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By Neligh-Oakdale Schools
It was another thrilling finish for the Warriors. For the second-straight game, it came down to the final seconds.
Neligh-Oakdale clung to a narrow 36-34 lead over Elgin Public/Pope John heading into the fourth quarter. Loud cheers from the energized crowd filled the gym and every fan in the student section remained on their feet.
Both teams battled back and forth, never allowing the other to widen the scoring gap. With just 3 minutes left to play and a 43-39 advantage, Warrior Coach Frank Gade called a timeout.
Neligh-Oakdale came back onto the court with a motion offense to burn time off the clock. The players executed the offense seamlessly, constantly moving and passing the ball around for more than 2 minutes. The defense relaxed a bit, and the Warriors surprised them by finding Ben Lingenfelter under the hoop for an easy bucket.
Neligh-Oakdale extended their lead to 45-39, but it was short-lived. The Wolfpack quickly got the ball down the court and hit a 3-pointer. They fouled Tyson Belitz to stop the clock with just 49 seconds left in the game. Belitz drained both shots from the line to pull ahead 47-42.
But the Wolfpack didn't stop there. They drove the ball down the court and hit a 2-point shot, making it a 3-point ball game. A quick foul again stopped the clock. Grant White headed to the charity stripe for two shots with 14 seconds left. White missed his first shot, but knocked down the second. The Warriors now led by 4 points, but Elgin had the ball.
In a race against the clock, the Wolfpack pushed the ball up the court and put up a shot with 3 seconds remaining. Alex Kerkman jumped up to rebound the missed shot and was fouled. Kerkman's first free throw attempt rolled off the rim, but he hit the second one for a score of 49-44 and the subsequent win.
"Our defense was better but still needs to improve," Gade said. "We are going to continue to work on communicating on defense. The two-minute-plus offensive possession we had with 3 minutes left was the best offense I have seen here at Neligh-Oakdale."
White led the Warriors in scoring with 18 points, followed by Belitz with nine. Lingenfelter pulled down seven rebounds. Kerkman, Chris Bentley and Grant Knutson each grabbed five.
Turnovers plagued the Warriors in their first road game against Creighton on Friday night.
"Twenty-plus turnovers against a team like Creighton just won't get it done," Gade said. "When we allow the opposing team to control the tempo like that it's going to be hard to be successful."
Neligh-Oakdale got off to a slow start, giving the Bulldogs a 22-8 lead after the first quarter and a 42-12 advantage at the half.
The Warriors out-scored their opponent in the second half, but fell short. Creighton defeated Neligh-Oakdale, 66-38.
"I was proud of how we fought in the second half, but it just wasn't enough," he said.
Leading scorer for Neligh-Oakdale was White with 13 points, followed by Knutson and Bentley with six each. The Warriors are now 2-2 on the season.