Offense runs out of gas in second half as Bears’ hopes for State fall short
S. SIOUX CITY — Two of the top teams in Class C2 met Monday for a chance to go to State, but only one would go home with that invitation.
The LCC Bears made their case early on in their efforts of dethroning the two-time defending state champs from Ponca, but the Indians were able to extend the Bears’ 1-2-2 zone in the second half and pulled away with a 55-45 win in the C2-8 District title game at the South Sioux City Mini-Dome.
It was the fourth meeting — and the third this month — between two of the top 10 teams in Class C2, and after the first 16 minutes, LCC had the upper hand and looked to be on their way to making the school’s first appearance at State since 2002.
The game went back and forth through the first period as Ponca took a 12-10 lead, but the Bears scored the first six points of the second period to take a 16-12 advantage, getting baskets from Cael Hartung, and Evan Haisch and two freethrows by Izac Reifenrath.
The Bears led by as many as eight late in the first half after Noah Schutte drove in for two with 1:30 to go in the first half, but the Indians cut that deficit in half as they trailed 25-21 at intermission.
Coach Todd Erwin said the Indians were starting to extend LCC’s zone defense late in the first half, a prelude of what was to come in the final 16 minutes.
“They were getting in there a little more than we wanted them to, and in the third, the Kingsbury kid hit a couple of threes and they got some easy looks, and with that 1-2-2, if they start hitting those threes, you have to extend that defense out and it leaves some holes and they found them.”
Ponca’s offense got rolling in the second half. Carter Kingsbury’s first trifecta gave Ponca the lead for good at 26-25 in the first minute of the third quarter, and he drilled a 25-footer later in the period that sparked a 9-1 run to end the period, giving Ponca a 41-31 lead.
The Bears tried to stay with the Indians in the fourth quarter, but the offense just couldn’t get a run going as Ponca slowly pulled away in the final eight minutes.
“There was a lot of chasing going on, and when you get down this time of year against a good team with five or six kids who can handle the ball, you have to make a gamble and it’s going to go one way or the other,” Erwin said. “Ponca handled the ball good enough and worked it around, and that was tough for us.”
Schutte led the Bears with 19 points, Ty Erwin had 10, Reifenrath scored nine, Cael Hartung had four and Evan Haisch had three for the 22-5 Bears
It was a disappointing end to an outstanding campaign, and the three seniors who played their final game — Reifenrath, Cody Babl and Ryan Bathke — have a lot to be proud of, their coach said.
“Every year it seems like we’ve gained, and we got to the conference title and the district title and had a great record,” Erwin said. “There are a zillion things in life where you do all the right things and it’s not meant to be. We’d like to have been able to play Ponca in Lincoln instead of the game to go to Lincoln, but it just wasn’t in the cards.”
The third meeting between the two teams decided the C2-7 SubDistrict Thursday at Wayne High School, with the Indians winning a tightly-contested battle over the Bears, 50-48.
Neither team was able to control the action early on. Ponca built a six-point lead in the second period, but the Bears came back and outscored Ponca 10-4 in the final four minutes of the first half to forge a 27-27 tie at intermission.
Ponca led by five early in the fourth quarter when the Bears rode the hot hand of Schutte to a 10-0 run that gave LCC a 46-41 lead with 4:30 to go. Schutte, who scored a game-high 22 points, hit a pair of threes and added two more baskets to give the Bears their biggest lead of the game.
Ponca would come back late, tying the game on a pair of free throws with 2:49 to go. LCC had a chance to take the lead in the final minute, but a Ty Erwin runner in the lane rolled in and out with :52 left. The Indians rebounded and held for the final shot, finding Evan Anderson at the freethrow line with :07 to give Ponca the lead.
The Bears had a chance to pull out a miracle finish, but Izac Reifenrath’s 30-footer in the closing seconds missed the mark, giving Ponca the win and setting up Monday’s rematch.
The Bears opened C2-7 SubDistrict play with a 77-50 win over Crofton Tuesday at Wayne High School.
The Bears used a big second quarter, outscoring the Warriors 22-10 to take a 17-point halftime advantage and cruised to the subdistrict final.
Schutte had a game-high 23 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Bears. Reifenrath had 17 points and led in assists (8) and steals (6). Erwin added 13 points, Cael Hartung, Evan Haisch and Austin Hall each had eight points.
LCC 17 22 20 18 — 77
Crofton 12 10 13 15 — 50
LCC — Hartung 8, Reifenrath 17, Schutte 23, Haisch 8, Erwin 13, Hall 8.
LCC 13 14 9 12 — 48
Ponca 15 12 12 11 — 50
LCC — Hartung 1, Reifenrath 16, Schutte 22, Haisch 3, Erwin 4, Hall 2.
PONCA — McGill 4, Kneifl 13, Kingsbury 17, Reid 2, E. Anderson 14.
LCC 10 15 6 14 — 45
Ponca 12 9 20 14 — 55
LCC — Hartung 4, Reifenrath 9, Schutte 19, Haisch 3, Erwin 10,
PONCA — McGill 8, Kneifl 4, Masin 2, Kingsbury 21, Reid 12, E. Anderson 8.