KEARNEY, Neb. — Kearney Catholic coach Don Liess told his players at halftime Friday night that if they could hold Grand Island Central Catholic under 20 points, they would win.
He wasn’t dreaming.
The Stars, who had limited the Crusaders to 11 points in the first half, did an even better job in the second half, posting a 33-16 victory.
“We concentrated on some defensive things this week, and at halftime of our Wood River game (Thursday night) we were ahead 44-17,” Liess said. “We told our guys that you’re really going to have to come out and play defense because GICC plays great defense.
“I knew it was going to be a struggle to score on them, and it was tonight.”
No Kearney Catholic player reached double figures, and the Stars (11-0) scored just 11 points in the second half. But their struggles paled in comparison to Grand Island Central Catholic’s.
The Crusaders (6-5) went into double digits with a basket with 47 seconds left in the first half. Their next basket — their only one in the second half — was a 3-pointer by sophomore Brett Wiens with 1:23 left in the game. Over a stretch of 15:24, they managed only two free throws.
“You have to give K.C. credit, they’re known for trapping and trying to make things difficult with their quickness and athleticism, and they did that awfully well,” GICC coach Bill Gavers said.
The Crusaders committed 19 turnovers. They shot just 28 percent and weren’t much better from the free-throw line. Gavers said he believed the Crusaders’ 16 points were the lowest total in school history.
“If there’s 19 times you don’t get a shot, that causes problems. Then, when you go 3 for 9 from the free-throw line, that doesn’t help in a game where points are tight,” he said. “And, we didn’t get enough inside touches. Our bigs are pretty good, but again, if you turn it over 19 times that means you didn’t get any kind of a shot, let alone an inside touch.”
Younhanna Ghaifan, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, was held to six points before fouling out. Guard Brady Brokaw added seven points, but they were the only two Crusaders to score before Wiens’ 3-pointer.
“We do a lot of things really well. Our players’ ability to execute game plans and be in position defensively and take away some of the things maybe they wanted to get done allowed us to be in the game,” Gavers said. “But we have to improve on the offensive end to cash in on those opportunities.”
When asked what offensive opportunities Kearney Catholic cashed in on, Liess said, “Not a lot.”
The Stars were 3 of 21 from 3-point range and attempted only four free throws.
“I knew it was going to be a struggle. ... They’re not going to let you transition and you’re going to have to take your time on the offensive end,” Liess said. “Sometimes you’re going to have to grind out a win, and we did that tonight.”
Alex Liess led the Stars with nine points. Brian Husmann and David Squiers scored six each, and Husmann also had a team-high six rebounds.
GICC (6-5) 5623—16
At Kearney Catholic (11-0) 101274—33
GICC: Phoenix Stevenson 0-0 0-0 0, Brady Brokaw 2-7 3-3 7, Harry Heidelk 0-1 0-0 0, Riley Shoemaker 0-4 0-2 0, Younhanna Ghaifan 3-4 0-4 6, John Rohweder 0-4 0-1 0, Jackson Buck 0-0 0-0 0, Brett Wiens 1-1 0-0 3, Trevor Holen 0-0 0-0 0. Total 6-21 3-10 16.
KC: Matt Moore 2-7 0-0 4, Brian Husmann 3-5 0-0 6, Connor Streit 0-5 0-0 0, David Squiers 2-9 0-0 6, Alex Liess 4-10 0-1 9, Blake Holtmeier 1-2 2-3 4, Derek Jackson 1-2 0-0 2, Isaac Richter 1-2 0-0 2. Total 14-42 2-4 33.
3-point goals: GICC 1-7 (Wiens 1-1, Rohweder 0-4, Heidelk 0-1, Shoemaker 0-1), KC 3-21 (Squiers 2-9, Liess 1-5, Streit 0-3, Moore 0-2, Holtmeier 0-1, Richter 0-1). Rebounds: GICC 23 (Shoemaker 5), KC 27 (Husmann 6). Turnovers: GICC 19, KC 8. Assists: GICC 3 (Stevenson 2), KC 9 (Husmann 2, Holtmeier 2, Liess 2).