HASTINGS — The game plan for Grand Island Central Catholic has been to get the ball inside all year long.
Senior Riley Shoemaker and sophomore Youhanna Ghaifan have given the Crusaders strong post play. That trend continued in Central Catholic’s 39-36 victory over Hastings St. Cecilia Friday at St. Cecilia High School.
Ghaifan was 8-for-14 shooting from the field and 5 for 7 from the line for a game-high 21 points. Shoemaker had 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds for the Crusaders (11-10).
“I thought Youhanna did a great job helping on drives and also on the offensive end,” Central Catholic coach Bill Gavers said. “When he got it inside, he’s just a beast to deal with. Good footwork and good hands and he finished around the rim.”
“Shoemaker, just his mentality and toughness just really helps us. The way he goes about his business on the floor, both defensively hitting the boards and offensively.”
St. Cecilia coach Kevin Asher was also impressed with the play of GICC’s post players.
“We tried to do as well as we could do,” Asher said. “You have to give Riley Shoemaker a lot of credit. I thought he was the key to their team. He out fought us for I don’t know how many different rebounds. He shows that on film.
“Youhanna does a nice job inside. We were trying to stay out of foul trouble as much as we could. I’m sure they were too.
The Crusaders led most of the game and were up 26-21 heading into the final quarter. But St. Cecilia tied it up in a hurry with a 3-pointer from Joel Grafel and a jumper from Jameson Esch.
But then the Crusaders responded just the way Gavers hoped they would.
Ghaifan scored inside. That was followed by a rebound basket by Shoemaker and a jumper by Harry Heidelk to push the lead back to six at 32-26 with 3 minutes, 25 seconds remaining.
“In a game like that, a five- or six-point lead can be a big lead,” Gavers said. “I thought one of the keys was they came out and scored the first five points of the fourth quarter and tied it up. For us it was huge to be able to execute down the stretch and find a way to win the game.”
Central Catholic led by four to six points most of the way from there on until Ceasar Teano scored to make it 37-34 with 13 seconds left.
Heidelk was then fouled and sank two free throws to put the game away with 10 seconds remaining.
The one positive for St. Cecilia was the play of its second unit including freshmen Brooks Asher and Zach Kitten and junior Canon Howell. Coach Asher subbed in five at a time a couple of times when the starters weren’t playing with the intensity he wanted.
“Our second unit really gave us a lift,” Kevin Asher said. “I have to applaud those kids for coming in. Two freshmen, a junior in Canon Howell coming in and giving us a lift. You shouldn’t have to get a lift on a home game on senior night this late in the season, but they did and they gave us a chance.”
“They were more aggressive. I don’t know if we were playing the other guys too many minutes, but I don’t see Riley Shoemaker coming off the floor for anybody. He plays 32 minutes and he’d play 39 or 40 if we went triple OT.”
Both teams are back on the court Saturday in the Heartland Hoops Classic at the Heartland Events Center. Central Catholic faces Class C-2 No. 1 Sutton at 10:15 a.m. while St. Cecilia plays Raymond Central at noon.
“Sutton is probably the most disciplined, hard-nosed team there is,” Gavers said. “They run their stuff probably better than anybody. They guard you hard. They don’t let you go where you want to. They’re just an incredibly well coached and very fundamentally sound.”
Grand Island CC (11-10) ................. 5 12 9 13—39
Hastings SC (8-12) .................... 3 11 7 15—36
G: Stevenson 0-3 0-0 0, Brokaw 1-2 0-0 2, Wiens 1-1 0-1 2, Shoemaker 4-7 2-6 10, Ghaifan 8-14 5-7 21, Buck 0-0 0-0 0, Heidelk 1-3 2-2 4, Holen 0-0 0-0 0, Harding 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-30 9-16 39.
H: Esch 2-7 0-0 5, Grafel 2-5 0-0 6, Teano 3-9 4-4 11, Hartford 1-3 0-0 2, Skoch 0-1 1-2 1, Asher 0-3 4-5 4, Howell 2-3 0-0 5, Kitten 0-1 0-0 0, O’Keefe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 11-35 9-11 36.
3-point goals — GICC 0-0. Hastings SC 5-15 (Grafel 2-2, Teano 1-2, Howell 1-2, Esch 1-5, Asher 0-1, Kitten 0-1, Sheehy 0-2). Fouled out — Ghaifan. Rebounds — GICC 25 (Shoemaker 9). Hastings SC 20 (Sheehy 5). Turnovers — GICC 11, Hastings SC 10. Total fouls — GICC 15, Hastings SC 11. Technicals — None.