BANCROFT — The last time that the Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur boys played a basketball game, it was a rather forgettable performance on the road.
The Wolverines more than made up for that in front of their home crowd Friday night and provided themselves and their fans with an early Christmas present.
Dylan Beutler, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while junior Will Gatzemeyer and sophomore Lucas Vogt both added 12 points as BRLD pounced on Ponca 58-45.
“I'm pretty proud of the way they played tonight,” BRLD coach Cory Meyer said. “It's always nice to have a win like that against a back-to-back state champ going into Christmas. That's a good Christmas present right there for me and the kids.”
Going into Friday's game, Ponca was the top-ranked team in Northeast and North Central Nebraska for Class C, and it was No. 1 statewide in C2 according to the Omaha World-Herald. BRLD was the preseason No. 1 team in the area for Class C and in all of Class C2, but it lost 61-51 to Howells-Dodge on Dec. 14 in its most recent game.
“You just had to bring that up, didn't you?” Meyer said with a smile after Friday’s game. “We didn't push the issue. I'll just say it, they got into our heads. They played very well. That's a very tough place to play. We didn't shoot well, and they played real well.”
On the flip side was Ponca, which had won 21-straight games, dating back to a 52-50 setback Jan. 16 at Winnebago. The Indians avenged that loss 64-59 in the Lewis & Clark Conference tournament championship en route to its second-straight Class C2 state title in March.
After Ponca took a 9-6 edge following a Brandon Kneifl layup with 3:05 left in the first quarter, BRLD took hold of the contest by scoring 23 of the first half's final 28 points to lead 29-14.
How that happened could be explained in one statistic — the Indians made 1 of 10 field goals in the second quarter and missed their final eight of the first half. Ponca finished the night 15 of 48 (31.3 percent), but that included 0 for 7 beyond the arc in the first half.
The Wolverines got going when Brayden Anderson found Gatzemeyer for a corner 3-pointer with two minutes left in the first quarter, and then Gatzemeyer found Beutler inside for an easy two. On the next possession, Vogt's cross-court pass set up Anderson perfectly for a corner 3 in front of the Ponca bench and a 16-9 lead with 43 seconds left.
All that run did was set up the second quarter.
Darwin Snyder's 3 answered a Gage McGill bucket for Ponca, and then Beutler scored on back-to-back possessions, the first set up by a Gatzemeyer assist. After a Ponca turnover, Vogt drove the lane for a layup and a 29-12 lead.
BRLD ended the night 23 of 44 (52.3 percent) from the field, including 6 of 12 from 3-point range.
“They're a very good team, and they're very tough here,” Ponca coach Adam Poulosky said. “Offensively, we weren't very good in the first half. We rushed some shots and took some bad shots. That led to some bad misses and some runs for them, and they got the momentum. We couldn't quite claw back.”
The Wolverines built a 44-24 lead late in the third quarter after a 3 and a short jumper by Beutler just over a minute apart, and they led by as many as 23 (50-27) following Snyder's 3-pointer with 6:45 left. Ponca outscored BRLD 18-8 the rest of the game, buoyed by four 3-pointers in that stretch.
“I told the kids at the beginning of the year, and I'm going to tell them all year long, there's not a team that we can't beat,” Meyer said. “But we can very well beat ourselves. That happens from time to time, and we've got to just keep focused.”
Ponca 10 4 13 18 — 45
BRLD 16 13 15 14 — 58
PONCA (6-1): Cayden Phillips 1-1 0-0 3; Gage McGill 5-11 4-4 14; Brandon Kneifl 2-7 3-3 8; Bryar Bennett 0-1 0-0 0; Carson Fox 0-1 0-0 0; Paul Masin 0-3 0-0 0; Carter Kingsbury 4-13 1-3 11; Evan Anderson 3-10 0-0 8; Cole Richards 0-1 1-2 1. Totals: 15-48 9-12 45.
BANCROFT-ROSALIE/LYONS DECATUR (5-1): Micah Henschen 0-1 0-0 0; Will Gatzemeyer 4-10 3-4 12; Dylan Beutler 9-12 0-0 20; Lucas Vogt 5-8 2-2 12; Darwin Snyder 2-6 0-0 6; Jaxon Johnson 2-5 1-4 5; Brayden Anderson 1-2 0-0 3. Totals: 23-44 6-10 58.
3-point field goals: PON 6-18 (Kingsbury 2-4, Anderson 2-5, Phillips 1-1, Kneifl 1-4); BRLD 6-12 (Beutler 2-2, Snyder 2-4, Anderson 1-1, Gatzemeyer 1-3). Rebounds: PON 21 (Kingsbury 4); BRLD 31 (Johnson 11, Beutler 10). Assists: PON 6 (McGill 3); BRLD 10 (Vogt 5, Gatzemeyer 4). Steals: PON 4 (McGill 2); BRLD 4 (Gatzemeyer 2). Blocked shots: PON 2 (Kingsbury, Reid); BRLD 1 (Beutler).