Gehlen boys advance past Woodbury Central in district play

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

LE MARS — Needless to say, Gehlen Catholic’s boys basketball team needs to be more focused from here on out in Class 1A post-season play.

Scoreless in the final 5:26 of the second quarter when the second-seeded Jays took a 33-15 halftime lead, Woodbury Central outscored the hosts 22-19 in the third quarter, then pulled within 52-40 12 seconds into the fourth quarter on Jack Meister’s three-point basket. Then, with 3:19 left in the game, Drew Kluender’s three lifted the Wildcats within 56-46.

Gehlen, which ended the game on an 11-3 run, never lost its double-digit lead while posting a 67-49 Class 1A District 2 first-round victory over a team it had smashed 83-19 last month in Moville. The Wildcats, paced by Kluender’s 19 points, came to play.

“Yeah, they did,” said Gehlen Coach Mike Langel. “We won very easily down there and a little bit of that dealt into this. These guys are 16, 17 and 18-year old boys. Sometimes it happens in the pros when a team doesn’t get mentally prepared. It’s like we had a fog in our heads, expecting to win and then we just went through the motions. We did find out that wasn’t working.”

Keaten Bonderson Scored 34 points in win

“They came here last year and beat us in the playoffs,” said Keaten Bonderson, who scored a game-high 34 points. “They had that going for them. We just have to get out of that brain fog. We got out of there with a win. It wasn’t how we envisioned it, but in the playoffs, a win is a win.”

Drake DeRocher added 11 points and Gabe Wiltgen grabbed 10 rebounds for Gehlen (18-5), which will host George-Little Rock (11-10) in a district semifinal game which will start at 7 p.m., Thursday at Deb Campbell Memorial Gym. G-LR whipped MMCRU 51-36.

From here on out, Gehlen’s tournament opponents will have winning records. Bonderson envisions fast-starting first quarters among the keys to a long postseason run. The Jays stretched an 18-10 first-quarter lead to 25-13 on consecutive long-range baskets from Bonderson and Keaton Logan (7 points, 6 assists, 3 steals, 1 blocked shot) and again, never lost that double-digit lead as the game progressed, despite Woodbury Central’s comeback tries.

Bonderson spent much of the game looking to create offense for his teammates, who weren’t always able to finish. There were missed scoring chances, missed offensive rebound opportunities, missed free throws.

As a playmaker, Bonderson believes in his teammates. He has helped them succeed before.

“I think early in the playoffs, we have to get everyone going, click on all cylinders and play with sauce,” said Bonderson. “If we have only one or two guys putting up shots and seeing the ball go through the basket, it’ll be tough when the games get tighter and there’s harder defense for everyone to score.”

Each of Gehlen’s five starters and reserve Wiltgen have recorded at least two double-digit scoring games this season. Langel, whose team hasn’t shot better than 50 percent in each of the last five games (28-of-64 against Woodbury Central), would like to see three, even four double-digit scorers.

“We have to get out of that fog,” said the 18th-year head coach. “We have to play help defense. We have to play as a team, offensively. I don’t know if we do it on purpose, but when we are playing hard and when we are clicking, we are doing those things.”

Ryan Augustine provided eight rebounds and one blocked shot. Wiltgen contributed four assists and one blocked shot while Bonderson had three steals.

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