With Cade Gorzny pushing the pace in transition, Gehrig Koerner would leak into the left corner. Gorzny would send Koerner the pass, Koerner would catch and shoot, and the ball would be through the net for three points before Goreville’s defense could set up.
That proved to be a deadly weapon for the Comets in their 65-50 win over the Blackcats in the Class 1A third-place game at Carver Arena on Saturday.
“We’re looking just to push the ball up the court,” Koerner said. “They really locked down our inside game when we were pushing the ball up the court, so we looked on the outside. Thankfully, we were able to knock down some shots from the corner.”
Already having built a 7-4 lead thanks to a pair of baskets in the paint by Devon House and a 3-pointer by Travis Williams, back-to-back corner 3s by Koerner pushed the lead out to 13-4.
Goreville largely took that away later in the game, though the corner was the place to be for Gorzny later in the first half when he knocked down a corner 3 to extend the lead to 28-12. One House basket in the paint later, Newman had its largest lead of the game.
“We really ran our fast break a lot better than we did [in Friday’s semifinal loss] against Annawan,” Gorzny said. “I think that really helped us. Gehrig, he was wide open on probably five shots, just getting the [defensive] rebound and going as hard as we could up court.”
“We knew that coming off our loss [Friday], we came out slow against Annawan, that we needed to make them run with us, because it’s hard to run with us when we’re playing our best,”
When the Blackcats began to get back in transition, the Comets had to adjust. Instead of shooting, Koerner pulled the ball back as Gorzny cut in toward the basket. Williams was often available as an option trailing the play. The
Comets, in cases when nothing was available in transition, were content to pull the ball out and work their offense, which often led to an open look after a few passes.
“We practiced for 30 minutes here and got a lot of shots up, so that really helped us,” Gorzny said.
Newman’s edge on the boards was another huge factor. Boasting the inside play of the 6-foot-7 House and the 6-2 Williams, the Comets had an area where the Blackcats could not compete. The two tallest players on the Goreville roster – Cole Tosh and Tanner Dunn – both stand 6-3.
At times, with Williams and House both facing foul trouble, the Comets went to a small lineup with Jake Terveer in the post, and hardly missed a beat. Terveer even came away with four points off the offensive glass himself, two when a miss came off the rim directly to him and no other player was anywhere in the vicinity.
“We just knew that we had to crash the boards hard on all shots that we took, and that we’d be successful if we got them,”
With House pulling down 10 rebounds and Williams grabbing 13, the Comets came away with a 48-32 rebounding edge.
The damage came largely from offensive rebounds, of which Newman had 18. In the first half, Newman had as many offensive rebounds (10) as Goreville had total rebounds. Six different Newman players had at least one offensive board. With the Comets getting two and three chances on some possessions, the second-chance points added up. By the end, Newman held a 28-8 edge in that category.
Though Goreville coach Todd Tripp prefers a zone defense, his team has gone to man-to-man defense in recent years, and opened the third-place game in man-to-man before switching to a zone.
“When I go back to a zone, any coach knows, rebounding is hard, and we missed a few, just out of the zone, they got some putbacks,” Tripp said. “Our guys were yelling ‘block out,’ but we were. That one guy that didn’t get blocked out, he got the rebound. That’s what good teams do.”
Newman coach Ray Sharp preaches that you know a shooter is taking the right shot when rebounders are headed to the boards when the shot goes up. Newman kept taking the right shot on Saturday, and of the 60 shots the Comets put up, 42 either went through the hoop or wound up back in the hands of a Comet rebounder who could give Newman another chance.