Grand Island Northwest did everything it needed to Friday night as the Vikings sought to upset Adams Central — everything that is, except score in the first half.
Northwest nearly overcame a maddeningly inefficient first half before falling to the Patriots 55-44. The Vikings were a brain-bending four-of-25 from the field in the first two quarters before suddenly finding success inside the lane midway through the third period.
Trailing by 14 at half, the Vikings dominated the third period, cutting the lead to five entering the final eight minutes. And the answer, according to coach Ryan Rathke, was about as simple as it gets.
"You’re going to hve games where you miss some easy shots," Rathke said. "The first half tonight we had a lot of great looks — it’s kind of mind-boggling — but they just wouldn’t go down.
"Our defense was good in the first half, in fact all game long. Offensively we were clean with our execution and were able to get inside but we couldn’t score."
Adams Central had no such trouble, as the Patriots lived outside the three point line all night long. Kyler Wormstadt opened the game with back to back threes for Adams Central.
Tevin Anderson and David Bohlen also contributed to the cause, as 13 of Adams Central’s 17 baskets were from outside the arc.
"Our biggest strength is our perimeter shooting," Patriots coach Zac Foster said. "The games we lost, we didn’t hit from outside - we kind of live and die by the three.
"We thought the key to the game was that our guards had to control things. We knew we’d have problems if we let them get the ball in low cleanly. It really became a post game in the second half."
The Vikings opened the second half with a pair of inside buckets from Darrek McNelis, but the Patriots punched back. Wormstadt hit a three, then Bohlen got a steal and assist on a basket by Anderson.
Wormstadt then drained another long-range shot, and the Vikings found themselves down by 16. But suddenly shots started to fall, and Northwest finished the third with a 14-3 run that suddenly had the Patriots on the defensive.
Northwest was twice able to make it a one possession game, but both times the Patriots responded from outside. After Anderson hit one trey to push the lead back to five, Brook Brown scored off an assist from Trevis Schliep. Bohlen responded with back to back threes, and no matter what, the Vikings were unable to pull closer than four points down the stretch.
"At halftime I knew we could come back," Rathke said. "We talked about being confident in your shot, and you could see that the kids were able to do that. Our effort again tonight was tremendous, and that’s been the case for the last few games. We have to stay persistent.
"We’re getting better every game, and I’m truly confident that good things are ahead of us."
McNelis led the Vikings with 14 points, 12 of them coming in the second half, while Brown finished with 12. Wormstadt hit five threes for Adams Central en route to a 19-point night.
Adams Central (10-4): Bohlen 5-13 0-1 14, Niederklein 1-2 0-0 3, Wormstadt 5-7 4-4 19, Keller 1-1 0-0 2, Anderson 5-9 0-0 13, S. Lindblad 0-1 2-2 2, E. Lindblad 0-6 2-2 2. Totals 17-39 8-9 55.
Northwest (4-9): Daws 1-3 0-0 2, McNelis 6-18 2-4 14, Ellsworth 0-2 0-0 0, Schliep 0-7 0-0 0, Shultis 4-5 2-2 10, Brown 5-14 0-0 12, Koepp 2-3 2-2 6. Totals 18-52 6-8 44.
Adams Central .......................... 11 15 11 18 — 55
Northwest ................................. 6 6 20 12 — 44
3-point shots — AC 13-23 (Bohlen 4-9, Niederklein 1-1, Wormstadt 5-7, Anderson 3-5, S. Lindblad 0-1), NW 2-14 (McNelis 0-1, Ellsworth 0-2, Schliep 0-5, Brown 2-6). Rebounds — AC 26 (E. Lindblad 8), Anderson 7), NW 30 (McNelis 9). Assists — AC 11 (Bohlen 6), NW 9 (Schliep 3). Turnovers — AC 12, NW 9. Personal Fouls — AC 11, NW 14. Fouled Out — None. Technical Fouls — None.
Things were going to be tough enough for Adams Central as the Patriots prepared to square off against Northwest, but injuries, illness and a killer defensive performance made things a little too easy for the Vikings.
The Vikings used full court defensive pressure to force 20 first-half turnovers, creating a great many offensive opportunities for the Vikings, who blistered the Patriots 21-2 in the second quarter and took full control of the game.
"We really do focus on turning defense into offense," Northwest coach Mike Herzberg said. "Our number one goal is to force turnovers, get steals with great ball pressure, then get out and run. Our girls are very unselfish with the ball and we did a nice job of moving things around all night long."
Adams Central coach Tim Marker agreed that the game was decided by the defensive pressure that the Vikings were able to bring to bear against his team, missing two players due to injury and four more to illness.
"That was one of the things we were concerned about, how we would deal with their defense," he said. "We thought we could handle their zone, and we didn’t do badly, but once they went man to man, it was a different game."
Leading 15-9 after the opening quarter, the Vikings got three straight steals and turned them all into points. Erin Sorahan opened by pilfering the ball near half court and taking it the distance, then McKenzie Brown got the ball and hit a short jumper.
Moments later Brown again picked off the ball, and Katie Placke got the assist on a basket by Kennadi Keezer.
The barrage continued as Brown and Sorahan hit back to back threes and Keezer got loose inside for a bucket. Placke got one more steal and assist as Brown’s layup made it 19 unanswered for the Vikings. Carly Bostock finally broke the drought for Adams Central with a basket on a layup, but the Vikings countered with a bucket from Erin Schleicher just before halftime.
"Once we went to the man press, we played faster and got more positive things happening for us," Herzberg said. "I thought we did a very good job offensively of taking what they gave us. It was nice to see us be successful both inside and out. We hit some threes, but when we got the ball inside, Kennadi did a greazt job finishing for us."
Brown led the Vikings with 24 points and seven rebounds, while Placke had 16 points and eight boards. As a team the Vikings hit 11 three-point tries. Josie Bumgardener topped the Adams Central effort with 10 points. Bostock added eight points and eight rebounds.
Adams Central (4-10): Wiseman 1-4 0-0 3, Gangwish 0-2 0-0 0, Bumgardner 4-15 0-2 10, Bredenkamp 1-1 0-0 2, LaMaster 0-3 0-0 0, Grimmett 1-2 4-4 6, Bostock 4-11 0-2 8, Keller 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 12-39 4-8 31.
Northwest (12-1): Fisher 0-1 0-0 0, Ka. Placke 6-12 0-0 16, Sorahan 5-11 1-2 13, Brown 8-23 4-6 24, Rathke 0-1 0-0 0, Ke. Placke 1-3 0-0 2, Schleicher 1-2 3-4 5, Keezer 5-7 0-0 10, Broich 1-1 1-1 4, Schacher 1-3 0-0 2.Totals 28-64, 9-13 76.
Adams Central .............................. 9 2 10 10 — 31
Northwest ..................................... 15 21 23 17 — 76
3-point shots — AC 3-9 (Wiseman 1-2, Bumgardner 2-6, LaMaster 0-1), NW 11-29 (Fisher 0-1, Ka. Placke 4-7, Sorahan 2-5, Brown 4-12, Rathke 0-1, Broich 1-1, Schacher 0-2). Rebounds — AC 31 (Bostock 8), NW 37 (Ka. Placke 8). Assists — AC 6 (Wiseman 2, Keller 2), NW 15 (Ka. Placke 6, Rathke 4). Turnovers — AC 33, NW 12. Personal Fouls — AC 10, NW 9. Fouled Out — None. Technical Fouls — None.