The Ashland-Greenwood Holiday Tournament final on Monday produced one of the best games of the high school season so far as the host Bluejays held on to beat Omaha Roncalli 62-55 in overtime thanks to a spectacular effort from a sophomore star.
Here are five thoughts on the championship game.
This game is what a championship should look like. First of all, the atmosphere was terrific as Roncalli traveled well and the Ashland-Greenwood community showed up in force. The gym was packed and loud all game long.
As for the game itself, the action was intense. The game was so good it deserved an extra four minutes to determine a winner. On one play in the second half, it felt like every player on the floor managed to get a hand on a loose ball as it bounced around and half the players hit the floor diving after it, ultimately ending up with Roncalli possession and a timeout.
The Bluejays were in control for most of the game, building up a double-digit lead a handful of times, but the Crimson Pride came storming back in the third quarter.
Ashland-Greenwood took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter and the two teams more or less went shot for shot the rest of regulation. Roncalli tied it up with just over two minutes to play. After three more points apiece, both teams had a shot to go ahead in the final minute and both came up empty, leading to overtime.
The game shifted back into Ashland-Greenwood’s favor in the extra period as the Bluejays pulled away, but Roncalli kept battling all game long, turning what might have been a blowout into one of he best games I’ve seen all season.
The story of this game was the play of Ashland-Greenwood’s sophomore star, Cale Jacobson. He exploded for 40 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Class C1 Bluejays to a win over one of the best teams in Class B.
At 6-foot-3, Jacobsen is the tallest player in Ashland-Greenwood’s rotation but he’s also the most skilled, equally comfortable running the point and making plays off the bounce or posting up inside. He put up 23 points in the first half including 16 in the second quarter and was outscoring Roncalli by himself midway through the third quarter.
Jacobsen shot 11-of-20 from the field including 4-of-6 from deep (he had all but one of Ashland-Greenwood’s five made 3-pointers) and 14-of-16 from the foul line, tying a school record for made free-throws which he set in the Bluejays’ last game on Saturday.
In two wins at the Ashland-Greenwood Holiday Tournament, Jacobsen put up 68 points on 18-of-33 from the field, 4-of-9 from 3 and 28-of-35 from the foul line with 23 rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
The final turning point in the game came at the 2:43 mark of the overtime period. Jack Dotzler, Roncalli’s senior point guard, fouled out on a questionable-at-best block call (it looked initially like the official was winding up to call a charge, but then changed his motion and signaled block). With Dotzler on the bench, the Bluejays outscored the Crimson Pride 9-2 in overtime to earn the victory.
Dotzler is the engine that makes Roncalli go and as been his whole varsity career. He impacts the game in so many ways, from his scoring to his distributing to his defense. He had two three-point plays in the fourth quarter, first pulling Roncalli within one and then tying it up. He finished with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting and 4-4 from the line, seven assists and six rebounds and spent a lot of the game matched up with Jacobsen despite giving up a good five inches.
Dotzler, who will play at Morningside next year, went over 1,000 career points during the game, and he’s done it while also being one of the best distributors in the state throughout his career.
Role Players Step Up
Jacobsen was the star of the show, and he was the only Bluejay in double figures, but a couple of others made some big plays down the stretch.
After Roncalli had rallied to pull within one on Dotzler’s first three-point play, Jacobsen missed a shot around the basket but senior forward Trey Comstock tapped the ball out to a teammate for an offensive rebound, and he got the ball back later in the possession for a layup. He scored all five of his points in the fourth quarter which was much-needed as Roncalli finally started to slow Jacobsen down.
In the overtime, junior Jarrod Nafzinger stepped up. In the final minute of regulation with the game tied, Nafzinger tried to attack the basket and turned the ball over trying to feed it to a teammate. Dotzler wasn’t able to get his shot at the buzzer to fall, however, leading to overtime.
Nafzinger scored Ashland-Greenwood’s first six points in overtime. He was the one who forced Dotzler’s fifth foul with a drive to the basket. He split the free throws on that foul, then converted a three-point play to put the Bluejays up four. He tacked on another two free throws to finish with eight points in total — six in overtime and two in the fourth quarter.
Live by the 3, Die by the 3
Roncalli’s inability to contain Jacobsen was the Pride’s biggest problem, but had they shot it better they still likely would have won even with a 40-piece from the sophomore.
Roncalli starts a four-guard lineup and plays more minutes with a five-guard lineup than its starting lineup. Dotzler and fellow sub-6-foot senior Sane Orr are both pretty good at scoring around the basket despite their lack of height, but even so, the Pride needs to shoot the ball well from the perimeter to beat good teams. That didn’t happen on Monday as they shot 4-of-22 from 3.
Senior guard Taiden Red, who dazzled in the state tournament last season and is one of the best 3-point shooters in the state, was only 3-of-11. Dotzler missed both of his attempts. Mitch Hines, a senior guard and the team’s sixth man, got some really good looks and couldn’t knock any of them down.
Roncalli was only 1-of-9 from 3 in the first half, which helps explain the nine-point deficit it faced. The Crimson Pride rallied in the third quarter, however, and a big part of that was three straight 3-pointers (two by Red and one by Orr) that pulled them to within four. They went 0-of-r7 in the fourth quarter and overtime, however. Ball game.
I expect this game to be more of an outlier than something we’ll see from Roncalli moving forward.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.