DONIPHAN — Grand Island Central Catholic finished this time around.
One night after seeing a six-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate in a loss to Kearney Catholic, the Crusaders watched a 10-point advantage shrink to three in the final period against Doniphan-Trumbull Saturday.
But GICC used a pair of big plays from Mayra Almayra and four free throws in the final minute from Chase Wenzl to seal a 50-42 win.
“It was definitely a better outcome than what the alternative was,” Crusader coach Tino Martinez said. “It was a tough game to play. We’re finishing at the end of a long stretch (four games in six days) and I thought our kids persevered pretty good.
“We had to adjust the way we played defensively, and I thought we did well with that when we had to do it in the second half. And then we did just enough to win.”
Noah Bernal’s basket gave Central Catholic its biggest lead of the game, 40-30 with 5:49 left. But the Cardinals (2-9) went on an 8-1 run to get within 41-38 on Trey Sterner’s bucket with 3:11 to go.
Almayra found Wenzl open underneath to extend the lead to 43-38 with 2:35 left. One minute later, he corralled a loose rebound on a Doniphan-Trumbull miss and raced upcourt for a layup.
A pair of free throws by Logan Schuldt got the Cardinals back within 46-42 with 1:02 remaining, but Wenzl sealed the victory at the line by going 4-for-4 over the final 56 seconds.
That put a strong ending to what was a rough 10-for-19 quarter from the line for the Crusaders (7-6).
“We didn’t make free throws like I would like us to, but we were limiting them as much as we could,” Martinez said. “We were getting the ball inside still. We ate enough clock in the middle part of it that it made it tough on them, but we made just enough free throws. We took care of the ball and didn’t turn it over.
“If we can put the other part together and knock down those free throws, we’d probably stretch it out enough to win with a little distance between us.”
Doniphan-Trumbull coach Kelan Buhr credited GICC’s defense for playing a big part in making sure his team came up a little short.
“Their defensive pressure kind of wears on you throughout a game — more mentally than physically at this point in the year,” Buhr said. “There were some times where we rushed ourselves and didn’t necessarily get a look that we were looking for. But there were also times where we executed exactly what we wanted to do and got good looks and hit some shots, which was fun to see.
“Ultimately it comes down to that. We have to play more heady in close games.”
Doniphan-Trumbull raced out to a 16-9 lead after the first quarter but was limited to 12 points total over the second and third periods.
Triston Stephens and Schuldt finished with 12 points apiece for the Cardinals, who suffered their sixth loss by fewer than 10 points.
“It’s very frustrating, but we’re right there,” Buhr said. “We keep working every day in practice on situations and what we’re going to do.
“Hopefully we get to where we win one of these close ones, but we’re also competing the whole game and need to understand there’s probably points throughout the game where we could either have extended a lead or not get down by as much.”
Martinez said the Crusaders knew they would face a much more dangerous opponent than Doniphan-Trumbull’s record would indicate.
“They’ve got shooters on the perimeter,” he said. “Kalen does a great job with them. They play hard. I don’t think they have anything to hang their heads about. They played St. Cecilia and some tough teams too, so it’s not like they’re not competing and doing things right. They’ll get it figured out.”
Almayra finished with 12 points for the Crusaders. Wenzl chipped in 11 while Jack Goering added 10.
Central Catholic continues its hectic schedule Tuesday at York, which will be the team’s eighth game in 15 days.
GICC (7-6).......................................9 10 12 19 — 50
Doniphan-Trumbull (2-9).................16 7 5 14 — 42
GICC: Goering 3-5 2-2 10, Almayra 5-9 2-6 12, Anspauch 2-6 1-1 6, Wenzl 2-9 3-8 11, Herbek 1-3 1-3 3, R. Bernal 1-2 1-2 4, N. Bernal 1-2 2-5 4, Toner 0-2 0-0 0, Bales 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-38 16-27 50.
DT: Stephens 4-7 1-2 12, Johnson 2-6 0-0 6, Schuldt 4-10 2-4 12, Mazour 2-3 2-5 6, Christensen 1-2 1-2 3, Sterner 1-2 1-2 3, Whelan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-31 7-15 42.
3-point field goals—GICC 4-11 (R. Bernal 1-1, N. Bernal 0-1, Goering 2-4, Anspauch 1-4, Wenzl 0-1), DT 7-13 (Stephens 3-5, Johnson 2-2, Schuldt 2-5, Schultz 0-1). Fouled out—none. Rebounds—GICC 26 (Almayra 6), DT 24 (Stephens, Mazour 5). Assists—GICC 5 (Almayra 3), DT 10 (Schuldt 6). Turnovers—GICC 9, DT 18. Total fouls—GICC 16, DT 23. Technicals—none.