NORFOLK – A balanced effort offensively was enough for the Battle Creek boys to weather a strong performance from O’Neill’s Alex Thramer and come away with a hard fought victory on Friday night in the Mid-State Conference semi-finals in Norfolk.
Thramer poured in 32 points, but it wasn’t enough for the Eagles as the Braves came away with a 48-43 victory, handing O’Neill its first loss of the season. Thramer banked in a three-pointer at the end of the first quarter to give the Eagles a 10-6 lead and scored 16 points in the first half in total as O’Neill carried a 23-16 lead into the halftime break.
Battle Creek (14-5) kept chipping away at the O’Neill (16-1) lead however, closing the gap to 33-29 heading into the fourth quarter. That’s when Stone Kraft stepped up, as the senior was 6-of-6 from the free throw line and scored eight of his team-high 12 points in the period as the Braves took the lead and wouldn’t trail again on a bucket by Andrew Lutt with just over five minutes to play at 35-33.
Thramer kept O’Neill in it, scoring 16 of the Eagles’ 20 points after halftime, but fouled out in the final seconds as the Braves salted the game away from the free throw line. Devon Beckman added 12 points for Battle Creek, while Lutt finished with 10 and Slate Kraft chipped in six to propel the Braves to their seventh-straight victory. Justin Appleby was held in check by the Braves, finishing with five points, nearly 16 below his season average.
Saturday’s 8 p.m. final will see the Braves taking on Boone Central/Newman Grove as the Cardinals eased past Norfolk Catholic 60-30 in the other semi-final. The Knights made a game of it early as Chace Clausen’s layup beat the first quarter horn to make things 14-14 headed to the second quarter. However it was all Boone Central/Newman Grove from there as the Cardinals opened up a 14-point halftime lead with a key 12-0 run late in the period to lead 32-18 at the break.
Dylan Gentrup scored 11 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter as the Cardinals (14-5) poured it on in the second half. Jessie Sullivan added 14 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocked shots for the Cardinals while Cody Nelson scored 12 points to set up Saturday’s rematch against Battle Creek. The Braves roughed up the Cardinals 77-51 on January 26.
Andrew Fleecs led the way for Norfolk Catholic (6-12) with 11 points while Ethan Piper added eight. The Knights will meet O’Neill in the third-place game on Saturday at 4:15 p.m.
BC (14-5) 6 10 13 19 48
O’NEILL (16-1) 10 13 10 10 43
BRAVES – Stone Kraft 12, Devon Beckman 12, Andrew Lutt 10, Slate Kraft 6, Bailey McLean 4, Dylan Mettler 3, Zachary Zohner 1
EAGLES – Alex Thramer 32, Justin Appleby 5, Dennis Hererra 3, Francisco Perez 2, Wyatt Liewer 1
N. CATHOLIC (6-12) 14 4 7 5 30
BC/NG (14-5) 14 18 16 12 60
KNIGHTS – Andrew Fleecs 11, Ethan Piper 8, Chace Clausen 4, Sedrick Svehla 3, Nate Brungardt 2, Joe Teten 2
CARDINALS – Dylan Gentrup 24, Jessie Sullivan 14, Cody Nelson 12, Carter Henry 3, Todd Berger 3, Caden Ranslem 2, Weston Choat 2