LINCOLN — After feasting on some late-morning turnovers, a 7-of-14 effort from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter nearly had Hartington Cedar Catholic coach Matt Steffen reaching for antacids.
But sophomore James Kaiser scored 21 points as the Trojans (21-7) managed to hold on for a 56-49 win over North Platte St. Patrick’s in the first round of the Class C-2 state tournament at Lincoln High here Thursday, allowing Steffen to save his Rolaids for Friday’s 9 a.m. semifinal.
“Oh my gosh, did we shoot 50 percent? I didn’t think it was that good,” Steffen said. “Obviously, that’s not the plan. That’s what I told them in the locker room, you make a few more of those and we could’ve won this game by 15 points.”
For the game, the Trojans were just 10-of-20 from the line but forced 22 Irish turnovers — including 15 in the first half as they built a 26-19 lead.
Joseph Clinch, who came in averaging nearly 16 points per game but only attempted one shot in the first half, kept the Irish around in the third quarter by scoring 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Still, a late putback by Cedar Catholic’s Pat Wieseler gave the Trojans a 40-33 lead heading into the fourth.
“That’s the one thing we spent a lot of time about offensively at halftime is that we were really going to try to get it inside to Joseph,” St. Pat’s coach William O’Malley said. “And he did a really nice job of finishing.”
And after St. Pat’s (22-4) had cut the deficit to 42-37 on a pair of Joseph O’Malley free throws, Kaiser responded. Just moments after taking a blast to the face while attempting to penetrate the Irish defense, Kaiser buried a 3 following a Kathol steal and then picked up a steal and layup of his own to push the score to 49-37 with 5:22 left.
St. Pat’s wasn’t able to get any closer than six points the rest of the way despite the poor effort at the line.
“We had a few critical turnovers. I think we probably had a fair number of turnovers, but the bigger issue was that they were at critical times,” O’Malley said.
Clinch finished with 15 points to lead St. Pat’s. Alex Harms also reached double figures for the Irish with 12 points, while Mark Mayfield finished with seven as St. Pat’s finished just 1-of-10 from 3-point range.
Kaiser was 6-of-13 from the field and 7-of-10 at the free-throw line for his 21 points while adding four steals and two assists. Six-four junior Grant Howell also reached double figures for Cedar Catholic with 12 points. Kathol finished with nine points, six rebounds and four assists as the Trojans reached the second round for the second year in a row.
“I think that winning the first game down here is the toughest. I’ve never won a championship, and I’m sure that’s tough, too,” Steffen said. “We go through that, and we’ll go from here.”
North Platte St. Patrick’s (22-4)..................10 9 14 16 — 49
Hartington Cedar Catholic (21-7)...............10 16 14 16 — 56
NPSP: Joe O’Malley 1 2-2 4, Andrew O’Neill 3 0-0 6, Brandon Niesen 1 0-0 3, Matt Buhrman 1 0-0 2, Joseph Clinch 7 1-2 15, Alex Harms 5 2-2 12, Mark Mayfield 3 1-2 7. Totals 21 6-8 49.
HCC: Logan Feilmeier 4 0-3 9, Taylor Kathol 3 3-6 9, Trent Jansen 1 0-1 3, James Kaiser 6 7-10 21, Grant Howell 6 0-0 12, Pat Wieseler 1 0-0 2. Totals 21 10-20 56.