don’t explain how Kearney Catholic was able to come onto Central Catholic’s home court Friday night and walk away with a 52-47 victory. But effort does.
The Stars won the battle of hustle and work ethic from the opening tipoff, as Kearney Catholic jumped to an early lead and held on ferociously. The Crusaders found themselves chasing after the visitors in every sense of the word, as Central Catholic (8-3) found itself reacting to the Stars on both ends of the floor.
"We really talked a lot to the kids this week about starting strong out of the gate," Kearney Catholic coach Scott Carlin said. "We’ve been in a lot of close games already this season, so we know what it’s like to go down to the end. Central Catholic is a really good team, and this is a win we’re going to hang our hat on."
As Carlin described it, his team was committed to keeping track of center Youhanna Ghaifan,
"We always had to know where their two shooters were," Carlin said. "We were going to double on Ghaifan every possession. We decided that if they were going to beat us it was the other guys that were going to do the scoring."
Ghaifan finished with a quiet 18 points and 15 rebounds, while guard Eli Hunter had 14. But the rest of the Crusader offense was woefully quiet, as no one else on the Central Catholic roster came up with more than five points. Central Catholic coach Tino Martinez said his team staggered early and was never able to recover.
"They punched us in the face early and we didn’t respond," Martinez said. "We were, as a team, in a daze and we couldn’t shake it. We got beat in every effort categorey - rebounding, going after loose balls, steals - you can name. We weren’t moving on the perimeter, and that’s something that we have to have to be successful. It wasn’t there, especially in the first half."
Kearney Catholic (6-5) never trailed, getting early baskets from Zac Jackson and Harrison Pearse before Ghaifan got the Crusaders on the board. An early layup from Hunter tied the score at 6-6, which is the best Central Catholic would do all night. This pattern repeated throughout the game, as the Stars would make brief runs and stretch a lead to two or three possessions, only to see Central Catholic claw its way back to within one basket. For instance late in the first half a jumper just inside the key from Brady Brokaw got Central within four points, but Kearney Catholic was able to maintain a lead of anywhere from two to five points throughout the third period, and ended it in disheartening fashion as Jackson hit a three at the buzzer. As the fourth quarter unfolded, the fouls began to mount against Central Catholic. Kearney Catholic wasn’t shooting particularly well as a team, but the sheer number of opportunities resulted in 12 points from the line in the last eight minutes. Midway through the fourth, a drive from Hunter cut the lead to one, but Matt Moore scored on a follow shot and after a miss by the Crusaders, James drained a three to push the lead back to six.
Martinez said that the ability of the Stars to retaliate at just the right moment proved particularly frustrating.
"We were reacting to them instead of dictating how the game would go," he noted. "We would fight and get within a basket and they’d hit something. We’d get a stop, but they’d get the rebound. Then they hit a big three at the end of the third. We were just trudging uphill all night long."
Kearney Catholic (6-5): Moore 2-6 3-5 7, James 2-4 0-0 5, Howe 1-2 0-0 3, Mestl 2-6 2-3 7, Blake Holtmeier 2-8 4-10 8, D. Jackson 0-8 1-2 1, Z.Jackson 4-6 4-4 15, Brady Holtmeier 0-0 0-3 0, Pearse 1-5 4-6 6. Totals 14-45 18-33 52.
Central Catholic (8-3): Stevenson 1-3 3-4 5, Brokaw 1-3 0-0 2, Rohweder 2-12 0-0 5, Hunter 6-11 2-2 14, Wiens 1-6 0-0 3, Ghaifan 9-13 0-2 18. Totals 20-48 5-8 47.
Kearney Catholic ................................ 12 10 13 17 — 52
Central Catholic .................................. 8 10 12 17 — 47
3-point shots — KC 6-20 (Moore 0-2, James 1-3, Howe 1-1, Mestl 1-4, D. Jackson 0-4, Z. Jackson 3-4, Pearse 0-2), GICC 2-10 (Rohweder 1-7, Wiens 1-3). Rebounds — KC 31 (Blake Holtmeier 7), GICC 33 (Ghaifan 15). Assists — KC 8 (James 2), GICC 9 (Stevenson 3). Turnovers — KC 7, GICC 14. Personal Fouls — KC 10, GICC 25. Fouled Out — GICC, Stevenson, Pfeifer. Technical Fouls — None.
The Stars took a few minutes to warm up Friday night, but when they did the result was devastating for Central Catholic.
Kearney Catholic used timely three point shooting and a nasty full court press to run past the Crusaders, keeping their record perfect at 12-0. Central Catholic kept things close during the opening quarter, trailing by one after an inside basket from Allixandria Masat, but the Stars ended the quarter with a three from Allie Prososki, a grim omen of what was to follow.
Kearney Catholic went to work offensively in the second period, hitting four threes to build a 15-point halftime lead. Crusader coach James Lowry gave the Stars credit for their shooting performance, but said his team made it easier than it needed to be.
"It wasn’t a matter of them winning because of threes and turnovers," he said. "The problem was our turnovers led to their threes. I’d hate to see how many points they scored off our turnovers. Kearney Catholic is very talented and they run their press very well, but we have to take better care of the ball, no matter what.
"Kearney Catholic didn’t change their focus - this is what they’ve done every game. We knew what was going on and how to attack them - it’s just a matter of execution, and we have to do a better job."
Kearney Catholic coach Rick Petri said that his team did a good job adjusting to the game as it unfolded.
"We hit some threes tonight and that helped, but I liked how good a job we did looking for the open person," he said. "Defensively, we switched our press from man to zone, and I think the girls did a great job adjusting to what Central Catholic wanted to do. We have a lot of girls who want to play, and when they got their chance they were ready to go."
Central Catholic (3-8) saw the Stars expand the lead in the third period, as Kearney Catholic outscored the Cruaders 22-7. The Stars, though, hit only one three during this rn, and instead got their scoring inside or at the line.
"One important thing is that we’ve really emphasized ‘playing hard’ to the girls the last couple of games," Lowry said. "We were in a little bit of a lull, and we had the choice as a team to go through the motions or really compete. The girls refocused and are playing hard. We can’t fault them their effort, but we have to execute and play smart."
Kearney Catholic (12-0): Messbarger 1-7 0-0 3, Conner 3-4 4-5 10, Streit 0-2 0-0 0, Prososki 3-8 2-2 9, Colling 4-9 1-2 9, Stute 2-6 1-1 6, Thiele 3-9 0-0 9, Baack 2-2 0-0 4, Smith 0-1 0-0 0, M.. Squiers 1-4 2-4 5, A. Squiers 0-2 3-4 3, Shundoff 1-2 0-0 2, Butler 1-2 0-0 2, Long 2-2 0-1 4. Totals 23-60 13-19 66.
Central Catholic: Herbek 1-5 0-0 2, Anspauch 0-1 0-0 2, Flaherty 0-6 1-2, Kohmetscher 2-7 0-0 5, Goering 0-4 2-2 2, Krajicek 3-8 3-3 10, Benton 3-3 0-2 6, Lowry 0-4 1-2 1, Willman 0-1 0-0 0, Masat 2-5 0-2, Reinhart 0-0 0-1 0. Totals 11-44 7-14 31.
Kearney Catholic ............................. 13 21 22 10 — 66
Central Catholic ............................... 9 10 7 5 — 31
3-point shots - KC 7-26 (Messbarger 1-4, Prososki 1-4, Colling 0-3, Stute 1-4, Thiele 3-7, Smith 0-1, M. Squiers 1-3), GICC 2-10 (Flaherty 0-5, Kohmetscher 1-2, Goering 0-1, Krajicek 1-1, Lowry 0-1). Rebounds — KC 41 (A. Squiers 5), GICC 33 (Benton 8, Krajicek 7). Assists — KC 16 (Messbarger 3), GICC 7 (Goering 4). Turnovers — KC 13, GICC 23. Personal Fouls — KC 11, GICC 17. Fouled Out — None. Technical Fouls — None.