GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Grand Island Central Catholic kicked its offense into overdrive in the second half against Gothenburg, and the result was a 60-30 victory in the finals of the GICC Holiday Tournament.

After a close first half that saw the Cruaders hold a two-point lead against the much larger Swedes, things fell into place on both ends of the court for Central Catholic.

Defensively, the Crusaders held Gothenburg to just 10 second-half points while forcing 22 turnovers. Andwhen Central Catholic got the ball, it showed a commitment to its half-court offense that paid off handsomely with a 38-point explosion in the second half.

The Crusaders found their rhythm from the outside, hitting 10 3-pointers on the night, but as Gothenburg coach Roger Koehler noted, Central Catholic hurt his team via its offensive rebounding.

“Their offensive rebounds just killed us,” he said. “They got hot from outside, so that opened up the middle, and they always had guys in position. I felt like we lost our mental toughness in the second half and Central Catholic took advantage of that.”

Crusader coach Tino Martinez gave his team credit for playing smart and executing the basics.

“In the first half we had some pretty good open looks on offense, and in the second half we started to hit them,” he said. “We were patient with the ball and willing to share it. Defensively, we ratcheted it up.

“We got good ball pressure, and that led to a lot of deflections and steals.”

The game felt nothing like an offensive showcase in the early going, as the Crusaders squared off against a team with inside starters at six-foot six and six-foot eight.

One of the ways that Central Catholic’s defensive effort found its way into the statistics, besides the turnovers, was the fact that the Swedes only took 26 shots as a team from the field for the game.

Neither team managed more than a one-possession lead until midway through the second quarter when John Goering hit his second 3 of the quarter, followed by a free throw from Jacob Herbek, to briefly give the Crusaders a 17-12 lead.

Gothenburg countered with a bucket inside from Bennett Folkers and a low jumper from AJ Whiting.

The Crusaders, though, responded with a three from Russ Martinez and an inside basket from Herbek, and although the Swedes’ lone 3-pointer of the game cut into the margin, Central Catholic entered the second half on top.

“On paper they had a size advantage against us,” Martinez said. “We were doubling defensively on the catch and stunting outside to offset that. Jacob (Herbek) has matured mentally and he worked his butt off out there. It was nice to see him get rewarded with some good passing.”

Martinez also gave credit to senior Jonah Bales, who played fearless defense against a taller Swede opponent all night long.

“Jonah’s a workhorse for us,” he said. “He accepts every challenge we give him. He’s a very versatile defender and a tough, tough kid, and I think that attitude rubs off on everybody else.”

GICC 60, Gothenburg 30

Gothenburg.....9 11 3 7 – 30

GICC.....8 14 19 19 – 60

G: Folkers 1-7 1-2 3, Bartlett 2-3 4-8 8, Rossell 1-1 0-0 3, O. Gelken 1-4 0-0 2, C. Gelken 0-1 1-2 1, Zimbelman 1-1 1-2 3, Whiting 3-7 2-6 8, Olson 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 10-26 9-20 30.

GICC: Goering 4-11 0-0 12, Martinez 3-7 0-0 8, Kort 3-6 0-0 8, Pirnie 0-3 0-0 0, Almayra 8-17 0-0 16, Cornelius 0-1 0-0 0, A. Herbek 1-3 1-2 4, Bales 0-2 0-0 0, J. Herbek 4-9 1-3 9, Friesen 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 24-61 2-5 60.

3-point shots – Goth, 1-3 (Rossell 1-1, O. Gelken 0-1, Whiting 0-1), GICC 10-29 (Goering 4-11, Martinez 2-6, Kort 2-5, Almayra 0-2, Cornelius 0-1, A. Herbek 1-1, Bales 0-1, Friesen 1-2). Rebounds – Goth 27 (Folkers 4), GICC 34 (Almayra 10, J. Herbek 7). Assists – Goth 4 (Folkers 3), GICC 13 (Goering 6). Turnovers – Goth 22, GICC 9. Personal Fouls – Goth 8, GICC 15. Fouled Out – None. Technical Fouls – None.

GICC girls 32, Fillmore Central 18

Grand Island Central Catholic took the victory in the championship game of the girls bracket as well, although it’s safe to say that their pattern for success looked quite a bit different as they took a 32-18 win over Fillmore Central.

Central Catholic saw the Panthers struggle through an awful, awful shooting night, as Fillmore Central went only 5 of 45 from the field.

Even a marked advantage in rebounding did the visitors little good as they simply couldn’t connect. Panthers coach Shad Eberhardt said that the Crusader defense was a big part of why his team wasn’t hitting.

“I think you have to give them a lot of credit,” he said. “They kept us from doing the things we wanted to inside. They kept us from our spots and when we did get a chance, we didn’t do a very good job of getting the ball inside.

“When they had the ball, they did a great job of controlling it. We couldn’t get them flustered.”

Central Catholic did its damage inside via junior Megan Woods, who led all scorers with 16 and proved to be an unsolvable puzzle for the Panthers. The Crusaders were able to start building their lead late in the first period after Lexie Kohmetscher grabbed a steal and went all the way back to score.

The Crusaders, displaying great patience all night long when they had the ball, ground out another basket from Woods off an assist from Jenna Lowry to end the first quarter with a 12-5 lead. Fillmore Central did not answer the bell in the second, hitting only three free throws and no field goals during the next eight minutes.

Meanwhile, Central Catholic continued to wear down the Panthers. Katie maser helped the cause with a bucket off an offensive rebound, and Lowry ended the half with a putback basket of her own.

The pace picked up somewhat in the third, but the Crusaders held a 30-16 lead going into the fourth and Central Catholic, in the eyes of the visiting fans, went from patient to stubborn. Central Catholic held on to the ball for most of the fourth quarter, scoring only once, but continuing to stymie the Panthers virtually every time they headed upcourt.

“Fillmore Central is a team that likes a fast pace,” Crusader coach Stacia Rice said. “Our goal was to avoid playing their kind of game and I think we were successful.

“They went into a 2-3 zone and took away a lot of things inside. We wanted to open up the lanes, so we were willing to work the ball outside. And once we got the lead, we didn’t have to force anything.”

Rice agreed that the Crusaders were indeed unflappable against the Panther defense, and said that hard work is starting to pay off.

“When I started these girls were young,” she said. “We’re finally getting experience, and now we’re trying to develop depth. We’re getting more confident, and we’re showing more trust in each other.”

Fillmore Central 5 3 8 2 – 18

Central Catholic 12 8 10 2 – 32

FC: Jacobson 0-5 0-0 0, Schelkopf 1-5 2-3 5, Birky 1-8 0-0 2, E. Schmidt 0-4 0-2 0, Broman 0-6 0-0 0, Scott 3-13 0-0 8, A. Schmidt 0-4 3-6 3. Totals 5-45 5-11 18.

GICC: Wilson 1-8 0-0 2, Kohmetscher 1-4 2-2 4, Lowry 1-2 0-0 2, Maser 2-5 0-0 4, Tynan 0-1 0-0 0, S. Steenson 1-3 0-0 2, E. Steenson 1-1 0-0 2, Woods 6-11 4-7 16. Totals 13-35 6-9 32.

3-point shots – FC 3-20 (Schelkopf 1-4, E. Schmidt 0-1, Broman 0-4, Scott 2-11), GICC 0-2 (Wilson 0-1, Tynan 0-10). Rebounds – FC 38 (A. Schmidt 6, Scott 6, Schelkopf 6), GICC 28 (S. Steenson 9, Kohmetscher 6). Assists – FC 3 (Schelkopf 2), GICC 7 (E. Steenson 3). Turnovers – FC 16, GICC 13. Personal Fouls – FC 12, GICC 10. Fouled Out – FC, E. Schmidt. Technical Fouls – None.

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