Holton boys get boost from star guards on senior night in win over Nemaha Central
In the eyes of Holton boys basketball coach Ryan Noel, Friday’s final home game against Nemaha Central was a fitting farewell for his seniors.
For a group with so much success on the basketball court in its four years at HHS, getting over the hump in a close 68-58 win over Nemaha Central was the cherry on top.
Fittingly, two of the most prolific seniors on the team came to the forefront in the Wildcats’ win as Garett Beecher and Trey Tanking put on a shooting clinic in the first half.
After Nemaha Central jumped out to a 5-0 lead, Tanking scored the next five points for Holton to tie it up and the Wildcats went up 7-5 shortly after that.
After a back-and-forth battle in the opening frame, Beecher seemed to turn the momentum in Holton’s favor for good as he ended the first quarter with back-to-back three pointers and opened the second quarter with a three as well.
“It’s just an interesting feeling when you watch those kids catch the ball and know there’s maybe not a whole lot that the defense is going to do about it,” Noel said.
Tanking and Beecher combined for nine threes and 36 of Holton’s 40 first half points to give the Wildcats the upper hand.
While Holton’s guard tandem put the team ahead, Nemaha Central’s post duo of Abe Elder and Luke Holthaus (34 points combined) kept the Thunder in the game on Friday. Foul trouble also hindered HHS in that area, as forwards Indie Allen and Nils Bergsten both picked up two quick fouls in the game.
“That’s where we struggled the first time around against them was the post game and I think the Holthaus kid is playing even better now,” Noel said. “We knew that was going to be the task coming in. We thought from a guard standpoint that was going to be our advantage and we knew that on the post side we were going to have to play really well and box out and I don’t know that we did that.”
Holthaus and Elder both crashed the offensive boards particularly hard throughout the night and Holthaus got a key putback late in the first half and was fouled afterwards, but a technical foul was called on Nemaha Central coach Jon Thomas after that and the Wildcats used that to fuel a little run going into halftime.
Beecher made one of two free throws after the technical foul and Tanking hit a three to beat the buzzer at the end of the second quarter to give Holton a 40-28 lead at halftime.
“40 in the first half against a really good Nemaha team, I think it built a lot of confidence,” Noel said of his team’s offensive showing.
The Wildcats may have cooled off from there, but the team worked to lock down the Thunder on the defensive end and while the team’s posts still held the advantage inside (Allen and Bergsten both picked up their third foul shortly into the third quarter), assistant coach Don Brees’ suggestion to switch to a triangle-and-two defense seemed to pay off.
Beecher, who went scoreless in the third quarter, played a big role in that in limiting the production of Nemaha Central guard Devin Henry.
“We wanted to try and take Henry away, get the ball out of his hands a little more and we also thought with offensively with what they were doing scheme-wise, their high post/low post, they’d run right into our triangle formation and I think that was a good adjustment,” Noel said.
Nemaha kept hanging around, though, before Tanking hit a pair of free throws and slashed to the basket for two late in the third quarter to maintain Holton’s double-digit lead going into the fourth quarter.
There was a drawback to that finish, as Tanking went down with a cramp at the end of the third and sat out for the first few minutes of the fourth quarter.
While the Thunder continued to pound away in the post on the offensive end, the Wildcats went a little cold without Tanking, though Noel noted he wanted his team to focus on working the clock and getting high-percentage shots, which he felt it did in that final quarter.
Despite that, Nemaha Central’s Matt Winkler hit a key three with less than a minute left to get the Thunder within six points, but the Wildcats made their free throws and held on for a 68-58 victory thanks to good decisions down the stretch.
“I thought our basketball IQ was very important in the second half and I’d point to that other than some just red-hot shooting there in a stretch,” Noel said of the keys to the game. “Some nights you’re going to have the shots and some nights you’re not, so I was pleased that we played smart at times and did good things with the ball.”
After the big win, the Wildcats (12-6) will try to keep the momentum rolling as the team gets ready for a road contest against the Red Hawks of Hiawatha on Tuesday. Games will start at 4:30 p.m.
Feb. 20, 2015
HHS: Beecher 8 (5) 5-7 26, Tanking 8 (4) 3-3 23, Patch 2 3-4 7, Allen 2 0-0 4, Sides 1 2-2 4, Lehwald 0 2-2 4, Brand 1 0-0 2. Totals- 22 (9) 15-20 68.
NC: Elder 6 5-7 17, Holthaus 8 1-2 17, Henry 5 (2) 1-2 13, Winkler 2 (1) 1-2 6, Schulte 1 (1) 0-0 3, Rottinghaus 1 0-0 2. Totals- 23 (4) 8-13 58.
Rebounding: HHS- 20 (Allen 6, Patch 4, Tanking 3); NC- 21 (Holthaus 5, Elder 5, Schulte 3, Rottinghaus 3).
Assists: HHS- 9 (Tanking 4, Beecher 4); NC- 14 (Allen 6, Schulte 3, Elder 2).
Turnovers: HHS- 5; NC- 5.
Nemaha Central 47, Holton 42 (2OT)
Nemaha Central 48, Holton 34