LOUISVILLE – The Louisville boys took the phrase “defense wins championships” to heart Thursday night with a physical victory over Nebraska City.
The Lions sank two late free throws and caused a turnover on Nebraska City’s final trip on offense to win 49-47. Louisville forced the Pioneers to commit 14 turnovers and limited NCHS to seven offensive rebounds.
LHS head coach Adam Vogt said that defense-first mentality played a crucial role in the team’s victory. He said the Lions would look to copy that formula throughout the season.
“We have a bunch of guys who are going to play really well defensively and get after it on that end of the court, but we don’t have a lot of guys who are going to fill it up on the scoreboard every night,” Vogt said. “That’s just who we are. We’re going to be in a lot of games where we score fewer than 50 points this year, but that’s okay because our guys play great defense. We’re going to be able to win games because of our work on the defensive side of things.”
Louisville allowed Nebraska City to fire many jumpers from long range during the game. The Pioneers finished 6-of-20 from the 3-point arc. Clay Stovall sank a trio of deep treys for Nebraska City, but the Lions were able to force the Pioneers into one-and-done trips on many other shots.
“We knew they were going to take a lot of 3-pointers tonight, but we also knew they were probably going to miss a lot of them,” Vogt said. “They’re certainly not afraid to shoot from those spots, and they can hit from anywhere, as you saw with #4 (Stovall) sinking one from near the coach’s chair. We wanted to make them chuck it up and see how things went from there. The key with that plan is defensive rebounding, and our guys did a nice job of doing that on most of their trips.”
Nebraska City sprinted out to a 12-5 lead but watched that disappear over the next six minutes of game time. Louisville held the team without a field goal for more than five minutes in the second quarter and built a 19-15 lead. A stop-and-pop 3-pointer from Doug Euans with 2.1 seconds left gave LHS a 24-19 halftime edge.
The Pioneers used a flurry of points to go ahead 32-29 late in the third quarter. The Lions then put together a series of scoring trips in the fourth period. Caleb Hrabik, Brady Geise and Jaren Powell all sank shots on consecutive possessions to give the team a 41-37 lead.
The crowd stood for most of the final two minutes as the teams went back and forth. A deep 3-pointer by Stovall pulled Nebraska City within 44-42, and Eli Southard knocked down two free throws for NCHS with 1:38 left to tie it at 44-44.
Geise gave Louisville a 47-44 lead with a 3-pointer with 51 seconds to go, but Southard countered that move with a trey of his own ten seconds later. Euans then sank one free throw after Nebraska City fouled him before the Lions inbounded the ball.
Nebraska City missed a shot with less than ten seconds left and Geise drilled one free throw to make the score 49-47. Louisville then caused Nebraska City to commit a turnover in the final moments to win.
“I thought we did a really nice job of executing down the stretch,” Vogt said. “Brady was able to hit that shot to give us the lead, and then we did a good job on defense and were able to force a turnover on their last possession. It was a good way to end the game for us.”
Geise led Louisville with 17 points and five rebounds. Jaren Powell collected 11 points and seven boards, Euans tallied nine points and two steals and Hrabik scored six points.
Brayden Powell and Conner Buettner each posted three points, Jaden Maxey had one assist and one steal and Quinn Wolcott produced one block and one rebound. Talon Ball added defensive work for the team.
Nebraska City 15 4 13 15 – 47
Louisville 13 11 7 16 – 49
Maxey 0-4 0-0 0, Geise 5-15 3-7 17, Euans 2-3 3-6 9, J. Powell 4-8 3-6 11, Wolcott 0-1 0-0 0, Hrabik 3-3 0-1 6, Ball 0-0 0-0 0, B. Powell 1-2 0-1 3, Buettner 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 16-37 9-21 49.