Getting the ball inside and getting to the free-throw line turned out to be a winning combination for Class B No. 7-rated Northwest Tuesday.
Junior post Darrek McNelis scored a game-high 15 points, and the Vikings sealed a 51-43 win over Hastings St. Cecilia by making seven of their first eight free throws in the fourth quarter.
McNelis scored eight of his points in the second quarter to help Northwest build up its lead to 25-17 at the half.
“The inside game for us is our strength,” Northwest coach Ryan Rathke said. “We like to go inside-out with our offense, so that showed tonight. That was a good thing.”
Inside was an area where the Bluehawks (3-7) struggled to match up with the Vikings (11-1).
“The interior hurt us a lot in the first half,” St. Cecilia coach Kevin Asher said. “We had troubles matching it, and they did a great job of getting it in.
“In the second half I thought we did a better job. Our posts really tried to deny the post, but they still probably got six points in the paint. I thought the first half that’s where they really dominated to get their seven-point lead, and we were struggling to get anything inside.”
Northwest led by as many as 13 points in the final quarter before the Bluehawks used a 6-0 run to get back within seven.
“We’ve been talking about our kids playing a full game,” Asher said. “The teams we’re playing that are really talented, the last six minutes seem to be when the game gets taken over. We were down 13, 15, and hit a shot to get it back to 10. We called a timeout and I said, ‘We’ve been playing teams to seven, eight points. ...But we’ve let them finish us off.’
“I thought we stayed in there. I’m proud of the kids down the stretch because we got it down to seven points. It was a matter of them being too much tonight.”
Northwest ran the clock from there and converted when sent to the line. The Vikings hit the front end of all three 1-and-1s in the fourth.
“Down the stretch free throws were really big,” Rathke said. “We kind of went into our control game at the end. They ended up fouling. We ended up going to the line and knocking free throws down. That was important.”
Jameson Esch led St. Cecilia with 13 points.
The Bluehawks went 4-for-17 (23.5 percent) on 3-pointers, an area where Rathke was concerned entering the game.
“I was real happy with the defense in terms of guarding the three,” he said. “They have a lot of guys who can shoot the three, and they’re hard to guard, picking them up on the perimeter. Our kids did a good job of limiting their number of threes and limiting the threes that they made.
“They usually have four guys on the floor that can shoot it, and it’s a tough matchup for us. Communication is big. The key for us getting it done is communicating so we’re switching as needed to be. It’s just a lot of effort getting out and getting up on those guys.”
Alex Larsen added 14 points for Northwest, which travels to undefeated Adams Central (12-0) on Friday.
Northwest 51, Hastings St. Cecilia 43
Waters 0-3 1-2 1, Larsen 4-8 5-6 14, Rouzee 1-4 2-2 4, McNelis 7-11 1-2 15, Kraft 3-5 2-5 8, Bockmann 0-2 0-0 0, Koepp 1-2 0-0 2, Dahlkoetter 2-3 0-0 4, Havranek 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 19-40 11-17 51.
HASTINGS ST. CECILIA (3-7)
Esch 6-12 1-2 13, Asher 3-8 0-0 7, Grafel 1-3 0-0 2, Sheehy 3-9 0-0 9, Hartford 3-8 1-2 7, A. Teano 0-0 0-0 0, Skoch 1-3 1-2 3, C. Teano 1-1 0-0 2, Kitten 0-0 0-0 0, O’Keeffe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-44 3-6 43.
Northwest.....................................13 12 13 13—51
Hastings SC............................8 9 12 14—43
3-point field goals—NW 2-9 (Waters 0-2, Larsen 1-2, Rouzee 0-2, Bockmann 0-1, Havranek 1-2), HSC 4-17 (Esch 0-3, Asher 1-5, Grafel 0-2, Sheehy 3-7). Fouled out—none. Rebounds—NW 23 (Larsen, McNelis 7), HSC 29 (Hartford 7). Assists—NW 6 (Bockmann 3), HSC 4. Turnovers—NW 10, HSC 14. Total fouls—NW 13, HSC 16. Technicals—none.