LINCOLN – Elmwood-Murdock players and coaches designed a game plan to knock off top-seeded Freeman in the league tournament Friday night.
Their preparation nearly resulted in the Knights reaching the conference title game.
Freeman needed a late 3-pointer from Brady Ideus to edge Elmwood-Murdock 45-42. The 6-foot-7 senior drilled the trey with 1:23 to go in the East Central Nebraska Conference Tournament semifinal. Gabe Eisenbarth added a pair of free throws to help the Falcons advance in the boys bracket.
Elmwood-Murdock head coach Aaron Pryor said the Knights displayed poise and confidence after falling behind 10-2 in the first four minutes of the game. Fourth-seeded E-M stayed within 16-9 after one quarter and took a 23-20 lead midway through the second period.
“I’m proud of the response the guys showed to being down in the beginning,” Pryor said. “They didn’t panic at all. They’ve been in a lot of big games before and it showed in the way they came back. They took care of the basketball and found open looks on offense, and our defense stepped up and limited a lot of things they probably wanted to do. The boys gave a good performance tonight.”
Elmwood-Murdock (10-7) found holes in Freeman’s zone during a 17-8 run in the second period. Cole Cooper dished kickout assists to Nick Langfeldt and Carter Bornemeier for 3-pointers on consecutive trips, and Noah Willey followed them with an interior basket off an assist from Langfeldt. Langfeldt’s 3-pointer and Willey’s basket and free throw gave the team its first lead since 2-0.
Pryor said the Knights had to be both patient and creative against Freeman’s elastic zone defense. In addition to the 6-7 frame of Ideus, the zone also featured 6-foot-4 bodies in Tyler Adams, Trey Yates, Luke Archer and Kaleb Unvert.
“They have one of the longest zones in the state with the personnel they have out there, which makes it really tough to get into an offensive rhythm,” Pryor said. “Their defense is really good and they bring a lot of energy. With that being said, I thought our guys did a good job against it. We were able to get some open looks and made some tough shots when we needed to score.”
Bornemeier’s trey midway through the third quarter gave the Knights a 32-26 lead. Massimo Lojing’s rebound and coast-to-coast layup two minutes later helped the team maintain a 36-30 advantage.
Freeman (15-3) rallied after that. Ideus closed the third quarter with a trey from the top of the arc, and Logan Anderson sank a scoring drive on the first trip of the fourth quarter. A drive by Adams put the Falcons ahead 38-36 with six minutes to go.
E-M surged to a 41-38 lead when Bornemeier canned a 3-pointer from the right wing with 3:48 to play. Nolan Langfeldt’s free throw kept the lead at 42-40 with 1:43 left, but Ideus switched the scoreboard in Freeman’s favor with his 3-pointer 20 seconds later.
Elmwood-Murdock took a potential game-tying 3-pointer with seven seconds to play at 45-42. Cooper knocked the rebound back outside for a second attempt at the buzzer. Freeman fans exhaled as the shot missed its mark.
Bornemeier led the Knights with 18 points and three rebounds. Nick Langfeldt posted nine points, four assists and two steals, and Nolan Langfeldt finished with two points, three assists and one steal.
Lojing collected four points and three rebounds, Willey posted seven points and Drake Spohr hauled in one rebound. Cooper drew one charge and chipped in two points, two assists and three rebounds.
Elmwood-Murdock 9 17 10 6 – 42
Freeman 16 8 10 11 – 45
Lojing 2-6 0-0 4, Nick Langfeldt 3-5 0-0 9, Nolan Langfeldt 0-1 2-4 2, Bornemeier 6-16 1-2 18, Willey 3-4 1-1 7, Spohr 0-0 0-0 0, Cooper 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 15-33 4-7 42.
Eisenbarth 0-2 2-2 2, Adams 4-6 1-2 9, Anderson 4-5 6-7 14, Yates 1-4 0-0 3, Ideus 6-11 3-3 17, Unvert 0-1 0-0 0, Archer 0-0 0-0 0, Ruse 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-29 12-14 45.