MAXWELL — The Brady Eagles got 34 points from Zach Mann and the team hit 14-of-15 free throws for the game as they downed South Loup 60-53 in the opening contest for both teams in the Maxwell Booster Tournament. It would take a 12-for-12 effort from the line in the fourth quarter for the Eagles to hold off a late Bobcats surge.
“We shot the best free throws of the season,” said Brady coach David Jacobs. “Early in the year we weren’t shooting very good. We’ve worked a lot on that in practice — it was pretty nice.”
South Loup (1-5) outscored Brady (5-1) 18-15 in the third quarter to close the Eagles lead to 46-40 heading into the final frame. And the Bobcats opened the fourth quarter with an eight-point run to take their first lead of the game at 48-46 with 4 minutes, 38 seconds remaining.
Tanner Cline hit on a drive and Charlie Blowers scored two in the lane. Eamon Schwarz hit one of two free throws before Isaak Cole ended the run with a 3 from the right wing.
After two Mann free throws, Levi Loper hit a pair of free throws for South Loup to take the lead back. Cole Viter and Mann each knocked down a pair of throws and then Michael Neiman hit the Eagles only basket of the final quarter off an inbounds pass for a 54-50 Brady lead at the 35-second mark.
Cline grabbed a rebound and was fouled as he scored, hitting for 3 the old-fashioned way, but it wasn’t enough as Brady made their final six free throws for the win.
The Bobcats second-half man-to-man defense caused problems for the Eagles offense, holding Mann to just 11 second-half points. Oscar Gonzalez hit a 3 to open and close the third quarter to help the Bobcats comeback effort.
“They were definitely keying on Zach,” Jacobs said. “He didn’t have anyplace to go. Every time he had his back to the basket there was another guy jumping him. They did a really nice job on him.”
“The second half I thought our kids really played well, especially on the defensive end,” said Bobcats coach Jeff Cole. “We were down 12 and we took a two point lead twice. Unfortunately they made their free throws down the stretch and made a few more plays than we did.”
Mann helped the Eagles take the early advantage by hitting for 23 of his 34 points in the first half. After putting up 10 points in the first quarter, Mann connected on three 3s in the second quarter along with a pair of 2s. One of the 2s was just inside the arc.
“Zach’s a great player,” said Jacobs. “We pretty much got them out of a zone and made them play man because he was draining the 3s.”
Jacobs said the second half defense of the Bobcats gave his team some problems.
“Once they got in that man I think they thought it was pretty effective. They did a really nice job with their man defense and we couldn’t get a lot accomplished against it.
“We had to buckle down on the defensive end and then make some free throws for us to win that.”
Loper led South Loup with 16 points and the only other Bobcat in double figures was Cline with 13.
“The kids played hard, I’ve got to give them that,” Cole said. “It’s a step in the right direction. I’m proud of the way they played. We dug too big of a hole in the first half.”
Brady will take on SMC, a 44-30 winner over Maxwell in the late game, today in the boys final.
Brady (5-1).........................16 15 15 14 — 60
South Loup (1-5).................14 8 18 13 — 53
Brady stats: (2 pt, 3 pt, ft, pt) Bryley Roper 1, 1, 0/0, 5; Troy Lusk 4, 0, 0/0, 8; Michael Neiman 3, 0, 0/0, 6; Cole Viter 0, 0, 4/4, 4; Zach Mann 8, 3, 9/10, 34; Nate Sitorius 1, 0, 1/1, 3.
South Loup stats: Layton Dockweiler 0, 0, 2/4, 2; Lafeyette Loper 2, 0, 0/0, 4; Eamon Schwarz 2, 0, 1/2, 5; Oscar Gonzalez 0, 2, 0/0, 6; Tanner Cline 6, 0, 1/1, 13; Levi Loper 7, 0, 2/6, 16; Isaak Cole 0, 1, 0/0, 3; Charlie Blowers 1, 0, 0/0, 2; Kaden Ellis 1, 0, 0/0, 2.