The third time was a charm – in more ways than one.
Meeting Wayne for the third time this season – and with its seniors competing in their third conference final – Boone Central/Newman Grove climbed the final rung to the top of the 2014 Mid-State Tournament Saturday at Northeast Community College in Norfolk.
After dropping its previous two meetings with the Blue Devils, BC/NG survived a few anxious moments in the waning seconds to score a 57-53 victory and claim its first Mid-State championship since back-to-back crowns in 2004-05.
Boone Central/Newman Grove won a district title and advanced to the state tournament final a year ago, but came up short in the quest for the Mid-State championship. That box can now be checked this year, although Cardinal Coach Dan Zoucha noted plenty of work remains.
“This was a great tournament – possibly one of the toughest in the state,” Zoucha commented. “After being in the finals the previous two seasons, it was a great accomplishment for everyone on the team.
“In a couple of weeks, we do this all over again, as the sub-district will have basically the same teams. We stressed to the team the fact that every game we play must be given the same attention and preparation.”
It was no easy road to the championship game for the Cardinals.
Boone Central/Newman Grove overcame an early deficit and avenged a previous loss in an 81-63 victory over Norfolk Catholic in first-round play Tuesday.
The Knights got 3-point field goals from four different players to open an 18-13 first-quarter lead before BC/NG found its stride offensively and defensively. A switch to harassing man-to-man defense seemed to spark the Cards and a 22-11 run in the second quarter gave BC/NG a 35-29 halftime edge.
Once the Cardinals had it rolling, Norfolk Catholic had no answer. Scoring from inside, from outside, on the fast break and from the freethrow line, BC/NG tallied 46 second-half points to pull away from the Knights.
If you’re familiar with Mid-State basketball, you just knew Pierce – despite a 10-8 record – would give Boone Central/Newman Grove a tough, physical battle in Friday’s semi-final.
It was all of that, as BC/NG fought off the Bluejays for a gritty 56-52 victory, using stellar free throw shooting down the stretch.
“Pierce has been a team that has constantly improved as the season progressed. Anyone who has watched Mid-State basketball knows their defense is always solid and effective,” Zoucha said. “In the second half, it was just a battle. We showed great poise down the stretch.”
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