Brendon Walker floated in a go-ahead jumper and Trevor Kuncl made two free throws with 20 seconds left to help the Class D2 No. 5 Mullen boys basketball team defeat Class D1 No. 2 St. Pat’s 52-49 on Tuesday in North Platte.
“That’s a good ball team,” Mullen coach Brad Wright said of St. Pat’s. “Jack Heiss is probably one of the best players in D1 this year and Corby Condon — Bill O’Malley does a good job with them.
“It’s exciting,” he added. “We’re heading in the right direction.”
The Broncos started off slow, which allowed St. Pat’s to gain control early with buckets from Heiss, Condon and Alex Davies. When Mullen made it 7-5, Heiss hit a 3 for the Irish and Will Moats made a layup to push the lead to seven.
The pace of the matchup changed in the second quarter after Mullen’s Jaden Emerson hit a 3, and Clayton Moore followed with back-to-back shots.
Emerson came back with another 3 a minute later to give the Broncos a 17-15 lead. The Broncos stayed in control for the rest of the frame, thanks to Walker’s five points and a 3 from Kuncl.
“He’s very creative. He understands the game,” Wright said of Walker, who finished with 14. “He’s just a dynamic player, especially when he gets rolling. He creates a lot of things for our guys and gets us some easy buckets. He really did it tonight.”
That dominance reemerged midway through the third when Walker and Kuncl nailed back-to-back 3s to put Mullen ahead 36-27.
St. Pat’s answered with a run of its own with Condon and Joseph Heirigs, who finished with 12, combining for six points to pull the Irish to within three.
Mullen went back up by five when Bryce McIntosh scored, only for Condon to nail a pair of consecutive 3s to put St. Pat’s ahead 39-38 to end the third.
“I just told them to keep doing it on the defensive end,” Wright said. “I’m a defensive coach, and everything for us needs to start on the defensive side. We just kept battling. I kept telling them, ‘Talk on the defensive side.’ And they did.”
Neither team gained the edge in the fourth. Every St. Pat’s basket was met with one from Mullen, and no team scored consecutive points until the final two minutes.
The Broncos pulled within one point on Clayton Moore’s 3-pointer, and Walker gave them a lead with a floater on the right side by the baseline.
Heiss had two chances to either give the Irish the lead or tie the game, and both attempts bounced off the rim, securing the win for Mullen.
“We’re both top-tier teams, I feel like,” Wright said. “I know we’re getting there, and I know Bill O’Malley has a great program here. These are the games you look forward to. These are fun games.”
Mullen 57, St. Pat’s 53
Tonja Heirigs made back-to-back 3s with 1:11 left, but it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback for the St. Pat’s girls as they fell to Class D2 No. 8 Mullen 57-53 on Tuesday.
“It was an exciting game,” Mullen coach Clint Svoboda said. “To be honest, I thought we came out a little flat and fought our way back. I was proud of that. We got it back to where we needed it to be at halftime.”
Both teams turned the ball over at the start of the game, and it was difficult for either to get into a groove. St. Pat’s seemed to settle down first when Kate Stienike drained a 3, and Heirigs converted on an and-1 to give the Irish a 12-5 lead.
Mullen’s Shelby Walsh made back-to-back baskets in the paint, but St. Pat’s finished the quarter strong with Heiss’ 3 and Heirigs’ layup at the buzzer.
Mullen’s powerful offense flexed its muscles in the second with Samantha Moore — silent in the first quarter — scoring 11 of the Broncos’ 19 points in the frame.
Moore and teammate Taylor Svoboda went on a 7-0 run to close out the second quarter and tie the game at 28-28.
“We had called a timeout and talked about how we got to ramp up the intensity and just getting after it and being tough,” Clint Svoboda. “They responded well to it as a group. I give them all the credit. They fought hard.”
Mullen took advantage of St. Pat’s struggles offensively and quickly jumped out to a 37-28 lead in which Kylie Licking, Brooke McCully, Moore and Svoboda all made shots.
The Irish started to pull back into the game when Heirigs hit a 3, and St. Pat’s later closed out the quarter with two baskets from Mae Siegel.
The Broncos continued dominating on offense to start the fourth quarter and held a 56-45 lead midway through.
That’s when St. Pat’s made one final push. Heiss hit a free throw, and Heirigs scored two 3s to pull within four points. Heirigs stole the ball on Mullen’s next offensive possession, but was fouled on the layup and only made one free throw.
McCully reached the line for Mullen with 4.8 seconds left, and made the front half of her free throws to put the game out of reach at 57-53.
“We didn’t take care of the basketball in the second half,” Clint Svoboda said. “There were a few stretches where we were throwing it away, and they got back in it. They’re a good team in their own gym, and they were knocking down shots and competing hard. I give them a lot of credit.”