LINCOLN -- With 1.3 seconds left in the second overtime, Boone Central/Newman Grove faced a 66-64 deficit and had the entire length of the court to go in the opening round of the Class C-1 boys state basketball tournament.
All-state quarterback Dylan Gentrup fired the ball up court and a quick timeout by the Cardinals with .8 seconds left gave them the ball across the midcourt stripe.
Another inbounds pass, this time to Will Frey, gave BC/NG (19-8) a clean look for the win, but Frey’s shot was off the mark and No. 3 Broken Bow (23-3) held on for the victory in double-overtime Thursday at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
“We just wanted to get ball in the half court. We got a pretty clean look from Will Frey for three so, I mean, you can’t ask for much more,” BC/NG head coach Justin Harris said.
The Indians lost their first two meetings this season against the Cardinals, but avenged those losses when it mattered most. The third meeting was a lot like the first, a 49-45 BC/NG victory on Dec. 29. This time, the Cardinals came up on the other side of a close game.
“Our kids played hard, it was a great battle, just disappointing we came up short,” Harris said.
BC/NG had looks at the end of regulation and both overtimes, but all of them were off the mark.
The Cardinals, behind Cody Nelson, got out to a roaring start. The 6-foot senior, who averages 8.4 points per game, raced past that mark in the first quarter. Nelson knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers in the first couple minutes to give BC/NG an 8-6 lead. His steal and layup moments later made it 14-7. Nelson punctuated the first quarter with his third trey of the period as the Cardinals scored 21 points, 11 from Nelson, and led by 10 after the opening eight minutes.
“Cody Nelson came out on fire for us and that was huge,” Harris said. “We were focused and ready and knew they were going to play us tough.”
Jessie Sullivan added eight points in the first quarter and finished with 19 for the game.
“We really wanted to get the ball inside to Jessie Sullivan as much as we could,” Harris added. “He’s fabulous. He’s a smart player and when we get him the ball, it’s tough for anyone to guard him.”
Nelson’s fourth 3-pointer gave BC/NG a 24-13 lead early in the second period, but the senior cooled off after that, not scoring again the rest of the game.
Broken Bow went on a 5-0 run to pull back within six, 24-18, but still trailed 31-22 at the half.
The Indians came out in the second half with a purpose. Joshua Harvey converted a traditional 3-point play to open the third quarter and Broken Bow cut the Cardinals lead to 37-33 midway through the period. Padyn Borders converted on a drive to the hoop to make it a 2-point game and Grayson Garey’s 3-pointer knotted the game at 41-all, but Gentrup, who scored 12 points, answered with a 3-pointer to give BC/NG a 44-41 lead and the Cardinals carried that 3-point edge into the fourth quarter, leading 46-43.
The Indians opened the fourth quarter with four straight points to take its first lead since the opening quarter. Sullivan came back with a 3-point play to put BC/NG back in front 49-47.
Borders, who scored a game-high 22 points, tied the game at 53-all and the Cardinals were content to hold for the final shot with a minute left to play, but Gentrup’s jumper from the corner came up short.
“We trust Dylan as a shooter and it was a clean look. Those are plays he’s made for us,” Harris said.
Frey scored all four points for the Cardinals in the first overtime as BC/NG again held the ball for a final shot. This time, the Cardinals got an outside look and a tip in the closing seconds, both were off the mark.
“We had some great opportunities, we just came up short,” Harris said.
Borders scored six points for Broken Bow in the second overtime, helping the Indians out to a 65-61 lead.
Carter Henry, who scored 15 points, knocked down a 3-pointer with about 40 seconds left to cut the lead to one. A couple missed free throws from the Indians left the door open for the Cardinals, but the shots didn’t drop.
The loss ends a crazy run to the state tournament for the BC/NG, which included wins over O’Neill, No. 3 Broken Bow and No. 2 Winnebago.
“I’m very proud. I couldn’t have asked for a better group. We battled to get here and battled today,” Harris said.