GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Class C-1 No. 3 Grand Island Central Catholic got the separation it was looking for with three straight 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter Thursday night against Adams Central.
But it wasn’t until Jacob Herbek’s putback of a missed free throw with 37.1 seconds left that the Crusaders were able to close the door on the Patriots for a 51-44 victory in the Subdistrict 9 final.
Herbek’s putback gave Central Catholic a 48-44 lead and ended a scoreless stretch of 3:41 by the Crusaders.
“He’s got a knack for that,” GICC coach Tino Martinez said. “He had some travels, but he has a knack for coming up big in big moments. That was a big moment for us. I’m really happy for him.”
Neither team led by more than six points until the quick barrage of 3-pointers by the Crusaders.
Adams Central (15-10) led 36-35 when Mayra Almayra hit a 3 and Jack Goering followed with two more.
“We couldn’t get a cushion,” Martinez said. “We’d get a few stops and then they’d come down and get a stop. So we had to get a little cushion, and as the game played out, that was big.”
Adams Central coach Zac Foster said those three possessions were the difference.
“That was it, that was the game, the separation that ended up decided it pretty much,” he said. “You tip your hat to them. They were big-time shots. They weren’t open by much and they’re good players.”
Still, the Patriots had their chances down the stretch. They closed to within 46-44 when Gavin Lipovsky drove and scored, but he couldn’t hit the free throw to complete a 3-point play.
After a steal, the Patriots missed the front end of a one-and-one with 47.4 seconds to go.
Then came Herbek’s big play, and Russ Martinez went 1 for 2 from the line, and Herbek hit two more to seal the win.
“We had some missed free throws,” Foster said. “We had a 1-and-1 free throw we missed. We had a layup we missed at the rim. In a game like that when you’re playing somebody that good — No. 2 or 3 ranked team in the state — you just can’t miss those opportunities. Those are ones we wish we had back.”
Tino Martinez said it was a battle just like GICC’s 41-38 win over the Patriots on Jan. 20.
“It was a hard-fought game. We knew it would be,” he said. “You have to tip your hat to coach Foster. He had them prepared and ready to go at us. We were very fortunate.”
Almayra finished with a game-high 18 points to lead the Crusaders.
“Mayra Almayra is one of the must improved players I’ve seen in the last two or three years because when he was a sophomore starter, he couldn’t shoot,” Foster said. “He has really worked hard and become a well-rounded player.
“He’s a dynamic player and really a difference-maker for them.”
Russ Martinez added 12 and Goering finished with 11 as GICC shot 19-for-36 (52.8 percent) from the floor.
“We didn’t turn it over,” Tino Martinez said. “We executed a lot better, and the patience and our shot selection was really good at a high level tonight.”
The Patriots led 13-7 late in the first quarter before a defensive adjustment by GICC changed things around, according to both coaches.
“We had some miscues early,” Tino Martinez said. “We had to get out of how we were defending the ball screen. They were butchering us. Our kids did a great job of adjusting, and the ball screen didn’t hurt us the rest of the night.”
Thomas Hunt had 13 points and Nolan Sughroue and Haggan Hilgendorf both added 10 for the Patriots, who will return seven out of the eight players who saw the court.
Central Catholic (19-6) advances to Monday’s District 5 final against Kearney Catholic (6-18), a team it defeated 58-31 on Jan. 5. The site and time for the game will be announced Friday.
Adams Central (15-10).....13 11 10 10—44
GICC (19-6).....11 16 8 16—51
AC: Nolan Sughroue 4-8 0-0 10, Jack Keller 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas Hunt 5-14 0-1 13, Haggan Hilgendorf 4-7 2-2 10, Landon Weber 2-4 1-2 6, Tyler Slechta 0-0 0-00, Gavin Lipovsky 2-5 1-2 5, Cameron Foster 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-38 3-6 44.
GICC: Jack Goering 4-12 0-0 11, Russ Martinez 4-6 1-2 12, Mayra Almayra 7-10 2-3 18, Jonah Bales 2-2 0-0 4, Jacob Herbek 2-4 2-2 6, Andrew Herbek 0-0 0-0 0, Peyton Kort 0-2 0-1 0. Totals 19-36 5-8 51.
3-point goals: AC 7-16 (Sughroue 2-4, Hunt 3-7, Weber 1-3, Lipovsky 1-2), GICC 7-18 (Goering 3-10, Martinez 2-3, Almayra 2-3, Kort 0-2). Fouled out: none. Rebounds: AC 20 (Weber 5), GICC 23 (Almayra, Bales 7). Assists: AC 10 (Hunt 5), GICC 12 (Almayra 5). Turnovers: ACC 9, GICC 10. Total fouls: AC 12, GICC 10. Technicals: none.