If a team can still have an ugly game left in them at this point in the season, then Grand Island Central Catholic can thank its lucky stars that it got it out of the way Tuesday night.
The Crusaders survived a fourth quarter push by St. Paul to advance to the Class C1-9 subdistrict championship Thursday night against Adams Central. The Crusaders (16-8) did some things well, but nearly saw the game slip away as a substandard perforance at the line nearly proved to be Central Catholic’s undoing.
The Crusaders were eight of 19 from the line for the game, and went five of 14 in the fourth. A frustrated Tino Martinez said that his team struggled to put the pieces together all night long.
“It started with the first play of the game,” he said. “That was indicative of how the night went. We gave up a turnover and an easy basket. All night long we didn’t have the execution we needed. We made silly passes, and we went away from what we’ve been doing defensively. We’ve been shooting well from the line - we knocked down a bunch of shots late at St. Paul last week - but tonight we struggled.”
What kept the Crusaders (16-8) in the game was a quietly efficient performance inside the lane by junior Youhanna Ghaifan. When the Crusaders were able to get the ball inside, Ghaifan made the most of his opportunities, finishing with 19 points and 16 rebounds. After Josh Harrahill opened the game for the Wildcats with a three, Ghaifan answered with a three point play down low, then moments later took an assist from John Rohweder to put the Crusaders on top. Rohweder hit a trio of three-pointers early in the game to help Central Catholic establish some breathing room, but much as was the case in their regular season matchup last week, St. Paul was never really out of striking distance for the entire game. The Wildcats (5-18) showed great resiliency as each Crusader push was quickly answered. The Crusaders got their biggest lead of the half after Eli Hunter scored on a drive just before halftime, giving Central an eight point lead.
That would not hold up as the second half played out. St. Paul twice got within five, then after seeing the Crusaders briefly stretch things out to nine. St. Paul narrowed the lead to 49-45 with less than a minute to go. Ryan Schulte hit four free throws in a seven second span. With the Crusaders struggling on the line, the Wildcats kept the pressure up, but it was not to be. Central Catholic got a couple of late shots from the line, which combined with a turnover and three missed shots in the final seconds, allowed the Crusaders to live to play again on Thursday.
Harrahill delivered 22 points for St. Paul, despite facing heavy pressure all game long. Martinez gave him credit for sparking the Wildcat effort.
“Josh is really capable of filling it up in there,” he said. “I thought we did a decent job on him, but he kept them coming at us. Coach (Derek) Reinsch has them playing well. You have to tip your hat to them - they gave us a fight to the end.”
With a rematch against the Patriots set for Thursday, Martinez said the Crusaders have to get the basics right.
“Defensively we have to get back to executing the details,” he sai.d “When we do that we’re hard to face. We can take away peoples’ first and second options and make it very hard for them. We didn’t do that tonight, but we’ll need to if we’re going to win Thursday.”
St. Paul (5-18)
Jerabek 0-3 0-0 1, Harrahill 8-22 4-6 22, Stoltenberg 0-1 0-0 0, Schulte 3-4 4-4 10, Woodgate 4-6 0-0 10, Vogel 1-10 0-1 3. Totals 16-46 8-11 45.
Central Catholic (16-8)
Stevenson 2-5 2-3 6, Brokaw 0-2 0-0 0, Rohweder 3-7 3-4 11, Hunter 1-6 3-4 5, Wiens 1-3 0-0 3, Allen 3-6 0-2 7, Ghaifan 9-14 1-6 19. Totals 19-43 8-19 51.
St. Paul 11 9 8 17 — 45
Central Catholic 13 15 8 15 — 51
3-point shooting — SP 5-17 (Harrahill 2-7, Woodgate 2-4, Vogel 1-6), CC 4-14 (Rohweder 3-7, Hunter 0-1, Wiens 1-3, Allen 1-3). Rebounds — SP 25 (Harrahill 5), CC 32 (Ghaifan 16). Assists — SP 6 (Schulte 3), CC 13 (Hunter 7). Turnovers — SP 6, CC 7. Personal Fouls — SP 17, CC 12. Fouled Out — None. Technical Fouls — None.
Adams Central 61, Wood River 46
The Patriots worked their way into the other half of the final as they kept Wood River’s outside shooting under control and got strong offensive performances from both the inside and outside.
Ryan Lindblad did the damage close to the basket for the Patriots, finishing with 19 points and nine rebounds. Meanwhile freshman David Bohlen lit things up from outside, as he scored 19 as well, including three treys.
The Eagles (14-9) saw things come undone in the third period. After keeping things close in the first half, Wood River was unable to put up points in the third period and found itself outscored by the Patriots 14-3.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well tonight,” Wood River coach Dave Bahe said. “Normally we’re pretty balanced inside out. We have four guys that can score for us. We got pushed back and were shooting threes from too deep. The third quarter has been our weakness this year and that’s what happened tonight. We gave up some turnovers and took some bad shots, and Adams Central responded to the opportunity.”
Adams Central coach Zac Foster gave his team credit for keeping its focus on the defensive end.
“Last Friday night we had a poor performance,” he said. “We scored 63 and we lost by 10. We knew if we were going to win it’d be because of how we played defensively. We were able to control (Nathan) Bahe and (Jaime) Rojas, their shooting guards, and we were able to get a margin building in the third quarter.”
Adams Central had gone into the locker room with a 28-25 lead courtesy of a late three point play by Lindblad. As the third period opened, Garrett Sittner scored back to back baskets for the Patriots, followed by a drive inside by Bohlen. Dylan Mayfield finally got the Eagles on the board again midway through the quarter, but Adams Central ran off another seven points for a 42-28 advantage.
However, four minutes later everything was different. Wood River bounced back offensively in the fourth and was able to cut the lead to six points. Daniel Boshart got the first basket for the Eagles, and on the following inbound play Bahe grabbed the steal and layup. Boshart scored twice more, as did Mayfield, as the momentum clearly shifted to Wood River.
“We called timout at 48-40,” Foster said. “We reminded them that we were in the bonus and we had some fouls to give. The big thing for us was not to settle for ‘maybe’ plays - we needed to get good shots and not try to force things. You have to give credit to Wood River, because their defense is very good at pressuring people into bad decisions.”
With their backs getting closer to the proverbial wall, the Patriots responded, ouscoring Wood River 10-0 over the next three minutes. By the time Wood River scored again, there was less than a minute remaining and the lead was simply too big to overcome.
Foster said his team is looking forward to facing off against Central Catholic once again.
“We beat them earlier in the year, but Ghaifan didn’t play,” he said. “In my mind he’s the best post player from Class B on down. For us to win will take a team effort, and we’re going to have to play a very good defensive game.”
Wood River (14-9)
Bahe 3-10 0-0 7, Rojas 2-10 3-4 9, Gideon 0-6 0-0 0, Loy 0-1 0-0 0, Mayfield 6-7 4-5 16, Rennau 3-8 0-1 6, Boshart 3-7 2-3 8. Totals 17-49 9-13 46.
Adams Central (14-11)
Sittner 3-8 1-3 8, Bohlen 5-15 6-7 19, Wormstadt 1-4 3-4 5, Anderson 2-9 6-6 10, Lindblad 7-9 5-7 19. Totals 18-45 21-28 61.
Wood River 11 14 3 18 — 46
Adams Central 14 14 14 19 — 61
3-point shooting — WR 3-21 (Bahe 1-5, Rojas 2-7, Gideon 0-4, Rennau 0-1, Boshart 0-4), AC 4-15 (Sittner 1-4, Bohlen 3-9, Wormstadt 0-2). Rebounds — WR 24 (Mayfield 6), AC 34 (Lindblad 9). Assists — WR 9 (Bahe 3, Rojas 3), AC 8 (Anderson 3). Turnovers — WR 12, AC 13. Personal Fouls — WR 21, AC 15. Fouled Out — WR, Rojas. Technical Fouls — None.