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Girls Hub Territory Soccer Roundup

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Kearney (7-1)

Yes, the Bearcats were the top seed in last weekend’s Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference Tournament. The favorite won, which in most circumstances wouldn’t turn any heads. But it was the way KHS plowed through the GNAC field that was noteworthy. KHS coach Tami Anderson admitted she was surprised her squad outscored its opponents 14-1, given the injuries her squad had to Morgan Wicht, Hannah Lundell and Megan Mueller. Winning their first GNAC title in four years was a statement to others and themselves.

Anderson said that her team grew up last weekend. It was a different story than the "beating" it took against Lincoln Southwest the previous Saturday. Kelsey Stithem, Claire Sickler and Molly Willis have all stepped up and played bigger roles for the injury-riddled Bearcats. Right now, they’re in an offensive groove they hope they can ride the rest of the season. They’ll have good postseason tests at the Lincoln Southeast Invitational this weekend and with North Platte and Lincoln East the following week. If they really did turn that corner, as Anderson believes they did, that’ll be clear in a battle-tested second half.

Holdrege (6-3)

Tuesday could’ve been a really beneficial thing for the Dusters. A home showdown against Kearney, a top 10 Class A school, would’ve been a nice barometer heading into the second month of the season. Instead, Mother Nature got in the way and decided blizzards in April were no big deal. But not playing that game could end up being a big deal.

With this new Class B Sub-State format, there are no easy rides to get to Omaha. That’s not to say Holdrege has its path paved to Sub-State, but as it currently stands, the Dusters will be the favorite to win another district title. Their only game against a Class A school this year could’ve helped out their wild card situation and given them competition comparable to a Sub-State foe.

The Dusters are 6-1 against teams below .500 and 0-2 against teams above that mark. Seeing better competition would’ve only helped, win or lose. Holdrege will be the No. 1 seed and the host site for the Central Conference Tournament. If Jenna Gillespie and Co. want to set themselves up better for Sub-State, winning a conference title would certainly help the cause.

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  • 04.16.14
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Boys Hub Territory Soccer Roundup

As it always does, the spring sports season has flown by. I’m still not convinced that the soccer season is half over already. Based on the fact that I’m looking at snow instead of grass, I’m under the impression that winter sports are in full swing.

Ok, that’s enough small talk. Here’s how the four boys Hub Territory soccer teams have fared in the first half of the 2014 season.

Kearney (6-2)

The boys GNAC Tournament ended in unprecedented fashion on Saturday. That is, it ended without the Bearcats winning for the first time in its five-year existence. Hastings bested Kearney in a shootout despite only registering one shot on net in regulation. That’s one of the things the Bearcats have going for them. With the likes of senior defenders Jamieson Oertle, Adam Chally and Robbie Potthoff, the KHS back end has been stout all year. The Bearcats have still yet to allow multiple goals in a game this season with their only losses coming in 1-0 defeats.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that goal-scoring has not come easily this year. It’s come in bunches, like it did in an impressive 4-1 win against Lexington and a 5-0 victory against Gering. Damien Austen and Austin Mishou have provided the vast majority of the offense they’ve gotten this year. But maintaining possession has been an issue at times for a group of midfielders still developing in their roles. That, however, is correctable. Steinbrook feels his group, which currently sits at No. 3 in the Class A wildcard standings, has potential to grow into one of the state’s best. A road showdown at 6-3 Grand Island on Thursday (weather permitting because it’s supposed to snow, of course) will be a good test and important one to pass for those wild card points.

Lexington (9-4)

You won’t find a more battle-tested Class B team right now than the Minutemen. Credit Lexington for scheduling back-to-back games with last year’s Class A state final teams (Omaha South and Creighton Prep) just three days into the season. That’s bold. They also had a home matchup against Kearney High three days before the GNAC Tournament in what could’ve been a title preview. But No. 2 Hastings got on the way of that pursuit.

First-year coach Jess McHargue took over Mike Zarate’s program after six straight state appearances. Against middle-of-the road Class B teams, McHargue’s squad has looked liked a state-caliber team. It’s hard to fault any of their four losses, either. McHargue hopes his team can improve on its execution around the net and not leave opportunities on the field. The Minutemen will have a chance to avenge its GNAC semifinal loss to Hastings on Thursday when the two squads square off. There’s a realistic chance Lexington could win out in the regular season (they only have four games left). If they could do that, the No. 3 Minutemen could put themselves up in prime position for a seventh straight year in Omaha.

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  • 04.14.14
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Former Storm goaltender Adam Wilcox made his presence felt in his half a season in Tri-City in 2012 when he led the team to a playoff berth. In case you haven’t heard, Wilcox’s success has skyrocketed in his two years at the University of Minnesota. The Big Ten Player of the Year has led the Gophers to the Frozen Four, where they’ll take on North Dakota this Thursday. What you may not know is that Wilcox has a rare talent. He knows the Rubik’s Cube inside and out.

  • 04.07.14
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Storm gives Hulton contract extension

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Tri-City Storm coach Jim Hulton agreed to a contract extension on Tuesday to keep him in Kearney through the 2014-15 season. Hulton, who was under contract until after the 2014 Draft in May, will get another season at the helm after he was hired in November. An updated story will appear in Friday’s Hub sports section.

Here is the full release:
KEARNEY — Hours before the final weekend of the regular season, Tri-City Storm head coach and general manager Jim Hulton has agreed in principle to an extension which will keep him at the helm through next season. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Hulton, 45, took over on Nov. 19, 15 games into the regular season. In January, the general manager made the decision to make trades to position the franchise better for the future.
“I’m very happy to have the opportunity to come back and hopefully finish the job,” Hulton said. “We started a big task at the trade deadline and put a lot of stock in our team moving forward. To have the opportunity to come back and see that to fruition is something that I’m very excited about.”

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  • 04.03.14
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UNK baseball salvages split, stops skid

By CONNOR O’GARA

Hub Sports Writer

KEARNEY — When University of Nebraska at Kearney ace Dalton Cowen went down in the first inning of a doubleheader, it was already shaping up to be a long day for the Lopers.

But a rough start, one that saw the Lopers fall 9-6 in the opener, was salvaged by a better finish. Some timely hitting and lockdown relief work allowed UNK to earn a 4-3 win and split in the second game against Missouri Western on Saturday at Memorial Field.

"Losing Dalton Cowen after two thirds of an inning through, he’s a guy who’s been pitching the best for us all season long and a guy who’s really been a momentum-changer for us," said UNK coach Damon Day. "To lose him was a gut-check. I was proud of our guys the way that we responded."

Cowen not only missed the rest of the game but he could be out the rest of the season with stress fracture in his ankle. Without him, the Loper offense had its work cut out.

The Lopers pushed across four first-inning runs and actually knocked Missouri Western starter Tyler Tuepker out of the game after he only recorded one out. Max Ayoub’s first-inning three-run home run gave UNK its first lead of the afternoon.

Offense wasn’t a problem for UNK, which racked up 12 hits in the opener. Brandon Landanger, Jayke Brock, Josh Kiger, and Anthony Pacheco each had multi-hit games. Pacheco’s moonshot over the right-center field wall gave the Lopers a 6-5 lead in the fifth inning. 

"Pacheco is huge for us right now," Day said. "When you have as many injuries as we’ve had, the batting order changes so much. There are so many different characters at so many different positions. But he’s been our one constant."

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  • 03.29.14
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Basketball season may be over, but that means it’s time to hand out some awards. While the Kearney Hub will be unveiling its All-Region Teams and Hub Territory Boys and Girls Player of the Year awards next week, the SportsHub is here to hand out some more (imaginary) hardware while you wait.

Here’s what’s at stake: Best Cinderella Story, Best Clutch Moment, All-Glue Players, the You’ll Be Missed Award, the ‘Wait, You Haven’t Graduated Yet?’ award (great players who will be back for even more next year), and a “Look Out Next Year” team award.

Who did Nathan and Connor give nods to for recognition? Watch the SportsHub to find out.

  • 03.20.14
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Overton fends off Lourdes CC, advances to state semifinals

By CONNOR O’GARA

Hub Sports Writer

LINCOLN — Overton has learned to take a punch in 2013-14.

The Eagles have been down against teams they should’ve been taking care of. They’ve shown various faces within a game that make one question if they can get up from a punch.

But Overton sure can deliver quite the haymaker. 

Thursday, with the season on the line, that was no different. Despite the fact that the Eagles nearly surrendered all of their 17-point second-half lead, they closed out Lourdes Central Catholic and advanced to the state semifinals today against No. 1 Howells-Dodge. Their 65-58 D1 quarterfinal victory on Thursday at Lincoln East was the product of maturation on the state’s biggest stage. 

“Once you keep driving at them, driving at them and keep matching, they’re going to go, ‘Oh man, they’re not going away. We can’t get over that hump’,” said Overton guard Joel Shafer. “Thankfully, we never did let them get over it.”

Nobody played a bigger factor in that than Tanner Ryan, who went off for 25 of his game-high 32 points in the second half.

“Some of the other kids weren’t playing with confidence and I knew I had to be that guy if we wanted to stay in it,” Ryan said.

Part of that lacking confidence was because Lourdes CC post Noah Vasa blocked Overton’s first three shots. On the fourth, Ryan got creative. But really, he got simple.

A routine pump fake got Vasa out of position, and more importantly, got Overton on the board after being down 6-0.

“It was a big weight off my shoulders,” Ryan said. “After that, we knew there were ways around (Vasa) if we just utilized them.”

Vasa still finished with 11 blocked shots and posted a triple-double in the process with 12 points and 15 rebounds. 

But the 6-7 center couldn’t shut down Overton for good. Caleb Ecklund and Shafer each finished in double figures while Creighton Ryan added nine points to pace the Eagles.

“I told them that I didn’t care how many blocked shots (Vasa) got,” said Overton coach Jay Staehr. “I just wanted them to continue to go after him.”

For the complete story, pick up a copy of Friday’s Hub sports section. Follow all the state action in Lincoln @ www.kearneyhub.com

  • 03.13.14
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KCHS can’t recover from early deficit, falls to Scotus

LINCOLN - Scotus jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in its quarterfinal contest against Kearney Catholic.

Behind 26 points from junior Grant Lahm, the top-seeded Shamrocks topped the Stars 72-57 on Friday in the opening round of the Class C1 state tournament.

While both teams started a combined 0 for 7 to start the game, Scotus was the first to settle in — and it made all the difference. Behind a trio of 15-foot jumpers from Derek Kaslon, Scotus took an early 13-3 lead.

And until the lead ballooned late in the game, the margin remained between six and 11 points for much of the way.

Any time KCHS threatened, though, Scotus had an answer, and the Shamrocks put the game away early in the fourth quarter when Lahm converted a four-point play and Tyler Morton added another trey two possessions later.

"You have to make runs," Scotus coach Jeff Ohnoutka said. "We call it stop-score-stop. …We practice that way all the time, so the kids are in the mentality of getting stops, coming down in transition, taking it to the rim and going down and doing it all over again."

It was Lahm doing much of the damage. His 26 points came on 7 for 15 shooting. He also had five assists, leading to 13 other points for the Shamrocks.

"There’s going to be games where people are going to be holding him, face-guarding him and doing those things," Ohnoutka said. "When he does get those opportunities, he needs to look for his shot. If not, he needs to be drawing people to him and then find the open guys for the easy looks." 

Scotus is making its first appearance at state since 1996, and with its 22nd win of the season, the team set a school record.

Senior Blake Holtmeier led Kearney Catholic with 15 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. Zach Jackson added 11 points and Brady Holtmeier scored 10.

KCHS coach Scott Carlin said the slow start wasn’t much. But it was just enough to set his team back. 

"I don’t what to say other than the fact that we had good shots," Carlin said. "That kind of told the story of the game. We would get right there and falter a little bit, cut it back down, falter a little bit. Do those things over and over, and it’s tough to come back against a good time like they are."

Be sure to check www.kearneyhub.com for a full story from Kearney Catholic’s quarterfinal contest.

  • 03.13.14
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Elm Creek can’t recover in D1 quarterfinals

LINCOLN — Elm Creek couldn’t recapture its regular season magic.

The Buffs couldn’t string together buckets when they needed them most. And not that Randolph lit up the scoreboard, but it did enough to fend off Elm Creek for a 41-39 D1 quarterfinal win on Thursday morning at Lincoln East. 

“It hurts because we didn’t leave it all on the floor,” said Elm Creek point guard Zach Johnson. “We couldn’t buy a basket at times. It’s just how it is. If you don’t make the plays at state, you’re not going to be able to advance.”

It was Elm Creek who made the plays early. The Buffs showed no rust from their two-week competition layoff and jumped out to a nine-point lead in the second quarter. 

But Elm Creek only scored 21 points in the final 24 minutes.

“We couldn’t find the hole in the basket,” Johnson said. “Then they slowed the pace down and ran at their pace. We couldn’t get anything going and they did.”

While Elm Creek went cold, Randolph ceased momentum with a 14-0 run at the end of the first half and into the third quarter. Garrett Watters established his presence on the interior with a game-high 18 points and Nolan Nordhues attacked the teeth of the Elm Creek defense.

“We really did a good job in that third quarter of getting the ball inside and getting some shots in the paint,” said Randolph coach Jeff Hoesing. “That was probably the difference.”

Nic Crowley kept the Buffs in it with his team-high 12 points and nine boards while Johnson paced the attack with 10 points.

But Elm Creek never got the lead back in the second half. 

“We had open looks. You can’t say we didn’t have open looks,” said Elm Creek coach Tanner Cavenee. “We had the right kids shoot the ball but that’s basketball. Sometimes you make them, sometimes you don’t. If we make them, we probably win by 10 or more.”

For more, pick up a copy of today’s Hub. Full coverage from the boys basketball state tournament will continue all weekend here and at www.kearneyhub.com.

  • 03.13.14
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Cozad falls to Wayne in C1 quarterfinals

A hot-shooting quarter was all Wayne needed.

The No. 2-seed Blue Devils used a 10-0 run out of the gates in the second quarter to take control of today’s Class C1 morning quarterfinal against No. 7-seed Cozad, and Wayne eased to a 60-45 victory.

Wayne (24-4) made 9 of its 14 baskets, including four three pointers, in the second quarter to steal all the game’s momentum, outscoring the Haymakers 22-7 in that frame.

"We knew that if some of their role players were hitting shots, that they’d be tough to beat," Cozad coach Brian Davis said. "I don’t think much changed. We were a little slow on our rotations, a couple of rebounds we didn’t get, but they knocked down some contested shots."

Wayne coach Rob Sweetland said his team just needed to shake off the state tournament jitters.

"I think the kids were anxious to get going and got through that start where we didn’t get anything through the basket," Wayne coach Rob Sweetland said about the team’s start. "We’re senior led, and they settled down a little bit."

The Blue Devils jumped to a 20-point lead early in the third quarter, but Cozad battled back. A Conor Young dunk, followed by two 3-pointers from Jake Paulsen drew the score to 50-43 with 4:13 left in the game.

But that was the closest the Haymakers got.

For more, pick up a copy of today’s Hub. Full coverage from the boys basketball state tournament will continue all weekend here and at www.kearneyhub.com.

  • 03.13.14