Playing possibly their best basketball of the season, the Boone Central/Newman Grove Cardinals charged through, arguably, the most challenging sub-district assignment in Class C1 this past week at Burwell High School.
The Cardinals opened postseason play with an emphatic finish and 63-47 victory over C1 #2 O’Neill (Omaha World-Herald) Feb. 20, then exploded to a big first-half lead Thursday and held off #5 Broken Bow 62-52 to advance to Monday’s C1-3 District final at Norfolk. BC/NG faced #4 Winnebago (20-5) with a 2018 state tournament berth on the line.
Cardinals 63, O’Neill 47
Boone Central/Newman Grove avenged a regular-season loss to O’Neill last Tuesday, holding the Eagles to 24 fewer points than in their first meeting in the 63-47 C1-6 triumph.
“We did a great job executing our defensive game plan.We wanted to limit the number of touches by their top two guys,” said Cardinal Coach Justin Harris. “We gave Appleby two good looks, and he hit them both.
“We did a good job of attacking and getting the ball inside, and we finished the game with some great free throw shooting.”
A long 3-pointer by Justin Appleby kept the Eagles close at 42-39 early in the fourth, but Boone Central/Newman Grove followed with 9-1 run that boosted the Cardinal advantage to double figures. Henry hit a pair of free throws and scored on a drive to open the quick blitz, Sullivan converted a three-point play following an O’Neill turnover, and Gentrup added two free throws for a 51-40 lead.
O’Neill had possession and a chance to cut the lead to five or six after Wyatt Liewer’s 3-pointer had pulled the Eagles within 53-45, but BC/NG rebounded a missed shot and Sullivan added a second three-point play to boost the margin back to 56-45.
From there, it was a matter of the Cardinals taking care of business at the free throw line.
Cardinals 62, Broken Bow 52
Boone Central/Newman Grove (18-7) did not wait until the fourth quarter for its key run in the C1-6 sub final, racing to early leads that sparked a 62-52 victory over Broken Bow Thursday.
The smaller Indians struggled to contain Sullivan, whose seven straight first-quarter points were a sign of things to come. Another Sullivan bucket late in the period gave BC/NG a 15-8 lead and the big senior added a three-point play and hook shot for a 20-9 advantage early in the second quarter.
Henry’s 3-pointer put the Cardinals ahead 25-9 and, following a brief spark by Broken Bow, Gentrup ended the half with two 3-point baskets sandwiched around a steal and driving layup, putting BC/NG up 33-17 at intermission.
“We did a great job getting the ball inside to Jessie. When they switched to zone, we attacked it really well and were able to find easy shots,” Harris praised. “I thought we did a great job of corralling their point guard, who is one of the top true point guards in the state.”
Two straight Sullivan buckets and a Gentrup drive made it 53-42 before Bow made its final surge in the fourth quarter. Padyn Borders hit two 3-point field goals as the Indians trimmed the margin to 55-50 with 2:22 to play. Once again, Sullivan responded, driving the baseline and converting a three-point play for a 58-50 Cardinal edge. Gentrup and Nelson each sank a pair of free throws in the closing stretch to seal the victory.
“Broken Bow didn’t quit – even when we were up 16 they battled back to cut it to five,” Harris acknowledged. “We continued to respond well to keep the lead.”
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