Class B No. 9 Omaha Roncalli fended off an upset bid from a former conference foe on Friday, taking down Ralston 69-58.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
For most of the night, the game was back and forth and very competitive. The Crimson Pride picked up the double-digit victory in large part because of two separate runs that gave them control.
First, after a handful of lead changes early, Roncalli closed the first quarter on an 8-0 run to take an 18-11 lead. Junior X’arion Rankins scored two layups himself then dumped the ball off to fellow junior Brooks Shetlar for a layup at the buzzer to cap the run.
Ralston fell behind by 10 in the second quarter before cutting the deficit to five at halftime — 30-25. It was still anybody’s game at this point.
The Pride made another push to start the second half, opening the third quarter with an 8-1 run including 3s from juniors Hunter Giles and Brady McGill, and the Rams had to play catch-up the rest of the way.
Roncalli led by 12 heading into the fourth. Ralston made a push to start the final period, trimming the lead to eight, before a 3 from Giles — Roncalli’s only field goal of the fourth quarter.
Ralston played the foul game for the final four minutes or so to extend the game, and the Crimson Pride missed just enough at the free-throw line to keep the door ajar, but Ralston went 0-for-3 from deep and missed four free throws. The closest the Rams got was seven points a couple of times in the final two minutes. In total, Roncalli went 19-for-27 in the fourth from the foul line to secure the victory.
Deacon Courtney earned a spot on the varsity roster at Ralston as a freshman last season, though he averaged just 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds. Now standing at 6-foot-7, the southpaw has emerged as a force down low for the Rams.
Courtney is averaging just under 16 points and nine rebounds, and he’s third in Class B in rebounding among teams reporting to MaxPreps. He recorded his seventh double-double of the season on Friday, finishing with 19 points on 7-of-8 from the field and 5-of-5 from the foul line, 14 rebounds (five offensive) and two blocks.
Roncalli starts two 6-foot-3 forwards and brings a 6-foot-4 forward off the bench, so the Pride don’t have anyone that can match Courtney’s height on the block. They chose to swarm him any time he caught the ball near the basket early and made it difficult for him to create scoring opportunities. However, as the game went on, Ralston found ways to get him the ball — including Courtney crashing the offensive glass to create his own chances — and he took advantage of them. He does a good job of keeping the ball high and shows good touch on his finishes. He’s also terrific at high-pointing the ball and attacking the glass.
Courtney is having a terrific second season for the Rams and is a name to watch out for over the next couple of years.
Power of the Pride
The two top scorers in Friday’s game were Rams as Ralston senior Rex Buettenback scored a game-high 20 points on 7-of-14 from the field (3-of-7 from 3) and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line to go with Courtney’s 19, but the rest of the Rams combined for just 19 more points.
Roncalli, on the other hand, got offensive contributions from nearly everybody who stepped on the floor as eight of the nine members of the Crimson Pride who saw playing time found the scoring column.
McGill led the way with 16 points on 4-of-7 from the field (1-of-3 from 3) and 7-of-9 from the line with five rebounds. Senior guard Brent Heller wasn’t far behind with 15 points and he also dished out a game-high six assists. Giles went 3-for-4 from deep and chipped in 12 points. Shetlar scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench. Ben Carpenter, Rankins, Nick Kenney and Christian Swift combined for 16 points and four assists as well.
As a team, Roncalli shot 50% from the field including 5-of-13 (38.5%) from 3. With a better day from the charity stripe (they shot 62.9% overall and missed 13 of them), the Crimson Pride would have been flirting with 80 in a total team offensive effort.
Ralston is a tough team to figure out.
On the one hand, they’re 8-11 with five of their wins coming against fellow Trailblazer Conference members Nebraska City and Plattsmouth (the Pioneers are 0-18 while the Blue Devils are 5-13).
On the other, the Rams also have wins over Elkhorn (ranked sixth at the time and now back at sixth after a rough stretch), Beatrice (ranked seventh at the time and also currently seventh) and Platteview (ranked second all season).
The Rams defeated the Trojans 56-55 Thursday on a buzzer-beating layup from senior Cooper Helms with the assist to Courtney.
When Ralston is shooting the ball well as a team and has more than one or two guys rolling, it can be difficult team to beat. Unfortunately for the Rams on Friday, they didn’t get enough offensive support for Courtney and Buettenback as the team finished 4-for-19 from 3 to fall short of a second straight upset.
If the Rams can find some consistency, they could be dangerous down the stretch.
The NSAA designated last week, January 23rd to 28th, as NSAA Winter Officials Appreciation Week.
“During this time, the NSAA and our member schools will be making a special effort to show our appreciation and respect for those individuals who take time out of their busy lives to officiate,” said NSAA Supervisor of Officials Nate Neuhaus in a release.
Sadly, just one week later, we nearly had a very ugly scene. Late in the game, a fan in the bleachers began harassing an official and made an inappropriate gesture at him during a stoppage in play that set the official off. The official initially began approaching the fan to confront him before one of his partners held him back, and the official decided to walk out and remove himself from the situation to prevent it from escalating. The teams played the final 67 seconds of the game with the remaining two officials.
There is simply no excuse for that kind of behavior. I’m pretty vocal in my criticism of what I view as poor officiating at times — and I do believe it can and should be better as a whole at every level of the game — but the truth is it’s an incredibly difficult job, one fewer and fewer people are interested in performing. There’s no reason things should ever get personal between a fan and an official during a game, and instances like I witnessed on Friday will only make the local and national shortages worse and worse.