CRETE – The Elmwood-Murdock boys felt they could match up well against Centennial in Monday night’s district championship contest.
Their predictions proved correct in a game that remained up in the air for all 32 minutes.
Fifth-seeded Centennial edged 12th-seeded Elmwood-Murdock 52-48 in the District C2-5 Final at Doane University. The Broncos needed two free throws from senior Jackson Hirschfeld with 6.1 seconds left to clinch the victory. Centennial (23-2) advanced to the state tournament for the sixth time in school history.
Elmwood-Murdock head coach Aaron Pryor said the Knights felt confident about their chances to defeat Centennial. The Broncos had won each of their previous five games by double digits but the Knights prevented them from copying that formula. The game was tied 43-43 with 3:57 to go in the fourth quarter, and E-M moved within two points after a basket and free throw with 8.1 seconds left.
“I told our guys that we wanted to put ourselves in a position where we could win the game, and the boys did that tonight,” Pryor said. “We knew we had to be really efficient on every possession, because Centennial does that every time they have the basketball. The margin of error is so small because of the way they play.
“We knew we would have to play well, and we gave ourselves a chance to win by doing that. You can’t ask for more than that.”
Elmwood-Murdock athletes also felt their battle-tested resumes would prove beneficial against the Broncos. The Knights (14-11) had faced 14 teams with plus-.500 marks prior to their game against Centennial. Yutan, Auburn, Falls City Sacred Heart, Freeman, Milford and Wahoo had all won more than 20 games.
“Our schedule was really strong this year,” Pryor said. “We lost ten games coming into tonight and we still had a chance to play for a spot in the state tournament, so that shows how strong it was. We had a lot of close games this year too, so the boys played well against a lot of really good teams. We knew we had the capability to do well tonight too.”
E-M gained a 13-12 lead after one quarter after Nolan Langfeldt drained a 3-pointer and sank a drive in the line. Centennial responded with six straight points to start the second quarter, and Jacob Bargen’s trey with five seconds on the clock made the halftime gap 25-21.
Hirschfeld provided much of Centennial’s scoring damage in the second half. He posted ten points in the third quarter and added nine points in the fourth period. He finished the game with 24 points and went 10-of-12 at the free-throw line.
“He’s so tough to defend because he can score from anywhere,” Pryor said. “He can shoot well from outside, he can drive, he can post up and he can make mid-range jumpers. He’s a nightmare to game plan against, because he also does a great job of setting up his teammates. They’ve seen just about every type of defense, so they know what to do and know how to take advantage of opportunities. They’re a well-coached team that makes the most of every situation.”
Elmwood-Murdock stormed back from a six-point deficit to tie the game at 43-43. Massimo Lojing connected on consecutive 3-pointers to make it 43-40, and Nick Langfeldt caused a large student section to become even louder with a trey with 3:57 to go.
Centennial built a 50-43 lead before E-M made one final push. Nick Langfeldt sank a driving shot with 24.1 seconds to go, and Noah Willey then produced a basket and free throw with 8.1 seconds left.
Centennial ran a designed inbounds play that allowed Hirschfeld to catch the basketball. He then sank two free throws to give the Broncos the final four-point cushion.
Willey paced Elmwood-Murdock with 14 points, seven rebounds, one block and one assist. Nolan Langfeldt delivered eight points, five assists and one rebound, and Carter Bornemeier ended the evening with nine points, six rebounds and one assist.
Nick Langfeldt contributed eight points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal. Lojing provided nine points and five rebounds, and Cole Cooper and Drake Spohr both helped the team with their defensive work.
The game was the final prep basketball contest for a senior group that included Cooper, Nick Langfeldt, Nolan Langfeldt, Carter Bornemeier, Cody Bornemeier, Andy Meyer, Tommy Eggert and Caleb Jones. Pryor said they helped the Knights remain competitive against every obstacle they faced this year.
“What I’m most proud of is that the guys never stopped fighting,” Pryor said. “It didn’t matter what the situation was in a game or where we were at certain points in the year. They never quit on themselves or each other and kept battling to the end.
“That’s something that is going to help them not just in basketball, but in life as well. To know that they can hang in there when things are tough is an enormous tribute to their character and personality. I’m proud of each and every one of them.”
Elmwood-Murdock 13 8 11 16 – 48
Centennial 12 13 13 14 – 52
Lojing 3-9 0-0 9, Nick Langfeldt 3-8 0-0 8, Bornemeier 3-14 1-1 9, Willey 6-8 2-2 14, Cooper 0-0 0-0 0, Nolan Langfeldt 3-3 1-2 8, Spohr 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-42 4-5 48.
Hirschfeld 7-12 10-12 24, Ehlers 2-2 0-1 8, Gierhan 1-7 2-2 4, Horne 1-2 2-2 4, Jo. Bargen 2-6 0-2 4, Ja. Bargen 4-8 0-0 6, Schlueter 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-38 14-19 52.