For three quarters Monday, the C1-4 District final between Boone Central and Mid-State Conference rival Norfolk Catholic resembled a championship prizefight, two contenders toe-to-toe, trading haymakers, with the Cardinals ahead on points (39-37).
But in the final rounds of the fourth period, Catholic landed several scoring flurries while Boone Central’s counter-punches missed the mark, allowing the Knights to pull away for a 64-50 victory, district title and berth in the 2012 Nebraska State Basketball Tournament.
Much of Catholic’s closing 27-11 blitz in the final stanza was fashioned around strong rebounding and free throw accuracy, while Boone Central committed several costly turnovers and failed to convert a single point at the foul line.
With four-and-a-half minutes remaining in the contest, the Knights stretched a slim 43-41 advantage into a 55-43 lead with a 12-2 run.
A three-pointer by BC’s Kade Leetch and Derek Gentrup’s baseline drive trimmed the gap to 56-48 with :47 to play, but with Boone Central forced to foul to stop the clock, Catholic sank its free throws and allowed just a final Gentrup basket to secure the victory.
Boone Central had played the Class C1 Top 10 Knights to a virtual stalemate through three quarters. Neither team could gain much edge, as Catholic held a two-point lead at halftime and BC went up two after three periods.
Although they were unable to complete the upset, Coach Dan Zoucha was happy with the effort of his Cardinals and felt they did a number of good things in the contest.
“Norfolk Catholic is a very good team – we knew we’d have to play one of our best games of the season,” he commented. “We came out and forced two turnovers at the start. Our pressure out front was very good.
“We did not cover out on the perimeter very well in the first half and allowed Catholic six three-point field goals. We changed defenses at times to help stop those open looks, but did not always get to where we needed to be.
“Our rebounding in the first half was also not as sound as we would have liked, but we battled and were down just two at the break,” Zoucha continued. “The third quarter was a good one for us. If a couple of calls go the other way, we could have built a larger lead.
“We did not get the start we needed in the fourth to take control of the game. Too many turnovers in the early possessions of the quarter really hampered what we wanted to do. Catholic started getting to the foul line and was very effective.
“We, as coaches, are proud of the way our players kept battling the entire game. Their effort was outstanding – as it has been all season.”
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