The players for Falls City Sacred Heart did not hold back their emotions as coach Dough Goltz called a timeout with 42 seconds left to sub in his bench in his team’s 59-42 win over Riverside.
As the No. 1 Irish (25-3) closed in on their first state title since 2008, it was apparent how much the win meant to the starters as they exited the floor. But they still had energy for an aggressive dog pile at center court after the final buzzer sounded.
The energy might have been left over from last year, when a loss in districts ended the Irish’s chance to play for a title.
“We knew that we were one point away from being in the tournament last year, and we felt that we let ourselves down by losing a couple of games early in the year,” Sacred Heart junior Drew Bippes said. “We just used that over the summer and throughout the whole year.”
Sacred Heart was able to slow down No. 2 Riverside’s (25-3) high-flying offense when it mattered.
The guards from both teams got going early. Sacred Heart’s Drew Bippes and Riverside’s Tredyn Prososki battled back and forth in the fourth quarter, as Bippes scored eight points and Prososki had 10.
Then Prososki opened up the second quarter with a three-pointer from the First National Bank logo on the left wing. The distance was nearly 30 feet. Unfazed, the Irish shared the wealth on offense as six different players scored in the first half and went into the locker room up by seven points.
“It’s kind of deflating when you see one of your players hit a 30-foot three, then they come down and answer,” Riverside coach Joe Imus said.
The Irish steadily held a double digit lead throughout the second half. They were able to play keep-away the rest of the way, and a late lay-up by Tyler Witt off of a half-court baseball pass from out of bounds extended the lead to 57-42 with 1:30 to go.
“Getting here was the goal,” Sacred Heart coach Doug Goltz said. “Then we just try to preach to them that you’ve got to put three good games together. Tonight we were better than Riverside. We didn’t have to be better than them all year long, we just had to be better tonight.”
Prososki fouled out in the fourth quarter with 23 points, consistent with his strong play throughout the tournament.
It was a new kind of disappointment for Riverside, who lost in the semifinal the last three seasons. This time, they broke new ground my making the championship game after beating Mullen, who knocked them out in the semifinal a year ago.
“I think we were pretty happy to be here,” Imus said. “And that kind of showed. We weren’t the same team (tonight) we had been all year. A lot of credit, too, goes to Sacred Heart, but it seemed like we were just happy to be here at times.”
“A lot of times either it feels like you didn’t do what you needed to do and lost, or the other team just simply beat you. Tonight they just simply beat us.”