Playing one of its best halves of basketball at the most crucial of times – again sparked by sophomore supersub Wyatt Mazour, along with the inspired effort by junior Derek Gentrup – Class C1 #5 Boone Central/Newman Grove surged past the #3 Wayne Blue Devils 51-38 in front of a packed house of over 1,500 fans at Battle Creek High School Monday night.
With the victory, the Cardinals claimed the C1-4 District championship and secured a berth in the 2013 Nebraska Boys State Tournament.
How sweet it was for the resilient Cardinals, who again overcame some early adversity – erasing a 17-8 second-quarter deficit – and made the big plays in the second half of the season’s biggest game.
“This was a great win!” exclaimed Coach Dan Zoucha, who has participated in state tournaments as a Cardinal player and assistant coach and will now take his first team to Lincoln as a head coach.
“These guys have worked hard. It’s taken a long time getting this (program) where we wanted it to be. We’ve had a lot of kids come through our program who helped build what we’ve got.”
After a trio of 3-point field goals by Wayne’s Jalen Barry and Luke Retchwisch helped boost the Blue Devils to a 17-8 advantage early in the second period, BC/NG switched to a long, quick, shifting zone that stymied their Mid-State foe for the rest of the contest.
As BC/NG put the clamps on defensively, the Cards began to find their rhythm on offense, as well.
Junior Pierce Koch made one of the game’s biggest shots, hitting a corner 3-pointer for Boone Central/Newman Grove’s first points of the second quarter and ending a drought of over five minutes.
Then, trailing 17-11, Mazour exploded for a fast break layup off a Cardinal steal and junior Derek Gentrup, who would finish 7-of-7 at the foul line, sank two free throws after an offensive rebound. Following an offensive foul on the Blue Devils, Mazour dished to Gentrup for a layup that knotted the score at 17-17 with 1:30 remaining in the first half.
Carter Johnson made it 12 straight for BC/NG with a 3-pointer from the top of the key before Barry hit a driving bank shot to pull Wayne within a point at halftime.
BC/NG continued to take advantage of those opportunities following intermission. Mazour was in the middle of one of the key stretches of the contest midway through the third period.
After making a steal, his first 3-pointer of the night gave BC/NG a 25-23 lead. Two minutes later, with the Cards up 27-25, Wayne missed a pair of free throws and Blue Devil Ben Hoskins missed a point-blank attempt after grabbing the rebound. Mazour then rained in another trey and, following a BC/NG steal, Koch fed Gentrup for a fast-break finish that pushed the Card advantage to 32-25.
Gentrup sank consecutive baseline jumpers to open the fourth, giving BC/NG 10-point leads of 38-28 and 40-30 with 5:55 to play.
The Blue Devils made one final challenge as Grant Anderson sandwiched jumpers around a BC/NG turnover, cutting the gap to six, but Mazour answered with his third 3-point bomb for a 43-34 Cardinal lead.
Boone Central/Newman Grove applied the final nails with 1:30 remaining – Gentrup tipping an inbounds lob pass to senior Beau Bremer, whose layin gave BC/NG a 48-38 bulge and started a “state tournament party” by Cardinal fans.
“We are so proud of this group. Every one of these players has done what we have asked … and then some,” Zoucha said. “We are excited about the opportunity to play in the state tournament. It is a good reward for these kids, but by no means are they satisfied.
“They believe they have more to accomplish.”
Cardinal Nation believes!
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