COLUMBUS -- Scotus Central Catholic was staring at the possibility of letting another chance at victory slip away Saturday afternoon.
Only this time, the Shamrocks didn't blink.
Instead they went on a 17-2 run midway through the second half on their way to a 59-49 victory over the Kearney Catholic Stars in a Centennial Conference game at the Dowd Activity Center.
It was the second time in three weeks that the Shamrocks (6-13) defeated a conference foe on the second night of back-to-back games. Scotus, which defeated Fremont Bergan on Jan. 18 one night after losing to Boone Central/Newman Grove, bounced back from Friday's 55-40 loss at Wahoo Neumann with a victorious performance over the Stars (3-16), the conference's newest member.
"We needed this. We needed to come out and play well," said Scotus head coach Tyler Swanson, whose team played at Neumann for the second time in 11 days, having downed the Cavaliers on their home court 51-47 in the first round of the conference tournament. "We had to play at Neumann on Friday night, and we knew they would be tough to beat the second time around. But the guys stepped up and played well today."
Scotus needed to step up when 6-foot-8 senior Marcus Benesch scored to pull the Stars within 38-36, capping a 7-0 spurt with 1 minute, 30 seconds left in the third period.
But Telegram Super Senior Trevor Kaslon, kept relatively quiet by the Kearney Catholic defense to that point, sparked the Scotus rally. After hitting a field goal to extend the lead to four with 20 seconds left, Kaslon came up with a steal and fed Grant Shanle, whose layup just beat the third-quarter buzzer for a 42-36 Shamrocks' lead.
Shanle, a junior, and classmate Caden Pelan led Scotus with 17 points each, and sophomore Tyler Palmer came off the bench to add 11. Kaslon had eight points, including his 21st dunk of the season, and a game-high eight rebounds.
"Anytime Trevor can be our fourth leading scorer, that's a good thing because he does so many other things for us," Swanson said. "Trevor had a hand in a lot of those other points."
Pelan carried that momentum into the fourth period, knocking down his fourth three-point goal of the game, and one possession later his fast-break layup on a bounce pass from senior Matt Strecker stretched the lead to 47-36 with 5:33 to play.
Scotus' two biggest runs in the game -- the other being an 8-2 spurt to end the first half -- came with the Shamrocks playing uptempo at both ends of the court.
"That's how we want to play," Swanson said. "We want to get out and pressure the other teams' shooters."
After a Stars' bucket, Strecker scored on a pass from Kaslon, and two sophomores, Palmer and Eric Mustard, combined for six straight points. Palmer's two free throws gave Scotus a 55-38 lead, the Shamrocks' biggest of the game, with 2:47 left.
Joshua Long scored 14 points to lead the Stars. Matt Masker, a first-team all-state quarterback who will be a preferred walk-on to the Nebraska football team, added 10 points and a team-high five rebounds.
Scotus is scheduled to return to Wahoo for the third time in three weeks on Tuesday when the Shamrocks will play at Class C-1, No. 2 Wahoo High.
"They play seven players and all seven can score," Swanson said. "That will put a lot of pressure on our defense. We will have to play well at both ends of the floor because they're 1-3-1 defense is as good as we'll see all year. If we can take care of the ball and make shots, we can make the game a lot closer than what some people think."