Boys’ “A” Division teams a combined 63-20 this season and six enter week ranked. (Scroll down for girls’ MUDECAS preview)
One year ago, Falls City Sacred Heart Head Coach Doug Goltz stated that the MUDECAS tournament, held annually in Beatrice for the past 85 years, was tougher than the state tournament.
Goltz said that for a D2 school like SH – the smallest of the four classes represented in the four boys and girls brackets – the quality of depth from C1, C2, D1 and D2 would present a tougher slate of games than state.
There are certainly similarities 12 months later, as the Irish enter with nearly the same record at 11-1, compared to last season’s 10-1 mark entering MUDECAS week. Again, their lone blemish came against C2 power, Freeman, who held off SH two weeks ago in Adams, 51-41.
The Irish, who came back from 16 points down to beat Freeman in the third-place game last year, earned the top seed this year, after playing from the No. 2 spot in 2013, but with a field this deep, Goltz knows rankings, seeds and any other numbers in front of the schools mean very little.
“Five or six different teams could have been the No. 1 seed this year,” Goltz said. “It’s very wide open this year. It comes down to who can put three good games together.”
Goltz noted that five (SH included) of the eight “A” teams are in D2, and even more, are in the Irish’s district – Lewiston (7-4), Parkview Christian (6-4), Sterling (9-2) and Exeter-Milligan (7-2).
Playing in SH’s favor, one might say, is their 2-1 record this winter against “A” division foes, while only Freeman with their wins against SH and Johnson County Central can claim two wins against the field. Lourdes Central Catholic, 9-2 in Class C2 and currently ranked No. 8 by the Lincoln Journal Star and No. 9 by the Omaha World Herald, is 1-0 against the field with a 55-51 win over JCC; No. 8 and 9-ranked Sterling, is 0-1, having lost to SH; JCC (6-4, C1) is 0-2; Lewiston is 0-2, including a 59-48 home loss to SH and a 73-65 loss at LCC Friday.
SH tacked on a pair of road wins last week, the first coming Friday night at Diller-Odell. SH jumped on D-O, 19-7, in the first eight minutes behind a hot start from senior Colin Niemeyer, who hit 3-of-his-4 threes in the first period. D-O regrouped, however, as the Irish went cold and hit only two more attempts from long range over the game’s final 24 minutes, in which D-O held a 29-27 advantage.
Niemeyer’s 12 points were equaled by senior Matt Goltz, who also recorded a dozen points, while senior Chaz Dunn totaled one more than his classmates and finished with 13 points. Goltz grabbed nine boards, and Niemeyer (5 assists, 4 steals) and Dunn (5 assists, 3 steals) led the playmaking.
The Irish overmatched Mound City last Tuesday in Missouri to the tune of 52-19. After opening with a 20-9 first quarter, SH held MC to seven, two and one point in the final three frames. MC finished 6-for-32 from the floor, including 2-of-15 from the three-point line, while the Irish took advantage of numerous transition baskets and finished 22-for-46 from the floor. SH totaled 17 team assists and forced 20 MC turnovers.
Fiegener led the scoring with 13 to go with seven rebounds, while Dunn tallied 11 points, seven boards, two steals and six assists. Junior Austin Malone hit 4-of-6 shots for nine points and led SH with four steals.
Perhaps not the two best primer games as the second and fourth-ranked Irish head into the gauntlet in Beatrice, but Goltz said he’s seen his team make big strides and it would be a safe to assume, he’ll hope for those 12 great quarters from his players this week.
“We have just as much a chance as anyone in the field to win it all,” Goltz said. “We are steadily improving in all areas. Our defense has improved. We are starting to shoot the ball better.”
And should things come together, what, ultimately will be the key to reaching Saturday’s 8:45 p.m. championship?
“Four solid quarters in each game we play,” said Goltz, adding, “One bad quarter is all it takes to end up with a loss with the field being so good this year.”
SH and Lewiston square off tonight at 7 at the City Auditorium in the first round, with Parkview and Exeter set to follow at 8:45. Freeman and Sterling kicked off the “A” Division games at 3:30 this afternoon and were followed by Lourdes and JCC at 5:15.
Thursday nights semifinals are set for 7 (FCSH/Lewiston against PC/E-M winner) and 8:45 (Free/Ster winner vs. Lourdes/JCC winner).
Scoring vs. D-O
SH – Niemeyer 12, Dunn 13, Malone 7, Goltz 12, Fiegener 2.
Scoring vs. MC
SH – Niemeyer 6, Dunn 11, Malone 9, Goltz 4, Scheitel 2, Fiegener 13, Strasheim 7.
Lady Irish look to defend MUDECAS title, but likely won’t surprise anyone this go-round.
“Last year, MUDECAS week probably was the turning point of the year for us,” said Sacred Heart Head Coach Luke Santo when asked about his team’s somewhat surprising run to the 2013“A” Division championship.
SH entered the tournament ranked ninth with an 11-3 record and the four seed, then rattled off three-straight wins over Diller-Odell, Sterling and Exeter-Milligan in the title game to take home the hardware. More importantly though, Santo said his girls started to believe in themselves.
“Going into that Sterling game, I think our girls thought that we were an O.K. team, but they didn’t truly believe we could be a special team, and winning that game gave us a ton of confidence and helped us go on an 18-game winning streak.”
SH rode the momentum of that week into a first-place finish in the Pioneer Conference tournament a few later and then to a third-place finish at state.
Santo and the top-ranked Lady Irish, who faced Diller-Odell (8-2, D2 No. 6, 4) for the second time in three nights last night in the opening round of the “A” Division, remain unblemished (Monday night’s results were not yet available) at 11-0 and have been dominant through the first half of the season. SH’s two wins last week – 44-35 at Diller-Odell Friday and 52-30 at Mound City, MO last Tuesday – appear to be tight games and for most teams they would be, but prior to the 12 and 9-point “close calls” last week, SH had defeated their previous nine opponents by an average of 29.8 points per game.
Santo’s bunch has been dominant and he knows the rest of the teams – six of the other seven are ranked or listed as ‘contenders’ by the LJS or OWH – will be focused on upsetting them, but his girls will be up for the challenge.
“Our girls understand how important MUDECAS week is and love to compete in this tournament,” Santo said. “So I expect us to play well. The bottom line is whoever wins it is going to have to put three great games together and beat three quality opponents.”
A win last night and SH advanced to Thursday’s 5:15 semifinal against either Freeman (8-3, C2 cont.) or Bruning-Davenport-Shickley (8-3, D1, cont.); the bottom of the bracket features Sterling (9-2, No. 4, 3) vs. Palmyra (6-4) in one half and Southern (8-2, C2, cont.) vs. Lourdes (9-2, D1, cont.) in the other half. Thursday’s second semifinal is scheduled for 3:30 and the “A” Division championship game will tip-off at 8:45 Friday night. All games will be played at the City Auditorium in Beatrice.
Scoring vs. D-O, Jan. 10
SH – Jordan 3, A. Magdanz 17, Fouraker 2, E. Magdanz 10, Goltz 8, Barnes 3, Heits 1.
Scoring vs. MC, Jan. 7
SH – A. Magdanz 12, Fouraker 4, E. Magdanz, 7 Goltz 16, Hill 5, Heits 8.