Thirteen days removed from a 42-41 sub-district loss to Sterling, Falls City Sacred Heart head coach Doug Goltz, who said his team was “outplayed” in that loss, challenged his players before Thursday’s first-round matchup with Sterling in the state tournament.
“I challenged them to get more loose balls and to play more aggressively,” Goltz said.
The third-ranked Irish (23-4) responded with a 41-28 victory over No. 3 Sterling at Lincoln High.
The win advanced third-seeded Sacred Heart to Friday’s 3:45 p.m. semifinal at the Pershing Center where they will face fourth-ranked and second-seeded Wynot (23-3). The Blue Devils defeated two-time defending D2 champs, Giltner, 55-40, prior to the Irish-Jets game.
Irish junior Chaz Dunn, who connected on six treys and scored 20 points in the loss to Sterling, picked up right where he left off two weeks ago. Dunn scored all eight of the Irish’s points in the first quarter Thursday night and finished 3-for-4 from behind the arc and 10-of-13 at the free-throw line en route to a game-high 19 points.
“Chaz was big offensively for us and really had some big shots all game,” Goltz said. “We knew it would be tough to score inside and he was our best weapon on offense.”
Defensively, the Irish held Sterling scoreless for nearly seven minutes to start the game and forced 11 of the Jets 17 turnovers in the first half.
“We played with a lot more edge and were much more aggressive,” Goltz said. “Our defensive effort was the difference in the game. Give credit to Sterling though. They are a tough out and would be have been a tough draw for anybody.”
Made tougher by the fact it was the fourth time the two schools squared off this season with Sacred Heart winning the first two by 11 and 15 points before falling in the sub final.
Colin Niemeyer, the sixth man for the Irish, made the Jets pay for turnover number 11 when he drilled a three with 15 seconds left in the half to push the lead to 19-12.
“That three came a little sooner than we would have liked,” said Goltz, who was pleading for one shot prior to Niemeyer’s attempt. “But we were able to hold them in their final possession so it all worked out.”
The Irish pushed the lead to 14 with just under three minutes to play in the fourth quarter and Sterling never cut it to within 10 the rest of the way.
Senior Lane Barnhill added 10 points for Sacred Heart, while juniors Matt Goltz and Jarod Fiegener led the Irish with five rebounds apiece.
Trey Trauenicht led Sterling (19-3) with seven points.
Sterling (19-8) ……………………………… 4 8 5 11—28
Falls City Sacred Heart (23-4) …….. 8 11 10 12—41
FCSH – Niemeyer, 3; Dunn, 19; Finck, 5; Goltz, 1; Barnhill, 10; Feigner, 2; Cromer, 1.
Ster – Wenzl, 2; Trauernicht, 7; Malone, 4; Phillips, 2; Zuhlke, 5; Benson, 2; Lucas, 6.