HARTINGTON — Last season, Hartington-Newcastle made its mark by rebounding from a 1-6 start to reach the Class D1 state tournament. On Tuesday night, the Wildcats made their mark much earlier in the season.
That mark came thanks to with their first win on what senior Shaye Morten called the team's “revenge tour.” And, the 71-47 win over preseason Class C No. 4 Wakefield in a battle of defending state tournament teams could be the catalyst for even more.
“At the beginning of the season, we had picked out seven or eight teams that we wanted to get revenge on, just going on a little revenge tour,” he said. “We didn't get the first two, but we got this one. I think that's just going to propel us into the rest of the season.”
It was the third-straight ranked opponent for Hartington-Newcastle to begin the season, including losses to preseason Class C No. 3 Ponca and Class D No. 2 Osmond.
“It was a good step forward for us,” Hartington-Newcastle coach Nick Haselhorst said about Tuesday's result.
Morten was just one of the reasons Hartington-Newcastle prevailed, and his biggest contributions came late — 9 of 10 free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter. Early on, it was his classmates — senior post players Sam Harms and Matthew Meisenheimer — who were making the difference.
Meisenheimer got things started with a conventional 3-point play 13 seconds into the game, and Harms followed with his own 58 seconds after the opening tip. Zach Burcham's steal led to a 3-pointer by Harms from the right elbow, and then Harms hit from inside for an 11-0 lead at the 4:32 mark of the first quarter.
Hartington-Newcastle may have been even more impressive on the defensive end, forcing four turnovers in Wakefield's first five possessions. The Trojans finished with 23 turnovers, eight in the first quarter alone.
“I can't wait to get to practice (Wednesday),” Wakefield coach Joe Wendte said. “We know what we need to work on and hopefully we can fix things before we play Omaha Nation on Friday.”
While Morten finished with a game-high 20 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, Harms and Meisenheimer finished with 17 each. In particular, Meisenheimer was perfect from the field until a miss in the final minutes, and he also finished with game-highs of seven rebounds and four steals.
“They've paid a steep price for the production they have with lots of summer hours and commitment to their bodies and skill sets in the weight room and gym,” Haselhorst said. “They're doing a great job and they have a lot of experience, so we're going to lean on those three a bunch this year.”
The fast start led to an even faster finish.
Hartington-Newcastle scored 10-straight points early in the second half, and then put the game out of reach with a 21-3 run that took nearly the final 5½ minutes of the game.
Aiding that run was a 26-18 advantage in rebounds throughout the game, which was evidence of another advantage Haselhorst said he believed his team could exploit.
“We expected to win,” he said. “I liked our matchups from what we had seen on tape of Wakefield. I thought we had a size advantage.”
Hartington-Newcastle held double-digit leads at some point in all four quarters, but Wakefield responded in each of the first two. It whittled the 11-0 start down to 19-13 before the end of the first quarter and turned the hosts' 35-24 advantage with 2:07 in the second quarter into a manageable 35-30 deficit at halftime thanks to a six-point rally that started with freshman Cade Johnson's 3-pointer.
Outside of Johnson, who went 3 of 3 beyond the arc and led the team with 11 points, the rest of the Trojans finished 3 of 18 from deep. Wakefield was held to 27.2% (12 of 44) from the field, a stark contrast to Hartington-Newcastle's 55.1% (27 of 49).
“We've got guys all over who can score, but when you rely on a freshman to be your leading scorer, you're probably not going to win too many games,” Wendte said. “Cade's going to be a good complement and he's going to be a good player for the next four years — and he already is that — but we need to get other guys around him playing better.”
Wakefield 13 17 10 7 — 47
H-N 19 16 15 21 — 71
WAKEFIELD (2-1): Gabriel Peitz 1-3 2-2 5; Justin Erb 2-11 6-7 10; Blake Heimann 0-5 2-4 2; Blake Brown 2-13 5-6 10; Zephan Tinsley 2-2 0-0 5; Cade Johnson 4-5 0-0 11; Logan Bokemper 0-2 2-4 2; Dawson Samuelson 0-1 0-0 0; Couy Johnson 0-1 0-0 0; Divon Tinsley 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 12-44 17-23 47.
HARTINGTON-NEWCASTLE (1-2): Shaye Morten 5-11 9-13 20; Jake Peitz 3-8 1-2 8; Dylan Dendinger 0-1 0-0 0; Sam Harms 7-13 1-4 17; Matthew Meisenheimer 8-9 1-1 17; Isaac Bruning 0-2 0-0 0; Bennet Sievers 1-2 0-0 2; Teagan Scoggan 3-5 0-0 7. Totals 27-49 12-20 71.