Not exactly the way the Boone Central/Newman Grove Cardinals wanted to finish the 2012-13 regular season.
With a partisan Boone Central/Newman Grove crowd loudly urging a late rally attempt Friday in Albion, a Cardinal squad hoping to stride confidently into post-season play stumbled in a 60-56 loss to Mid-State Conference foe Crofton (8-13).
With the loss, Boone Central/Newman Grove dropped to 18-6 and slipped to #5 in the Omaha World-Herald Class C1 Top 10. More importantly, BC/NG fell to 8th in NSAA point standings that determine the two wildcard berths for the C1 state tournament field.
Boone Central/Newman Grove simply could not get enough stops Friday, Coach Dan Zoucha said. Crofton overcame a two-point halftime deficit by outscoring BC/NG 19-6 during a Cardinal point drought in the third quarter, then made its resulting lead stand up in the final stanza.
“Crofton did not do anything we have not seen this season – we failed to play the type of defense that has given us some success,” Zoucha stated. “While this is disappointing, it also reminds us we have to be ready to play our best – we cannot take a game off.
“Game preparation is such a key at this time of the season. Mental preparation is more of a key, however. You always get a team’s best shot and we emphasized this throughout the week in practice.
“Our defense needed to get tougher when our offense was out of sync. This was especially true in the third quarter when we went nine possessions without scoring.”
Boone Central/Newman Grove appeared to be in sync early. With 6-foot-7 center Beau Bremer (8 points) dominating in the paint and Tyler Hedlund (8) and Derek Gentrup (4) attacking the basket, the Cardinals racked up a 20-14 first-quarter lead.
That inside scoring vanished over the next two quarters, however. BC/NG scored just 13 points – combined – in the second and third periods and Crofton used its 19 point blitz in the third, fueled by Brock Mueller’s seven points and five by Ben Hegge, to take leads as large as 13 points.
Returning to the aspects that fueled its early offensive success, BC/NG fought back in the fourth quarter. The Cards again targeted Bremer, who scored eight points, and Gentrup unleashed a flurry of 10 points, including a pair of 3-point bombs.
Although the Cardinals were able to whittle the Crofton lead to four in the final minutes, the Warriors got key baskets by Mueller, Dakota Miller and Evan Woockman and, with BC/NG forced to foul, sank 10-of-12 free throws to lock up the victory.
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