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Kearney Catholic hands Grand Island Central Catholic first loss
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Kearney Catholic hands Grand Island Central Catholic first loss

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Kearney Catholic’s defense made up for struggles on the free-throw line during Friday’s highly-ranked showdown against Grand Island Central Catholic.

The Class C-1 No. 3-rated Stars held the C-2 No. 1 Crusaders to an 11-for-29 performance from the floor to claim a 49-41 victory Friday.

That snapped the 17-game winning streak by the defending C-2 state champions, who also had two of their four losses last season come at the hands of Kearney Catholic.

Stars coach Bob Langan said preparation and execution led to slowing down GICC (9-1).

“Our scout guys did a fantastic job getting us ready all week for this, so hats off to them,” he said. “Then hats off to our guys that get into the game and executed that game plan for us. I thought we did a really nice job finding shooters and then when we had to help and rotate, it seemed like if (Isaac) Herbek or (Marcus) Lowry had an open shot, our next guy rotated over and we were fine.”

Central Catholic’s biggest run of the game was six points in the fourth quarter after it had fallen behind 41-26. GICC struggled mightily from outside, missing on its first nine 3-point attempts.

“They’re really good. They get up and guard you,” Central Catholic coach Tino Martinez said. “(Garret) Schmaderer and (Brett) Mahony and those guys are so good and then they’re so physically strong. They’re definitely difficult to attack, and this is part of what they cause you to do and part of us standing around way too much in the first half. We didn’t cut, didn’t move, didn’t screen. That’s even easier to guard yet.

“So when you are going against a defensive team as good as them, if you don’t make them guard actions — even if you’re not making shots, we didn’t make them guard anything in the first half.”

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Kearney Catholic (10-1) led 20-13 at the half then used a 12-0 run in the third quarter to go up 32-16.

“(After) getting the lead, we were kind of stagnant offensively. ...,” Langan said. “Then we got some really good looks for Brett and got some kickout stuff to Turner (Plugge) and (Dylan) Merz had some drives. That was big to get momentum back.”

Martinez said: “They did more in the middle parts of the game to win than we did.”

But the Stars had trouble closing things out in the fourth. They went 10-for-23 from the line in that period — including missing the front ends of all three 1-and-1s.

GICC, which was 17-for-20 on free throws in the game, was able to chip back to within 46-41 on an Isaac Herbek 3-pointer with 49 seconds left. But Mahony — who had a team-high 13 points — hit one free throw and then a GICC turnover at midcourt really dampened the comeback chances.

“They really play well in big games, and they did that again tonight,” Martinez said. “You’ve got to credit everything to them. Brett Mahony is as good a player as we’re going to play against and then the pieces around him are good.”

He said that giving up six offensive rebounds in the first half was as costly as any mistakes in the final 90 seconds.

Plugge added 12 points for the Stars while Herbek finished with a game-high 16 for the Crusaders.

GICC has a quick turnaround to its next challenge. It travels to undefeated and C-2 No. 3-rated Doniphan-Trumbull for a Saturday 3:30 p.m. showdown.

“Mentally and physically we just have to be tough enough to do it,” Martinez said. “Tonight was a backyard brawl, and I knew it was going to be. I think Kearney Catholic will probably tell you the same thing. We need to be able to answer the bell tomorrow with another very good team in Doniphan-Trumbull.”

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