Rice had hoped to be the team to unseat Kerens at the Kiwanis Classic. For 16 minutes, it looked like the Bulldogs had a chance.
Then the second half started.
Kerens played like a team that’s been to many championship teams, polishing off Rice, 80-50, Friday night in the first boys semifinal. Nate Betts had 35 points to lead the Bobcats (8-5), who will face the Blooming Grove-Mildred winner at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for the title.
Rice (11-2) will play in the third place game at 4:30.
Brandon Ward added 19 for the Bobcats, 13 in the third. Sim Nexar led Rice with 18 points, and Danieal Areaga had 16.
Betts had 10 points in the first three minutes of the game as Kerens built a 12-7 lead. He had 14 in the first as the Bobcats led, 20-17. Rice stayed close in the first half behind Artega (12 points) and Nezar (10), and trailed 32-29 at the break. The Bulldogs led briefly, 26-24, but Kerens answered with an 8-0 run, kick-started by Betts’ third three-pointer of the half.
In the third period, Brandon Ward had the hot hand for the Bobcats, scoring the team’s first 10 points as the lead swelled to 48-34 with just under four minutes left in the period. Rice couldn’t buy a bucket for most of the third, and trailed 54-34 with 1:15 left before Nexar buried an off-balance three to stop the bleeding.
Kerens owned a 24-8 edge in the third, with Ward accounting for 13 of the Bobcats’ points, and built a 56-37 lead going into the fourth.
Blooming Grove 66, Mildred 54
The Lions started firing 3s early and by the time they were finished they had made 10 bombs from five different players, including four 3s from Daniel Pelzel, who hit three of them in the first quarter when the Lions scored all 15 of their points on five 3s. Pelzel finished the night with 18 points and Tyler Lewis, who hit three treys, including back-to-back 3s in the third quarter, scored nine points. Dalton Blake hit a 3 in the first quarter and finished with nine points and Brody Owens hit a 3 for his only points of the night. Juanya Pyburn came off the bench and scored 11 of his 14 points in the fourth for Blooming Grove (13-1). The Lions, whose only loss came on a tip-in against Rice in the Frost Tournament, meet Kerens for the title at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We make a lot of 3s,’’ said Blooming Gove Coach Ben Kinnison, who wasn’t surprised to see his kids fill it up from long range. “We made 17 in one game and 12 in another. We average about seven or eight a game.’’
Mildred had an early lead and was up 20-15 after the first quarter, but the Eagles had trouble making shots and watched Blooming Grove take over the game in the third when the Lions built a 42-26 lead before Mildred finished with a 9-1 run to keep it close. Mildred had a chance in the fourth and when Connor Hill hit back-to-back 3s, the Eagles closed to 48-43 with 5:10 left, but Pyburn took over and scored Blooming Grove’s next seven points to lift the Lions to a 58-47 lead with 3:43 left.
Mildred was led by Jace Butler’s 19 points. Russell Holden scored 12 and Mikey Muncey added nine for the Eagles (8-7).