Hartington Cedar Catholic vs Freeman

LINCOLN — For every step forward the Hartington Cedar Catholic Trojans took on Friday afternoon, the Freeman Falcons took two or three more.

The Falcons beat the Trojans 63-45 in the Nebraska Class C2 boys state basketball semifinals at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

“They’re a great team. They really are,” Trojans coach Matt Steffen said of Freeman. “They made all their shots. They made good shots.”

Freeman shot 21-36 (58%) from the field. Cedar Catholic shot 17-35 (49%), including 1-of-12 from three.

The teams were tied 4-4 after a minute and a half of play. However, the Falcons began to build a lead with a 9-2 run. Grant Arens drove for a layup in response, then Taylan Vetrovsky made two free throws. 

Freeman held onto the ball for the final seconds of the period. As the team worked it around, Carter Ruse took a pass beyond the arc and hit a three at the buzzer, putting the Falcons ahead by eight.

The Falcons went on an 8-2 run to open up the second quarter and take a 26-12 lead with five minutes left. The teams went back and forth for a bit before Arens made a layup and Andrew Jones sank two free throws for the Trojans.

Just before halftime, Vetrovsky drove to the lane for two, got fouled and the bucket to go. He missed the ensuing free throw, but the Falcons led 32-22 at halftime.

Vetrovsky was second on the Falcons with 19 points while Niles led with 21. The two were able to step up when Ruse, who leads the team with 18 points per game, had to sit on the bench for a while after getting in foul trouble early.

“He rarely ever comes out of the game,” Freeman coach Jim McLaughlin said of Ruse. “To have a little bit of a cushion and then for our other guys to step up and make plays and allow him to sit and not have to risk getting ourselves in more foul trouble was really big for the guys.”

On the other end, Cedar Catholic failed to find a consistent rhythm offensively. The Trojans were one of many teams to have trouble against Freeman’s defense, which allows just 35.2 points per game. Steffen also felt that they weren’t able to be as physical as they played in the quarterfinal on Thursday. 

“Yesterday was a little more of a physical game. Today, they called a few more fouls,” he said. “We didn’t adjust to that real well. They’re just a good defensive team.”

Bernecker led the Trojans with 20 points. Tyan Baller, who came into the state tournament averaging 12.6 points a game, was held to six points and went 0-for-5 on three-pointers. 

After each team scored two points to start the third quarter, Niles hit a three from the top of the arc. Bernecker responded with a two in transition, then hit a three to keep Cedar Catholic going. 

Each team put up four more points before heading into the final eight minutes.

Freeman went on a 7-2 run to open the fourth. Then Baller got a layup in transition and Bernecker hit a mid-range jumper. Niles drove for two more points and Vetrovsky hit two free throws. 

Nolan Becker drove for two points on what would end up being Cedar Catholic’s final field goal of the game. The Falcons used an 8-3 run to end the game. Both teams’ starters came out with 43.1 seconds left. 

“We just felt like the only time we scored, then they would score,” Steffen said. “I think they did a really good job of taking care of the ball.”

Freeman had just seven turnovers compared to 12 from Cedar Catholic. 

The Falcons advance to the Class C2 state championship game on Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena at 4:15 p.m. Cedar Catholic will play in the third-place game on Saturday at 9 a.m. at Lincoln Southeast High School against either Amherst or Tri County.

Cedar Catholic 10 12 12 11 — 45

Freeman           18 14 12 19 — 63

CEDAR CATHOLIC (23-5): Andrew Jones 1-3 2-2 4; Tyan Baller 3-8 0-0 6; Grant Arens 2-3 0-0 4; Carson Arens 1-3 3-3 5; Braeden Reifenrath, 0-0 0-1 0; Nolan Becker, 7-13 5-6 20; Totals, 17-35 10-13 45.

FREEMAN (28-1): Taylan Vetrovsky 5-9 9-15 19; Hudson Vetrovsky 2-2 1-2 5; Hayden Jennings 1-4 0-1 3; Carter Niles 8-10 4-5 21; Carter Ruse 4-8 3-3 13; True Jurgens 1-3 0-0 2; totals 21-36 17-26 63.


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