Published Saturday January 19, 2013
By Stu Pospisil
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
Omaha Gross was heading the wrong way again against South Sioux City.
Just as in the consolation game of the Waverly holiday tournament, the Cougars let a large fourth-quarter lead melt down Saturday in the River Cities Conference boys basketball tournament title game.
South Sioux City cut an 18-point deficit to three, but got no closer. The 57-52 win for Gross gave the Cougars their first RCC tournament crown since the 1997-98 season.
“The games were very similar,” Gross coach Tim Powers said. “This time, we had a little more of a cushion.”
Neither team in the boys final came into the game at Ralston included in the Class B ratings — but the other four teams in the conference were.
South Sioux beat No. 4 Ralston and No. 9 Omaha Roncalli. Gross took out No. 8 Beatrice and No. 3 Omaha Skutt.
Gross, now 8-6, was the last of the six seeds. South Sioux (8-7), which had been in the finals the previous three seasons, was the fourth seed.
The Cardinals were leading 24-20 in the third quarter before Gross went on a 28-8 tear in the next eight minutes for its largest lead at 48-32 with 5:30 left.
Cragin Missak, who led the Cougars with 15 points, made all three 3-pointers he tried in the third quarter. Zach Johnk had another trey early in the fourth.
“We started to shoot the ball in rhythm, let the shots come to us,” Powers said. “We played more composed.”
It was the reverse for the Cardinals, said coach Terry Comstock, who received a technical foul that helped launch the Cougars’ rally.
“We simply lost our composure and I’ll take 100 percent of the blame,” Comstock said. “We were wanting things so bad. We had to settle down.”
South Sioux’s full-court press already was forcing turnovers in the fourth quarter. But it kicked up a level as Gross went seven consecutive possessions without a shot.
Alex Borchers’ basket off a steal cut the Gross lead to 48-42. The closest the Cardinals got was 54-51 on an Austin Fritza basket off a steal with 48 seconds left.
JJ Lebeda, who had 12 points, Missak and Jake Hansen each went 1 of 2 at the line to regain a six-point lead while South Sioux came up empty on back-to-back possessions.
“The thing about this group and this program is they’re not going to stop playing hard,” Comstock said. “But we can’t put ourselves in these situations.”
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