KEARNEY — The Kearney High boys came up just a bit short Saturday night — sort on the scoreboard, and short on height.
Sixth-ranked Creighton Prep, with a starting lineup 6-foot-2 and taller, and a 6-8 post player coming off the bench, held on for a 59-57 victory at Kearney High.
“Their length was tough to deal with,” said Kearney coach Drake Beranek, who started four players 6-3 or shorter. “We probably let a few things slip that are some opportunities that we had, but We have to find a way to win close games against a good team.”
The Bearcats trailed 42-41 entering the fourth quarter but Prep’s 6-foot-6 post player, AJ Rollins, who hadn’t been much of a factor earlier, scored seven of the Junior Jays’ next nine points. Prep led 42-41 going into the fourth quarter, but Rollins’ spurt, along with a layup by Brendan Buckley had the Jays on top 50-43 with 3 1/2 minutes left.
“They stretched lead, tot it about to seven .... and when they get it that far and it’s tough to respond. Our kids kept fighting. We kept playing and kept fighting, so that’ll pay dividends toward the end of the year. I think our kids know what we’re capable of, and it’s coming,” Beranek said.
Prep, who had beaten No. 1-ranked Omaha Central on Friday, still had to fight off the Bearcats in the final minutes.
In the final 40 seconds, Kearney’s Jack Johnson scored five straight points to pull the Bearcats within three. Prep’s Brendan Buckley cashed in two free throws with six seconds left so the Jays could absorb a 3-pointer by Kearney’s Colin Murray that capped the scoring.
Buckley finished with 15 points to lead the Jays, while Rollins scored 14 and Luke Jungurs added 12.
For Kearney, Seth Stroh led the way with 21 points and Johnson added 13 points and eight rebounds,
“When you play a lot season of basketball, you have to have a growth mentality ... finding a way to learn and grow and be better,” Beranek said. “We need to do that and our kids are smart and competitive and we’re going to fight until the end and I think this game symbolizes that.
Kearney, 10-7, plays host to Grand Island on Friday.
Creighton Prep 59, KHS 57
Score by Quarters
OCP (12-5)13 15 14 17 — 59
KHS (10-7)16 10 15 16 — 57
CREIGHTON PREP — Brendan Buckley 15, AJ Rollins 14, Luke Jungurs 12, Spencer Shromers 7, Conor Buckley 4, Mai’Jhe Wiley 4, Justin Sitti 3.
KEARNEY HIGH — Seth Stroh 21, Jack Johnson 13, Easton Bruce 9, Preston Pearson 6, Colin Murray 6, Will Vanderbeek 2.
KHS close but can't catch up
Freshman Tatum Rusher came off the bench to score a team-high 16 points for Kearney High, but a fourth-quarter rally by the Bearcats came up short in a 51-47 loss to Omaha Marian.
The Crusaders led by nine early in the fourth quarter, but Kearney rallied with a pair of 3-pointers by Kierstynn Garner and four points each by Tatum and Aspen Rusher, closed the gap.
Garner finished with 12 points to join Tatum Rusher in double figures.
Marian’s Aryannah Harrison led all scorers with 20 points, including a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws in the fourth quarter.
Omaha Marian 51, Kearney 47
Score by Quarters
Marian (8-8)23 6 9 13 — 51
Kearney (3-14)14 9 8 16 — 47
MARIAN — Aryannah Harrison 20, Kate Asselin 9, Parker Stafford 6, Olivia Heinert 6. Katie Sulentic 5, Maggie Pallesen 4.
KEARNEY — Tatum Rusher 16, Kierstynn Garner 12, Aspen Rusher 9, Kari Streubing 6, Lily Novacek 2, Karleigh Hatcher 2.