Published Friday, January 24, 2014 at 12:01 am / Updated at 1:22 am
GICC turns back Blue Hill

Grand Island Central Catholic didn’t make it look smooth Friday night against Blue Hill, but held off a late rally to take a 55-40 win.

The Crusaders survived the ongoing absence of center Youhanna Ghaifan, as well as a near disasterous start to both halves, to defeat the Bobcats. Phoenix Stevenson stepped up inside for Central Catholic, delivering 13 points and 13 rebounds. And fortunately for the Crusaders, Blue Hill (7-7) suffered the same malaise at the opening of each half. Neither team was able to get on track offensively, or take advantage of the other’s poor shooting.

"It was like we were stuck in the mud," Central Catholic coach Tino Martinez said. "We were very stagnant on offense. We just played pass to pass instead of cutting and screening. They were just running a sagging man to man and that really confused us."

Blue Hill coach Joe Hubl said his team struggled to compete physically against Central Catholic.

"This is our sixth game in 11 days, and it showed," he said. "The legs just weren’t there, and that was apparent on our outside shooting. In the fourth quarter we found some things that were working for us, but in the third quarter we got stops and not enough points."

Central Catholic (11-4) struggled in the opening quarter, hitting only three of 14 shots from the field, yet still held a 9-7 lead after the first eight minutes. Alex Allen and Harry Heidelk each hit three-point shots to give the Crusaders a narrow lead entering the second, where things suddenly began to fall into place. Central Catholic opened the second period with a 12-3 run, aided by threes from John Rohweder and Brett Wiens. Kody Mans responded with a trey for the Bobcats, but Stevenson finished the half strong for Central Catholic, converting a three-point play and then hitting a putback just before halftime.

Whatever momentum had been generated by either team was not in evidence as the third period unfolded. It took nearly four minutes before a basket was scored. Instead there were seven missed shots, four missed free throws and eight fouls before John Pfeifer fed a pass to Eli Hunter deep in the corner. Hunter nailed a three for GICC , then Stevenson came up with a steal and basket off the inbounds play. Moments later Hunter hit a three from the same spot, and the Crusaders suddenly held a 36-15 lead. Jayden Hamel finally broke the drought for Blue Hill, converting a three point play, but the Bobcats found themselves down 40-20 after three.

Central Catholic got another three and a pair of free throws early in the fourth from Allen to go up by 23. In the final four minutes of the game, Blue Hill finally found its offense going into a higher gear, but it was all too late. The Bobcats cut the lead to 13 twice, but the Crusaders were able to hold the ball for most of the final three minutes to seal the win.

"We knew the Ruybalid kid was good," Martinez said. "He can score in a lot of ways and is very good in transition. He was able to hit some shots for them late in the game. Defensively, we did some good things at times, but we let them move the ball easier than they should have."

Ruybalid topped the Bobcats with 13 points, while Hamel added 10. Stevenson’s 13 paced the Crusaders, with Hunter contributing 10.

BLUE HILL (7-7): Ruybalid 5-13 3-3 13, Poe 2-9 3-6 7, Mans 3-5 0-1 8, Toepfer 0-2 1-2 1, Hamel 3-10 1-1 7, Drury 1-1 0-0 2, Strasburg 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 15-41 8-12 40.
GICC (11-4): Stevenson 4-9 5-5 13, Brokaw 3-6 0-0 6, Rohweder 1-6 0-0 3, Hunter 5-7 1-4 10, Heidelk 1-1 0-0 3, Wiens 1-9 4-4 7, Allen 2-4 2-2 8, Beck 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 18-45 12-15 55.

Blue Hill ......................... 7 8 5 20 — 40
GICC ............................. 9 19 12 15 — 55

3-point shots — BH 2-10 (Ruybalid 0-5, Mans 2-3, Hamel 0-2), GICC 7-19 (Rohweder 1-5, Hunter 2-3, Heidelk 1-1, Wiens 1-6, Allen 2-4). Rebounds — BH 29 (Poe 8, Hamel 7), GICC 24 (Stevenson 13). Assists — BH 6 (Ruybalid 3), GICC 12 (Stevenson 4). Turnovers — BH 13, GICC 7. Personal Fouls — BH 15, GICC 15. Fouled Out — None. Technical Fouls — None.

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