BEATRICE, Neb. — Falls City Sacred Heart and Johnson-Brock will see each other again in two weeks. And, quite possibly, again, again and again.
In what may be the first of a five-game series this season between two of Class D-2’s powerhouses, Sacred Heart held the top-ranked Eagles to eight points in the final 12 minutes for a 61-43 win in the Mudecas A Division semifinals Thursday night at Beatrice City Auditorium.
Tyler Witt scored 17 of his team-high 19 points in the second half for the No. 2 Irish, who will play Tri County in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. final. Tri County upset Class C-2 No. 1 Freeman 41-39.
Sacred Heart (13-1) will visit Johnson-Brock (12-1) on Jan. 24. They could meet up in the Pioneer Conference tournament, possibly in the Feb. 2 final at Humboldt. They could meet in the Class D2-1 subdistrict final Feb. 21 at Auburn. Game No. 5 would be at state.
Irish coach Doug Goltz said both teams know each other so well since they’ve been competing since middle school and before.
“We know how good a team they have and how good their players are,’’ Goltz said after his 634th career win. “You show up and hope the next game you play well again. They’re too good to not show up and play your best.”
Johnson-Brock led only once, at 35-34 with 3:59 left in the third quarter on a basket by Kaden Glynn — he led all scorers with 20 points. Sacred Heart ran off the final 11 of the quarter and maintained a double-digit lead following Witt’s basket with 5:53 left. Witt hit his season average of 18.5 points.
“Tyler’s really crafty. He’s really smart,” Goltz said. “He knows how to use his body. He’s not super-athletic, but just long arms, big hands and he makes free throws.”
One of the better semifinal crowds recently in the auditorium filled the venerable home of the Mudecas, which started in 1930 and came to the auditorium for the first time in 1954. It’s the longest-running basketball tournament in Nebraska outside the state championships. It’s also a milestone year — the 35th — for the girls tournament.
The stands were the fullest for Tri County’s win, its second of the season over a top-division team. Coach Cory Jensen said beating Freeman tops the Dec. 8 win over Centennial that is the Broncos’ only loss.
“I think we finally turned the corner as far as this season goes,’’ Jensen said. “It’s been a transition year. We had a good senior leader (Riley Knust) last year and now the guys are in new roles. It’s been a battle all year, but in practice, they work hard and get better every single day.
“Centennial was a good start for us, but this one means so much more because these guys have been grinding. I’ve been preaching stuff in practice and I think it’s finally showing.”
After a two-point second quarter left the Trojans in a 20-11 hole, they scored 19 in the third for a 30-29 lead. Cole Siems made three of his four 3s in a 20-point game.
Tri County never trailed in the fourth quarter, although Freeman caught up at 32-32. Siems made a 3 from pro range to break the tie, and Freeman’s last shot, a 3 from the left corner by Trevor Adams, spun out.
Johnson-Brock (12-1)………………10 11 14 8—43
Falls City Sacred Heart (13-1)……15 11 19 16—61
JB: Kaden Glynn 20, Ty Hahn 11, Dylan Rowe 10, Seth Moerer 2.
SH: Tyler Witt 19, Jake Hoy 14, Drew Bippes 12, Jarrot Simon 10, Kyle Bauman 2, Jakob Jordan 2, Anthony Froeschl 2.
Freeman (10-3)…………7 13 9 10—39
Tri County (10-3)……….9 2 19 11—41
F: Trey Yates 12, Tyler Adams 11, Brady Ideus 10, Gabe Eisenbarth 3, Kaleb Unvert 2, Logan Anderson 1.
TC: Cole Siems 20, Lucas Weise 12, Evan Larson 5, Creighton Niemeyer 2, Chad Niemeier 2.