LINCOLN — Humphrey St. Francis and Falls City Sacred Heart collided here at Pinnacle Bank Arena in the Class D2 boys state basketball semifinals in a rematch of last season’s title game.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, the results of last season’s finals were the same as this year’s semifinals as the Irish turned back St. Francis 60-49 on Friday to advance to Saturday’s finals against Parkview Christian, which defeated O’Neill St. Mary’s in the other semifinal matchup.
“We worked so hard to score the entire game,” Flyers coach Eric Kessler said. “Their big guys gave us fits all day long, and we simply didn’t play our best. I’m sure some of that was Sacred Heart, but we weren’t as sharp and fresh as we were yesterday.”
After trailing by 11 with 2:09 left in the third quarter after Sacred Heart’s Jacob Froeschl hit a couple of free throws, St. Francis began to climb back in the game.
Tanner Pfeifer hit a smooth runner in the paint to make it 40-31 and teammate Jaden Kosch got the Flyers even closer with a couple of charity tosses of his own with 1:13 left in the third frame.
The Irish hit a free throw to close out the third and then hit a 3-pointer to open the final eight minutes to go back up 11, but St. Francis wouldn’t go away.
“We battled all game,” Kessler said. “We just couldn’t seem to get the play or the shot when we needed it to get over the top and take a lead.”
Haustyn Forney hit a shot in the paint for St. Francis with just under seven minutes to go and then Justin Leifeld hit one of two free throws to make it 44-36 with 5:51 left.
The Flyers’ defense was up for the task as it earned consecutive stops on Irish possessions, but the offense couldn’t take advantage of the effort.
“We had a lot of shots roll off the rim, we missed some bunnies, we just couldn’t score the basketball,” Kessler said. “It’s the way basketball is, and it was very frustrating — some days that happens.”
Forney hit a long ball with 5:03 left in the game, forcing Sacred Heart coach Doug Goltz to call timeout as the Flyers were within five at 44-39.
As an indication of the type of day it was for St. Francis, the Flyers got another stop and had a pair of good looks at the basket, including an open 3-pointer and offensive rebound underneath, which could have trimmed the lead to a single basket halfway through the final quarter.
St. Francis missed both good looks, and Sacred Heart scored inside to push the lead back to seven.
Justin Leifeld hit a pair of free throws to make it five again with 3:52 remaining on the clock, but the score would get no closer and the Irish made free throws down the stretch to send Humphrey St. Francis to Friday’s consolation game.
“We got beat by a team that simply was better than us today,” Kessler said. “Maybe sometime down the road we’ll analyze it and discover a reason, but we just got beat by a better team today.”
Class D2 boys semifinal
FCSH 15 11 14 20 — 60
HSF 13 10 10 16 — 49
FALLS CITY SACRED HEART (19-7): Jakob Jordan 3 2-6 11; Jacob Froeschl 3 3-4 9; Evan Keithley 1 0-0 2; Kyle Bauman 1 2-2 4; Joe Simon 1 1-4 3; Jack Fiegener 5 2-3 12; Brogan Nachtigal 8 2-2 19.
HUMPHREY ST. FRANCIS (21-5): Haustyn Forney 4 2-3 13; Jack Lubischer 3 0-0 6; Justin Leifeld 2 4-10 9; Jaden Kosch 2 3-4 8; Austin Leifeld 1 0-0 3; Tanner Pfeifer 3 3-4 10.