The Boone Central/Newman Grove Cardinals won the C1-9 Subdistrict at Grand Island Northwest, nipping stubborn St. Paul 68-65 in the opening round Feb. 21 and subduing Grand Island Central Catholic 63-54 with a strong second half performance in Saturday’s C1-9 final.
Those victories advanced the Cardinals to Monday’s C1-5 District championship game against Kearney Catholic (20-5), winners of 10 straight games. BC/NG edged the Stars 63-59 way back in December in Albion.
“They are playing really well,” BC/NG Coach Justin Harris said of Kearney Catholic. “And, we are playing some of our better basketball.”
BC/NG 68, St. Paul 65
Boone Central/Newman Grove (15-8) began postseason play in somewhat harrowing fashion. The Cardinals endured an ice cold start, rallied to lead St. Paul (10-11) by eight points late in the contest, and held off a final Wildcat charge with clutch free throw shooting.
“We were happy to survive and advance. We played nervous and turned the ball over too much,” Harris said. “But, we made enough plays to win the game.”
It didn’t look promising early, as BC/NG committed turnovers on seven of it’s first eight possessions and trailed 11-3 at the end of the first quarter. The deficit could have been even larger, but St. Paul missed it’s first six shots, as well.
The Cardinals began to turn the tide in the second period, holding onto the basketball, sinking 11-of-16 shots, and taking a 29-28 halftime lead. Junior Dylan Gentrup fueled the charge, scoring BC/NG’s first eight points of the quarter and 13 overall.
Boone Central/Newman Grove continued its strong play in the second half before the turnover bug bit again late. Leading by eight with three minutes to play, the Cardinals committed several of their seven fourth-quarter turnovers and St. Paul cut the BC/NG lead to just one, 64-63, with 38 seconds remaining.
The Wildcats were still forced to foul, however, and Cards stepped to the line and calmly secured the victory. Carter Henry sank two foul shots with 34 seconds to play, and Jessie Sullivan added a pair with 16 seconds left.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games this year,” Harris noted. “We have some guys I definitely feel confident with stepping to the line. We hit the free throws, but gosh, we threw the ball away too much.”
BC/NG 63, GICC 54
Saturday’s heated battle in the C1-9 final came down to which team was tougher in the end – physically and mentally.
With dogged defense, tenacious rebounding and a few clutch free throws, Boone Central/Newman Grove earned the distinction and the 63-54 victory over Grand Island Central Catholic (13-11) at Northwest High School.
“That was our best defensive effort of the season. I thought we did a great job fighting through screens and contesting shots on their good shooters,” Harris praised. “We executed fairly well offensively, although we struggled from the line until the last couple minutes.
“Carter (Henry) hit a couple of big threes that gave us the cushion we needed.”
In a first half with both teams scratching and clawing defensively, GICC held slim leads for most of the 16 minutes. Boone Central/Newman Grove took a 26-25 edge on a determined Sullivan basket to end the half, and the Cardinals rode that momentum to a decisive three-minute burst to begin the third quarter.
Sullivan scored again coming out of intermission, and BC/NG went on a 9-1 run with Gentrup’s five points and four by Henry to lead 35-26.
The Crusaders never quit, but they could never again catch the Cards.
GICC closed the third period with an 8-2 run that trimmed the margin to 39-36, but BC/NG responded by scoring the first five points of the fourth quarter. With the Cardinals missing several free throw opportunities, GICC again closed the gap to 47-43 with two minutes to play, but BC/NG sank six of it’s final eight free throws to preserve the decision.
“I think we missed all three of our front ends of one-and-one’s. Then, we started making one of two,” Harris noted. “We could have put it away a lot earlier and that would have made me happy.”
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