LE MARS -- Both Gehlen Catholic and Unity Christian went into Friday's game with nothing but wins in the War Eagle Conference, but only one team could hang onto that undefeated-in-conference record.
The Jays got it going right off the bat and took care of the ball to claim the 52-41 win.
"That was a big win," Gehlen boys coach Mike Langel said. "In the War Eagle Conference, Unity's always part of it, and Unity's always been tough to beat through the years. We've been fortunate enough to get the win for the past few years, and that gives you a good chance at the conference title."
In Friday's game, the Jays swept into the first quarter to take a 17-7 lead.
"We got off to a really nice quick start and got things rolling right away," Langel said.
First-half foul trouble for Gehlen's Blake Wiltgen and Colton Kneip kept them on the bench for a while.
"For some reason that kind of took us out of the game a little bit," Langel said. "But we ended up holding them off."
In the second quarter, Gehlen scored only eight, but the Jays held the Knights to four points, making the score 25-11 for the Jays at halftime.
"We had a good defensive effort, at least in the first half," Langel said. "We got a little tired toward the second half, and I think it showed a couple of times."
Unity put together a big third quarter coming out of the break, outscoring the Jays 17-11.
Going into the final quarter, Gehlen's lead was diminished, but the Jays still had it 36-28.
The final quarter was close, but Gehlen out-shot Unity 16-13 with some key buckets from the charity stripe.
"They made a nice run at us in the third and fourth quarter, but we hit enough free throws down the line to preserve the win," Langel said.
Gehlen sophomore Alex Kellen hit a career-high 17 points to lead scoring for the night. He went 10-of-15 from the field, including three treys.
"Alex really stepped up for us and had a big game," Langel said.
Gehlen's Michael Whitehead, a senior, scored 14 points for the Jays.
"Michael's starting to get a lot of attention, double teams and stuff, so it's nice to see Alex step up and take some of that slack," Langel said. "When they start double-teaming Michael, that leaves somebody open, and Alex has stepped up and had some nice shots."
Wiltgen and Kneip each added eight points for the Jays.
Kneip led the team in rebounds with 13 and Wiltgen had 10. Wiltgen also had four assists and three steals, and Solomon Freking had three assists and two steals. Kneip added two steals and two blocks, and Kellen logged two blocks.
Unity's leading scorer, Logan Schoonhoven, had 14 points for the night.
The Jays kept their turnovers to 12, which Langel said was a good effort for the night.
"Unity put a lot of pressure on the ball, so it was an important part of the game," he said.
The WEC win puts Gehlen at 7-0 in the conference and 12-2 overall.
But Langel knows the Jays aren't out of the woods in conference play yet.
"We have two left, Remsen-Union and West Sioux," Langel said.
One of Gehlen's two losses of the season was to R-U in November. The Jays' second loss was that same week to Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn.
Before any more conference play, though, Gehlen has to meet up with rated Storm Lake St. Mary's at home.
"I really expect us to do really well against them," Langel said. "Hopefully we get the win out of that."