GREELEY—The Nebraska Christian boys flipped the script.
Nearly one month after losing by 17 to Humphrey St. Francis, the Eagles came out and took it to the D-2 No. 6 Flyers, using a combination of size and aggressiveness to win 69-56 and claim the Goldenrod Conference basketball title.
“Feels amazing,” senior Gabe Langemeier said. “We’ve never got anywhere close to this in our careers. The improvement we made over the summer was huge. I can’t put it into words. It feels great.”
Nebraska Christian coach Andy Perdew agreed with Langemeier as he fought back tears.
“It’s big,” Perdew said. “For these kids, they’ve wanted this, so it’s big for them. It gives us a lot of confidence. We talked about how this was a goal but not the goal. Our goal now is to keep improving. I told them that a month ago, we lost by 17 and today, we won by 13. It’s an improvement thing. We want to get better every day. It’s really fun as a coach.”
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Nebraska Christian took a 30-23 lead into halftime and exploded for 21 third quarter points to take a 51-35 lead into the final stanza.
When asked about what the difference in the two games was, Perdew said he felt Nebraska Christian did a better job of controlling the pace of the game.
“We played a little faster than they wanted to maybe,” he said. “I think that was big for us. We pushed it which didn’t allow them to get into their defensive pressure so much. We talked a lot about that in our walk through today, that once we break the initial pressure, to keep going and get into our half court offense. Gabe had a big night, and we gave him the ball inside early. In that third quarter, they did a good job of taking him away. And then Micah was able to get going.”
The Flyers are known for using their press to create easy opportunities, and it worked for awhile as freshman guard Carson Wessel had six fast break points in the first two minutes of the game.
However, Nebraska Christian slowly figured it out in part due to the play of senior guard Riley Schreiber.
“I tell him all the time he’s my man,” Perdew said. “It’s nice having a kid that can handle the ball. He’s under control. Not much bothers him. He just does the right things and makes good decisions.”
When St. Francis couldn’t get transition layups, Nebraska Christian’s defense stifled their offense for the most part. They used man-to-man and zone defense throughout the night and Perdew said it was key to not let them establish a rhythm against one of them.
“I think our kids learned a lot from the last time we played them defensively,” he said. “We did some things differently. We played a lot of man tonight but also switched things up and went to some zone. Just trying to keep them off balance. I think that was a big thing for us.”
Langemeier and Micah Perdew each scored 17 points to lead Nebraska Christian (9-5). The Eagles play Heartland on Tuesday.
Wessel led St. Francis (10-5) with 21 points.
Nebraska Christian 69, Humphrey St. Francis 56
Nebraska Christian; 14; 16; 21; 18-69
St. Francis; 13; 10; 12; 21-56
Riley Schreiber 1 7-10 10, Oliver Herman 2 12-14 16, Drew Perdew 2 1-2 5, Micah Davis 1 0-0 2, Gabe Langemeier 7 3-8 17, Terry Sebek 0 2-2 2, Micah Perdew 8 0-0 17.
Carson Wessel 8 2-3 21, Kagan Hackerott 4 2-2 11, Devon Baumgart 1 1-1 3, Jaden Kosch 3 5-6 12, Isaac Classen 1 0-2 2, Gage Braun 4 3-6 7.
Humphrey St. Francis 52, Nebraska Christian 38
In the Goldenrod girls basketball championship, D-2 No. 3 Humphrey St. Francis and Nebraska Christian were going swing for swing early in the first few minutes of the game.
Then the Flyers took over.
St. Francis held a 15-9 lead at the end of the first quarter and slowly but surely built it up from there. The Flyers ran time off the clock in the fourth quarter, holding the ball at one point for nearly two and a half minutes.
While the strategy wasn’t popular with the fans in the stands, it worked as St. Francis held on to win 52-38, capturing the title.
“A little different style of game for us,” St. Francis coach Bryan Reichmuth said. “We played some 2-3 zone, and we usually are strictly man. We did come back to our man and played well. We never stall and take the air out of the ball game, but it felt like the right thing to do tonight in the fourth quarter. The girls did a really good job of it.”
The Flyers also went 15-for-17 at the free throw line, which helped them stave off a Nebraska Christian comeback.
Nebraska Christian went ten deep onto their bench as they dealt with foul trouble early. Coach Erin Mankin said with so many players coming in, they had a difficult time getting organized.
“Especially that first half, we probably didn’t know exactly where we were,” Mankin said. “Just subbing really fast and putting people in different positions and changing defenses a lot. We broke down a couple of times there. Their number 50 (Isabel Preister) just took it to us tonight, and we tried to key on her, but we struggled with that a little bit. We started working together better. Never gave up and did three different defenses. Just really proud of the kids.”
Presiter scored 19 points to lead St. Francis (13-4).
Senior Reghan Flynn paced Nebraska Christian (9-5) with 12 points.
Humphrey St. Francis 52, Nebraska Christian 38
Nebraska Christian; 9; 11; 11; 7-38
St. Francis; 15; 17; 10; 10-52
Gracie Boersen 2 2-3 6, Gracie Hackel 4 4-4 9, Amanda Needham 1 0-0 2, Ali Bruning 1 0-0 2, Reghan Flynn 4 4-6 12, Hope Seip 0 1-2 1, Sheridan Falk 2 0-0 4, Maryah Wheeler 1 0-1 2.
Emma Baumgart 3 5-5 11, Hannah Baumgart 1 2-2 4, Kylee Wessel 3 5-6 13, Anna Stricklin 1 0-0 2, Leah Kosch 1 0-0 3, Isabel Preister 8 3-4 19.