The Aquinas boys basketball team did what it took to get the 54-50 home win over Lakeview on Saturday.
“When it came down to winning and crunch time, they made a couple plays that really made the difference,” said Lakeview coach Bryce Roth .
Many of those plays came from Aquinas senior Tyler Vavrina, who knocked down three of his team’s eight 3-pointers and scored a game-high 18 points.
Roth called the 6-foot-2 guard the X-factor.
“He’s just a tremendous player. He’s a gamer,” the Lakeview coach said. “We couldn’t quite slow him down.”
Every 3-pointer Vavrina hit gave Aquinas its biggest lead of that quarter, including one that followed a Kyle Ruth block on the defensive end and put the Monarchs in front 51-42 with under three minutes left in the game.
Lakeview was able to cut the deficit to 52-48 on a Cameron Drozd layup with 23.7 seconds remaining, but the Monarchs hit enough free throws late to hold off the Vikings.
“We stayed with it, stayed scrappy,” Aquinas head coach Kyle Eller said. “We were able to continue to hang onto the lead and make shots when we had to.”
The Monarchs trailed 13-12 after Lakeview’s Landon Vogt hit a jumper to close the first quarter then opened the second period on an 11-2 run capped by Vavrina’s first trey.
The Vikings responded with a 9-0 run over the next three minutes that included a three-point play from Sean Donnelly and two free throws each from Vogt and Maverick Pilakowski to retake the lead at 24-23.
A steal by Vavrina that set up a 3-pointer from Braden Smith ended the spurt and Aquinas took a 29-26 advantage into the locker room. Smith hit two 3-pointers in the game and finished with 11 points.
Aquinas was up by as many as seven in the third quarter following Vavrina’s second triple before Lakeview closed to within 42-38 entering the final period.
“I thought our guys were a little bit rattled there in the second and third quarters,” Eller said. “I thought the fourth quarter they showed a little bit better composure, just kind of finishing it out like they needed to.”
Drozd, who scored 10 points for Lakeview, hit two 3-pointers in the third quarter and Cody Schaad added another.
Donnelly, a 6-foot-4 senior, led the Vikings with 11 points as Lakeview exploited a height advantage down low. Luke Rollman, a 6-foot-8 senior, added seven points and Vogt had eight, all in the first half.
Roth liked his team’s balance on offense, but wasn’t thrilled about the 14 turnovers Aquinas’ press defense forced.
“On the road, you have to have 10 or less,” he said of the giveaways. “We want to make sure we take better care of the ball.”
Aquinas, which also got five points each from Daniel Stara and Matt Nadrchal, has won eight of its last nine games, with the loss coming Friday at Class C-1, No. 4 Grand Island Central Catholic.
The Monarchs (11-3) get a break in their schedule after playing three games in the past week. They return to the court Friday at Class C-2, No. 2 Hastings St. Cecilia, and Eller has a few things in mind to work on between now and then.
“More than anything else we need a week of practice,” he said.
January 13 at Aquinas
Lakeview 13 13 12 12 – 50
Aquinas 12 17 13 12 – 54
Scoring – L: Donnelly 11, Drozd 10, Vogt 8, Rollman 7.
A: Vavrina 18, Smith 11, Dtara, Narchal 5, Rech 4.
Rebounds – A: Rech 5, Stara, Ruth 4. Assists- A: Zavodny 3, Ruth, Vavrina, Nadrchal 2. Steals- A: Vavrina 3.