Thursday night had a familiar feel for area basketball afficionados.
A big stage.
Postseason. Sub-District final.
Longtime Mid-State Conference rivals.
Omaha World-Herald Class C1 #1 team.
The contest, played before a packed house at Norfolk High School, played out a bit differently than most probably expected, however.
Underdog Norfolk Catholic (13-10) surprised top-ranked Boone Central/Newman Grove with a 24-9 blitz to open the game, scored just 27 points over the next three periods as the Cardinals clawed back to force overtime, then knocked down a key 3-point field goal and seven free throws in the extra period to claim a 63-58 victory and the C1-8 Sub-District title.
With the win, Norfolk Catholic advanced to the C1-4 District final and left the Cardinals, still in hope of a state tournament wild card berth, anxiously watching Monday night scoreboards.
“As we spoke to the team, Catholic has a very athletic team and they have been playing better as of late,” commented Cardinal Coach Dan Zoucha. “The point in pre-game was the fact they had the capability of getting off to a strong start and we needed to play our best to stop that initial charge.
“Our defense in the first quarter was not very sharp. When you add that we did not shoot well, we had a very big hole to get out of.”
Cardinal fans let out a collective sigh of relief when Blake Uhing missed a point-blank putback shot at the regulation buzzer, but the Knight senior would still prove to be a thorn in BC/NG’s side.
With Boone Central/Newman Grove leading 55-53 in overtime on a Gentrup bucket and two free throws by Hedlund, Uhing took a pass from Borer in the deep corner and swished a 3-point field goal that put Catholic on top for good with 2:37 remaining.
From that point, the Knights knocked down 7-of-10 free throws, including a key pair by sophomore Matt Miller after a Gentrup free throw and steal-and-basket by Hedlund had cut a 61-55 Knight lead to three.
“In the second half, our challenge was to play much better defense and whittle away at the 10-point deficit,” Zoucha said. “The third quarter was much better on both ends of the floor. In the fourth, we were able to go ahead, but Norfolk Catholic hit another 3-pointer, which was one of their two field goals in the quarter. In the overtime, we forced a few shots and then had to foul.
“We played three very good quarters, but it was the first quarter we just could not overcome,” Zoucha rued. “Now we have to play the ‘waiting game’ and see what unfolds for us with the wild card spots.”
Complete details in Print & Online editions of Albion News