AURORA — Centura survived a furious fourth quarter comeback effort by Nebraska Christian as the Centurions took a 41-40 victory in the semifinal round of the Class C-2, Subdistrict 8 Tournament Tuesday.
Centura led by 16 points going into the final quarter, but everything that had been working for the Centurions disappeared late in the game. Centura, which had used some sharp outside shooting to help build its lead, put up only four points in the final eight minutes, while the Eagles hit three treys inside the last five minutes of the game.
After the teams traded possessions seven times to open the fourth, Nebraska Christian (12-9) finally saw Zach Dockweiler connect on a three. Travis Holcomb responded with two shots from the line for Centura, and the clock dipped below five minutes before the Eagles picked up another bucket.
Moments later, Nebraska Christian’s Andrew Winsterman was injured underneath the basket, and according to coach Mark Leonard, that lit the fuse for the final run.
"The foul on Andrew woke us up," he said. "I told them we weren’t going to go out easy, and they responded. It’s too bad we couldn’t get hot offensively until four minutes left in the game. We just had a lack of execution up to that point. But for the last few minutes we played with reckless abandon — we just came up that short."
With Winsterman in the locker room, Dillon Rose hit the first free throw but missed the second, only to see Nolan Kohmetscher swoop in for the putback, and the lead was down to 10.
Seconds later Kohmetscher came up with the steal, and Benjamin Griess hit from outside. Holcomb scored on a putback, but Dockweiler responded with another three to make the lead six with just over two minutes to go.
The teams again traded multiple frantic possessions before the Eagles hit a follow shot to make it a two possession game. After yet another Centura turnover, Kohmetscher threw up a prayer that somehow fell perfectly to make it a one-point game with 29 seconds to go.
Centura missed the front end of two one and ones in the game’s final seconds, but Nebraska Christian’s bag of tricks was finally empty, and Hunter Caspersen gathered in the final rebound to give the Centurions the win.
Centura coach Dave Oman expressed frustration over his team’s play in the final quarter.
"We were damn lucky tonight," he said. "We did not play well at all in the fourth quarter. We took shots that we didn’t need to, and we didn’t take care of the ball.
"Nebraska Christian has great size and quickness and they made it very difficult for us at the end. I thought we had a pretty good first half, and then dominated the third quarter, but we knew they could come back and they ended up dominating the fourth."
Centura (12-9) did in fact control the first three quarters, as Holcomb controlled the boards and just about every 3-point shooter wearing a white jersey found success.
Jackson Noakes hit back to back treys to open things up, then Ben Oman connected from outside. The real push came in the third period, when Centura found an extra gear in the final few minutes. A three by Logan Faeh brought the Eagles to within seven, but the Centurions responded with a 9-0 run to close out the quarter.
To all appearances, it looked as if Centura was ready to land a knockout punch and put the game away early.
"There was a definite momentum swing," Leonard said. "In those final minutes we told them to go with the shot if they had it. We had confidence that if they had a look they could knock it down. The one other thing that hurt us, though, was free throws. You can’t win going two of 10."
Centura advanced to Thursday night’s final against Hastings St. Cecilia, which defeated Doniphan-Trumbull 51-29.
"St. Cecilia is one of the best teams in the state in all classes," Oman said. "(Brooks) Asher is a great guard, they rebound well and they play great team defense. The only thing we can do to win is find a way to score more points than them."
Centura 41, Neb. Christian 40
NEBRASKA CHRISTIAN (12-9)
Griess 1-3 0-0 3, Dockweiler 3-15 1-2 9, Kohmetscher 5-20 0-0 11, Faeh 3-5 0-0 7, Nokelby 0-1 0-0 0, Rose 2-7 1-8 5, Winsterman 2-6 0-0 5. Totals 16-57 2-10 40.
Guzman 0-4 0-0 0, H. Caspersen 0-4 0-0 0, Noakes 4-10 0-2 11, Rosenquist 4-8 0-0 9, Oman 3-6 0-0 9, D. Caspersen 2-3 0-0 4, Holcomb 3-7 2-4 8. Totals 16-42 2-6 41.
Nebraska Christian 7 9 5 19 — 40
Centura 11 12 14 4 — 41
Three-point shots — NC 6-25 (Griess 1-3, Dockweiler 2-10, Kohmetscher 1-8, Faeh 1-1, Rose 0-2, Winsterman 1-1), C 7-16 (Guzman 0-2, Noakes 3-7, Rosenquist 1-1, Oman 3-5, Holcomb 0-1). Rebounds — NC 37 (Dockweiler 8, Faeh 7), C 36 (Holcomb 12). Assists — NC 8 (Dockweiler 3), C 10 (Guzman 4). Turnovers — NC 12, C 19. Personal Fouls — NC 10, C 10. Fouled Out — None. Technical Fouls — None.
Hastings SC 51, Doniphan-Trumbull 29
The Bluehawks had little difficulty with the Cardinals as they overwhelmed Doniphan-Trumbull in the second half.
The Cardinals (11-14) opted to focus their defense inside and try to limit the damage done by Derek Boyd and Zach Kitten, a strategy that worked only to a point.
Kitten finished with 17 points, and St. Cecilia was able to sting Doniphan-Trumbull enough from outside the arc to prove how multifaceted the St. Cecilia offense really is.
"When we played them the first time, they whipped us on the offensive boards," coach Kelan Buhr said. "I thought we did better tonight - the kids came out and competed much better. We knew we couldn’t hold them scoreless, but we wanted to make them beat us from outside. They were still able to work the ball in to Kitten and Boyd more than we wanted. They’re ust a pretty darn good team."
The Bluehawks (19-4) showed patience when they needed to in the final quarters, working the ball relentlessly against the D-T defense and methodically building the lead as the game moved into the final minutes. Despite the loss, Buhr gave his team credit for surviving its trial by fire this season.
"I told the kids that they definitely got better as the season went on," Buhr noted. "We have a couple of special seniors, Reid Schultz and Zachary Christensen, that I’ve coached since seventh grade. I can’t thank them enough for their hard work and dedication."
St. Cecilia coach Kevin Asher was unavailable for comments after the game.
Hastings SC 51
Stephens 5, Johnson 6, Schuldt 3, Mzour 8, Christensen 4, Whelan 3.
Hastings St. Cecilia
Sealey 3, Schmidt 2, Esch 3, Teano 2, D. Boyd 7, B. Asher 11, Kitten 17, Kirkegaards 6.
Note - full game statistics not available.