It took seven second-half lead changes, six ties and an 11-4 run to close it out, but the Class B No. 6 Ralston boys basketball team beat Omaha Gross for the first time in six tries Friday night.
“This was the definition of a Ralston-Gross game,” Ralston coach Bill Heard said after his team claimed a 62-55 victory over the archrival Cougars on Gross’ home court. “Up and down the court, lead changes, huge atmosphere for the kids. I’m impressed with how we were able to hold up.”
In the early going, the Rams (6-3) seemed to have Gross (5-5) outmatched, scoring the game’s first nine points, including a breakaway dunk from senior Jake Goltl.
Ralston also held the Cougars scoreless through the first four minutes, and Andy Chleborad made three 3s to help the Rams to a 17-9 advantage in the opening period.
“Their defense took away a lot of what we wanted to do,” Gross coach Tim Powers said. “What shots we did get, they seemed to always have an answer.”
But after steadily chipping away and taking advantage of turnovers and cold Ram shooting, Gross closed out the half on an 11-0 run and parlayed it into a 29-8 streak midway through the third quarter, led by two 3s from JJ Lebeda and another seven points off the bench from Cragin Missak.
Clinging to a 45-44 lead entering the fourth quarter, Gross ran squarely into a brick wall on the blocks in the person of Ralston’s Zach Flott, who had 12 of his 21 points and seven of his 15 rebounds in the final period.
The teams vacillated between leads before Ralston grabbed the final advantage with 3:08 remaining, the Rams capitalizing on 9-of-12 free throw shooting down the stretch.
“We made free throws and got the ball inside to Zach,” Heard said. “Once we do that and when Zach’s got his motor running, we know we’re going to do OK.”
The Cougars were also stymied by a Ram defensive effort that held Gross to just 2-of-12 shooting in the final three minutes and 3 of 18 overall in the fourth quarter.
“They got some stops at times when they needed them,” Powers said. “They did a nice job of finishing.”
Flott’s 21 points led all scorers, followed by 11 from Chleborad. Missak and Joe Coenen had 10 points apiece for the Cougars.
Ralston ................. 17 10 17 18—62
Gross ................. 9 15 21 10 —55
R: Zach Flott 21, Andy Chleborad 11, Josh Belling 9, Tonio Fidegnon 8, Matt Winkelman 4, Jake Goltl 9.
G: Zach Johnk 3, Zach Knicky 2, Cragin Missak 10, JJ Lebeda 9, Jake Hansen 9, Tommy Hamilton 4, Joe Coenen 10, Nick Wonder 6, Noah Arneson 2