Omaha Concordia hosted the semifinals of the Centennial Conference Tournament on Friday night.
Top-seeded Grand Island Central Catholic started and finished strong in a 60-42 win against No 5 Fremont Bergan, then the third-seeded and host Mustangs fell to No. 2 Kearney Catholic 49-36.
Here are five thoughts on the four semifinalists and the championship matchup set for Saturday night.
Grand Island Central Catholic
The Crusaders used an 11-0 run to take a 20-7 lead one possession into the second quarter. Bergan got the lead back down to single digits late in the third quarter, but Central Catholic doubled up the Knights 14-7in the fourth quarter to slam the door shut on a comeback attempt.
Central Catholic’s size and athleticism proved to be too much for the Knights to overcome. The Crusaders had 21 opportunities for offensive rebounds and secured the ball on 13 of them. Bergan primarily played a zone defense and struggled to rebound out of it.
Dei Jengmer, a 6-foot-9 senior, dropped a double-double with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting, 10 rebounds (five offensive) and three blocks plus a number of other altered or discouraged shots. After the game, Jengmer shared on Twitter that he had received an offer from Division-II Chadron State.
Junior wing Marcus Lowry had a strong showing as well with 12 points, seven rebounds (four offenisve), two steals and two blocks. All five starts scored at least seven points for the balanced Crusaders. Central Catholic only shot 2-of-14 from deep, but made up for that by converting 23 of their 31 2-point attempts (74.2%).
Bergan struggled mightily out of the gates, shooting 3-of-13 from the field and falling behind 18-7 after the first quarter. The Crusaders pulled ahead 22-9 before Bergan settled in and played them even the rest of the half. They outscored the Crusaders 14-12 in the third quarter, but didn’t have enough firepower to make a comeback in the fourth.
Gavin Logemann, a 6-foot-4 forward, shook off a rough first quarter to lead the Knights in scoring with 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the last three quarters. He displayed a soft touch, dropping in a few tough floaters.
Max Nosal, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, added 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, showing off his athleticism on a couple of explosive takes as well as some crafty ball-handling on a couple of buckets in isolation.
The Stars flexed their defensive muscles on Friday night, holding the Mustangs to single digits in each of the last three quarters on their home floor. Kearney Catholic limited Concordia to 30.8% shooting including 5-of-20 from deep. The Stars took a two-point lead into halftime then outscored the Mustangs 27-16 in the second half.
Kearney Catholic didn’t shoot any better from the 3-point line (4-of-18) but finished better inside the arc. Logan O’Brien led all scorers with 13 points.
Kearney Catholic’s star junior Brett Mahony had a double-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds (six offensive) and three assists, and he put an exclamation point on the win with a breakaway slam in the final minute.
Concordia did a great job hanging around despite their offensive struggles. Kearney Catholic likes to play inside-out, posting up Mahony or O’Brien (both 6-foot-4) on smaller guards, and Concordia did a great job of making that tough with a combination f physically and swarming double-teams.
The Mustangs finally found the touch from the perimeter in the third quarter, knocking down back-to-back 3s to tie the game at 26-all midway through the period. However, Kearney Catholic used a 12-2 run to build a 10-point lead from there and salted away the rest of the game as the Mustangs shot just 1-of-7 from deep in the fourth quarter.
Zachary Kulus led the way with 12 points and five rebounds while navigating foul trouble all game. Ian Groninga got off to a great start with seven points (four free-throws and a 3-pointer without a miss) in the first quarter and finished with 10 points, five boards and a pair of assists.
Friday’s results set up a rematch between Grand Island Central Catholic and Kearney Catholic with the conference title on the line. The Stars blew out the Crusaders 56-35 back on Jan. 8, handing them their first loss of the season. However, Jengmer missed that game with a foot injury. He’s healthy now and gives the Crusaders a tough one-two punch at center alongside his younger brother Gil (6-foot-8).
Kearney Catholic is going to need a big game out of Mahony and better than the 2-for-8 3-point performance O’Brien and fellow senior Blake Thiele had on Friday night. The Crusaders will need Lowry and Doane commit Koby Bales to stuff the stat sheet to counteract what Mahony is going to do on the other end.
Tipoff at Concordia is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday.