Packed house sees Gehlen seniors, Langel earn final home win

Monday, February 20, 2023
(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) Gehlen Catholic senior Keaten Bonderson goes up for a fast break layup in Thursday’s Class 1A district semifinal round win over George-Little Rock. Bonderson led the Jays with 27 points in the win. He also led the team with four steals and tied for most rebounds with six.

LE MARS — Thursday’s Class 1A district semifinal round game was the last opportunity for Gehlen Catholic fans to see their 10 seniors and coach Mike Langel at their home Deb Campbell Memorial Gym. The fans packed the bleachers and were able to watch the Jays emerge victorious by a 53-41 score over George-Little Rock.

“Our student body and our parents and everybody really got behind this team from the opening tip right down to the very end,” Langel said. “I was very proud of closing out the season at home here with a win. Just happy about our fans coming out and supporting us and want to thank them for that.”

George-Little Rock held an early advantage as they led 12-9 at the end of the first quarter. The Mustangs got an early second quarter 3-pointer from Brandon Van Briesen to extend their lead before Gehlen went on a double digit run.

“To start the game, everyone’s a little jacked up, shots are a little strong, but as the game goes on I think playing in our gym is a huge advantage, especially when it’s packed and it’s a big game. The student section does a great job,” senior Keaten Bonderson said.

Bonderson started the scoring run for the Jays in the second quarter by getting the hoop and the harm and converting the three-point play. Keaton Logan tied the game with a pair of free throws, the first of his seven points in the game. Bonderson then gave the team the lead with a layup and another foul, however he missed the bonus shot on this try. Drake DeRocher added a 3-pointer, the first of his eight points, and a breakaway layup for Bonderson led to a George-Little Rock timeout with the Jays now in front 22-15.

Bonderson said the energy kept building throughout the run.

“When we get one big bucket, like a three by Drake, the crowd gets into it and it just snowballs into a 10, 12 point lead,” Bonderson said.

The Jays got one more bucket, a turnaround mid-range shot from the baseline by Ryan Augustine, to complete their run as the Jays were now in front by a 24-15 advantage.

Coach Langel said a defensive switch helped fluster the Mustangs and create the rally.

“We started in a man and dropped into a zone and that flustered them. We went to a zone then and got them stopped a few times in a row and then we hit a couple nice buckets and Bondo got chugging and got the team going,” Langel said.

George-Little Rock did pull back to within four by halftime. Tyler Greve, who ended with eight points, stopped the Gehlen run with a layup with just over a minute left before halftime. He added a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the half to make it a 24-20 game.

Gehlen began to pull away in the second half. Bonderson, who had seven of the team’s nine first quarter points, added another seven in the second quarter. He eventually finished the night with 27 to lead all scorers.

“I tried to not only score, I think that’s my job, but I like to get teammates involved and get everyone going to get those 14 point runs,” Bonderson said.

Bonderson assisted on two plays and led the way with four steals. He also tied for the team lead in rebounds with Connor Kraft as they each ended with six.

Carter Kellen added five rebounds, three on the offensive glass, as Langel said he had a strong performance down low.

“They were beating us on the rebounds right away. We weren’t getting the ball rebounded. They were getting second shots. That’s one thing Carter can do very well. He goes in and rebounds. He’s got a big body and matched up with those big bodies inside and held his own,” Langel said.

George-Little Rock was able to get some boards of their own. Drew Denekas pulled down 13 to go along with his team-high 19 points, all but three of which came in the second half.

George-Little Rock ends their season with a record of 11-11. Langel said he could see a budding rivalry between the two schools when the Mustangs join the War Eagle Conference.

“They’ll fit right into the War Eagle, I think, the way they played tonight,” he said while adding, “Some other coach is going to have to worry about them. It’s not going to be me.”

Gehlen Catholic (19-5) advances to Tuesday’s district final contest held at Cherokee. The Jays will face Newell-Fonda (18-4).

Bonderson said being able to beat Newell-Fonda will come down to defense as the Mustangs average 80 points per game.

“I thought we played really hard tonight on the defensive end, but next round we’re going to have to play five times harder,” Bonderson said. “It’s going to get harder and harder, but I think we’re well-seasoned and when we need a stop, I think our senior leadership could really help to get a bucket or a stop when we need it.”

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