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Bluehawks use strength inside to control district final against Panthers

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Hastings St. Cecilia took a look inside Monday night and liked what it saw as the Bluehawks stormed past Fillmore Central 67-39 in the Class C2-4 District final.

The win earns last year’s C-2 champions the chance to defend their crown in Lincoln beginning next Thursday.

“Our goal as a team this year was to get to the final Saturday of the season,” St. Cecilia coach Kevin Asher said. “We wanted to finish the district championship the right way and get back to Lincoln with a win. We’ve played really good competition this year, and we’ve got a veteran team that knows all about playing in the moment.”

St. Cecilia (21-4) used the inside combination of Derek Boyd and Zach Kitten as the foundation of an efficient offensive attack. The two combined for 42 points and 16 rebounds while shooting 73 percent from the floor. The Bluehawks started the game with the first nine points and led by 15 after the first quarter, taking advantage of a significant size advantage.

“We really emphasized getting the ball inside,” Asher said. “Our kids did a great job with ball movement and we got a lot of high percentage shots. Getting the quick start also energized our defense, and it was great to see us play with intensity out there.”

The size advantage was difficult to overstate as the Panthers (21-4) found going inside the lane perilous. Fillmore Central had nine turnovers and went 2 of 13 from outside the arc in the first half. For the game, St. Cecilia owned a 39-17 advantage on the boards.

“When you’re giving up five or six inches, it’s tough to match up,” Fillmore Central coach Jim Rose said. “They pass the ball extremely well and are really patient about getting the looks they want. We’ve shot well outside as a team all year, but we’ve also run the floor and been able to pressure people. It’s hard to do that against a team like (St. Cecilia).”

Senior Brooks Asher opened the scoring for the Bluehawks with a drive off the wing, followed by a 3-pointer from Dalton Sealey. After a missed 3 by the Panthers, Kitten drove in for a layup. Grant Schmidt got a steal to kill another Fillmore Central possession, and Boyd took the ball low and spun inside for a fast 9-0 lead.

Aaron Poppert broke the ice for the Panthers with a pair from the line, but that resulted in another six-point run by St. Cecilia. Early in the second Fillmore Central connected from outside for a 3, and once again St. Cecilia answered with an eight-point burst.

The lead grew to more than 20 as the second half unfolded. The Panthers in the third and into the fourth hit four 3-pointers, a lesson in what could have been for Fillmore Central.

Despite finishing with a 21-4 record, Fillmore Central will miss out on a wild card to state.

“We knew if we won we go to Lincoln. If not, we needed a lot of help and I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Rose said. “We talked to the kids and reminded them that our seniors went 3-20 their freshman year. That shows the strides these kids have made in the last three years.”

St. Cecilia.................19 14 16 18—67

Fillmore Central........4 10 14 11—39

HSC: Sealey 1-9 0-0 3, Schmidt 1-2 0-0 2, Esch 0-4 0-0 0, Teano 0-1 0-0 0, Farmer 0-2 0-0 0, D. Boyd 9-13 2-4 20, Asher 5-7 2-2 13, Kitten 10-13 2-3 22, Kirkegaard 1-2 0-0 3, B. Boyd 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 29-55 6-9 67.

FC: Karcher 0-1 0-0 0, Rasmussen 0-2 0-0 0, Temme 0-1 2-2 2, Poppert 0-2 2-4 2, Ourada 0-1 0-0 0, Hoarty 4-13 0-0 11, O’Connor 0-1 0-0 0, Hopken 5-11 0-0 11, Whitley 3-12 0-0 9, Hogue 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 14-47 4-6 39.

3-point shots: HSC 3-17 (Asher 1-3, Kirkegaard 1-2, Sealey 1-5, Schmidt 0-1, Esch 0-3, Teano 0-1, Farmer 0-2); FC 7-28 (Whitley 3-9, Hoarty 3-10, Hopken 1-5, Karcher 0-1, Rasmussen 0-1, Ourada 0-1, O’Connor 0-1). Rebounds: HSC 39 (D. Boyd 9), FC 17 (Hopken 7). Assists: HSC 19 (Schmidt 5), FC 9 (Hoarty 3). Turnovers: HSC 6, FC 13. Total fouls: HSC 11, FC 8. Fouled Out: None. Technical Fouls: None.

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