HASTINGS, Neb. — Thanks to some timely 3-pointers, Class B No. 7 Grand Island Northwest never trailed in Friday’s showdown with Class C-1 No. 2 Adams Central.
But it took an unconventional stretch of treys for the Vikings to finally put the Patriots away.
With the lead down to two points, Northwest’s Zach Rouzee converted a 4-point play with 3:15 remaining. Casey Dahlkoetter followed with a 3-pointer 23 seconds later to help the Vikings’ lead balloon to nine points, setting up a 50-37 victory over the previously undefeated Patriots.
“That’s a big run,” Northwest coach Ryan Rathke said. “That’s seven points on two shots basically. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that. You see a guy getting fouled on a 3, but then to hit another 3. ...
“This was a close game. It was hard fought. When you can make a little run like that, it’s tough to recover from if you’re the opponent.”
Adams Central (12-1) trailed from the start, with Rouzee hitting the first of seven Northwest 3-pointers just seven seconds into the game.
But despite falling behind by nine points in the third, the Patriots got to within 37-35 in the fourth on a Jake Fowler basket.
Then Rouzee hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game, and he was fouled on his shot from the left wing.
After Rouzee converted the 4-point play, the Patriots came up empty on their possession. Dahlkoetter swished his only 3-point try of the game with 2:52 left to give Northwest (12-1) a 44-35 advantage.
“(The lead) is two. We’re competing,” Adams Central coach Zac Foster said. “There are three-and-a-half minutes left in the fourth quarter. Four-point play. We come down and don’t score. They get a 3 in transition, and that’s it.
“The complexion of the game changes. We have to foul. We have to trap and extend ourselves. We knew against a good team like them we couldn’t extend ourselves too much because they’d make us pay.”
Alex Larsen hit four free throws before the Patriots could score again.
While Northwest was hitting 50 percent (16 for 32) from the floor and 46.7 percent (7 for 15) on 3-pointers, its defense was disrupting the Patriots.
Adams Central shot only 32.5 percent (12 for 40), including 28.6 percent (6 for 21) in the second half.
“You give credit to coach Rathke. He had a great game plan,” Foster said. “They played a matchup zone defense which they put in (Thursday) according to their coaches, and it really gave us fits.
“At times we executed and got what we wanted, but the goal of that was to keep us on the perimeter and not let us drive and not let us get the ball into the paint. They did a good job of executing.”
Rathke left very satisfied with his team’s execution.
“I just think our kids did a great job with our game plan,” he said. “We had three keys to the game. No. 1, we had to keep them of the boards. They are very, very difficult to keep off the boards. They do an outstanding job crashing the boards.
“Our second key was not letting them drive. I think they’re very good in the half-court driving and setting themselves up for shots. Our third key was just taking care of the ball and not letting them get transition buckets off of turnovers. I thought we dictated all of those things in the first half.”
Even when the Patriots seemingly did everything right, they saw Northwest answer.
After Adams Central ran most of the final minute of the first half off the clock, Fowler hit a 3-pointer with less than five seconds left to pull the Patriots within 25-23.
But Northwest quickly got the ball to Larsen, and he swished a half-court shot from near the right out of bounds line at the buzzer.
“You give credit to their kids because every time we’d make a run at them, they’d answer and seem to make a play, just like the end of the first half,” Foster said. “Jake hits the big 3, and then immediately the momentum is gone when they hit the half-court shot.”
The Vikings couldn’t quite carry that into the third quarter. They scored only one basket in the first four minutes but used a late 6-0 run to salvage the quarter.
“The third quarter we just turned the ball over,” Rathke said. “I’m still puzzled a little bit. Adams Central is a very good defensive team, but in the third quarter, we started making careless passes.
“Then we dictated the fourth quarter. I’m proud of the way our team finished the game in the fourth quarter.”
Rouzee finished with a game-high 18 points, including a 4-for-6 performance on 3-pointers. Larsen added 11 points.
Fowler topped the Patriots with 12 points.
Grand Island Northwest (12-1) ................. 14 14 8 14—50
At Adams Central (12-1) ................. 9 14 7 7—37
GINW: Waters 1-4 3-4 5, Larsen 3-9 4-4 11, Rouzee 6-9 2-2 18, McNelis 2-2 1-2 5, Kraft 1-3 1-2 3, Dahlkoetter 2-2 0-0 5, Bockmann 1-2 0-0 3, Koepp 0-0 0-0 0, Havranek 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-32 11-14 50.
AC: Fowler 4-10 2-2 12, Kirkegaard 1-4 0-0 3, Overmiller 3-13 2-3 9, Ackerman 1-1 0-0 2, Matt Brown 3-7 3-6 9, Shuck 0-1 0-0 0, Marc Brown 1-3 0-1 2, Lindblad 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 13-40 7-12 37.
3-point field goals: NW 7-15 (Waters 0-1, Larsen 1-4, Rouzee 4-6, Dahlkoetter 1-1, Bockmann 1-2, Havranek 0-1), AC 4-14 (Fowler 2-4, Shuck 0-1, Kirkegaard 1-2, Overmiller 1-5, Matt Brown 0-1, Lindblad 0-1). Fouled out: Matt Brown. Rebounds: NW 22 (Kraft 6), AC 25 (Overmiller 7). Assists: NW 10 (Larsen 4), AC 6 (Fowler 3). Turnovers: NW 13, AC 13. Total fouls: NW 14, AC 13. Technicals: none.