Joseph Chouinard
Elkhorn Mt. Michael sophomore guard Joe Chouinard led the way with 25 points that included an 11-of-14 performance from the field.

Elkhorn Mount Michael’s swarm of sophomores took over in the third quarter Friday, then held on late for a 68-63 victory over Hastings.

All five of the Knights’ starters are sophomores, and all but eight of Mount Michael’s points Friday were scored by three players.

Joe Chouinard led the way with 25 points, including an 11-of-14 performance from the field. Brad Bennett scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half and Kyle Pelan added 13.

Pelan was 5 of 7 from the field  as the Class B No. 9 Knights finished the game shooting 58.1 percent (25 of 43) from the floor.

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Even with those numbers, both teams plodded through the first half . Points weren’t easy to come by for either team in the opening 16 minutes as halftime arrived with the score 23-23.

Mount Michael missed all eight of its first-half 3-pointers while the fifth-ranked Tigers went 1 of 6. Most of the scoring came in the paint on layups or on offensive rebounds.

Solid defense also made it difficult for both offenses to get on  a roll. The teams combined for 35 turnovers, including 20 by Hastings.

The Knights (7-2) came roaring out of halftime with a 15-1 run in the first 3:27 of the third quarter to take a 38-24 lead. Mount Michael coach Derrik Spooner said there wasn’t much change at intermission.

Spooner said the Knights were taking the same shots in the third quarter that they’d taken earlier. The only difference was that the shots began to fall.

Mount Michael’s lead reached 19 at 45-26 before the Tigers began to claw back. They trimmed the deficit to 45-36 entering the fourth quarter.

“I know no lead, no matter how big, was going to be safe against a team like Hastings,” Spooner said. “That’s a team that’s never going to give up. The second you slip a little bit, a team like that will find a way to get back into the game.”

The Knights built their lead back to 13 in the fourth, but Hastings didn’t back down. The Tigers (6-2) cut Mount Michael’s lead to eight, then six, then five at 57-52.

Junior guard Connor Creech led the Tigers by scoring 14 of his team-high 22 points in the final eight minutes. Hastings just couldn’t come up with enough consecutive stops to get closer than three points in the final minute.

The Tigers were playing their first game since Dec. 21 because a snowstorm wiped out the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference holiday tournament.

“In an environment like this on the road, you can’t give a good team an opening and expect success,” Hastings coach Lance Creech said. “You hate to use (not playing for two weeks) as an excuse. It was just tough from game-situation timing.

“We had really good practices, but at the same time, it’s hard to simulate a game-type atmosphere in practice.”

Hastings (6-2)..........................12 11 12 28—63

At Elkhorn Mt. Michael (7-2)........9 14 22 23—68

H-JT Cafferty 3-4 0-0 7, Connor Creech 9-14 2-4 22, Jacob Schroeder 7-11 1-2 16, Brennan Witte 0-2 3-4 3, Alex Swoboda 2-8 2-2 6, Quentin Synek 0-2 0-0 0, Mike Boeve 3-6 2-2 9, Jarrett Synek 0-1 0-0 0. Totals-24-48 10-14 63.

EMM-Kyle Pelan 5-7 3-6 13, Joseph Chouinard 11-14 1-2 25, Parker Hottovy 3-5 1-1 7, Brad Bennett 6-11 6-6 22, Kaleb Brink 0-1 1-2 1, Arian Lopez 0-3 0-0 0, Drew Thornton 0-2 0-0 0. Totals-25-43 12-17 68.

3-point goals: H 5-17 (Cafferty 1-1, Creech 2-4, Schroeder 1-1, Swoboda 0-6, Q. Synek 0-1, Boeve 1-3, J. Synek 0-1), EMM 6-15 (Pelan 0-1, Chouinard 2-4, Bennett 4-7, Lopez 0-3). Total fouls: H 19, EMM 12. Fouled out: Q. Synek. Technical fouls: None. Turnovers: H 20, EMM 15. Rebounds: H 25 (Q. Synek, Schroeder 5), EMM 17 (Pelan 8). Field goal percentage: H .500, EMM .581. Free throw percentage: H .714, EMM .706. A-400 (est.)

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