The South Gray Rebels knew they were going to have to slow down the Ashland offense, primarily post player Grant Meininger, if they were going to have a chance of winning the boys semifinal contest of the Southern Plains-Iroquois Activities Association tournament at United Wireless Arena.
The Rebels were able to slow down the Bluejays enough to hold off a late rally to win 47-46 and advance to the tournament's boys final tonight. South Gray opened with a man-to-man then went to a 3-2 zone to clog up the lane and keep the Ashland players from driving through the lane.
"We really came together as a team, especially defensively," said South Gray's Carson Skidmore. "We were getting outhustled by Hodgeman County (in the quarterfinals) and we had a hard practice. We just came back together with our defense. Meininger is a really good player and it's hard to stop him.
"I enjoy beating Ashland."
South Gray head coach Mark Applegate said the Rebels also were able to withstand the fourth quarter rally by rebounding the ball much better than in the first three quarters. Applegate said it also helps that different players step up when plays are needed.
"We had kids who stepped up and played some really good defense," Applegate said. "We don't have any person who you would call a superstar; we're just a team that plays together. We have to play together in order for us to win."
Skidmore and Grant Foskuhl scored 11 points apiece to lead South Gray (11-1), while Grant Meininger scored 24 and Corey McCann 15 for Ashland (7-6). Only three players scored for Ashland in the loss.
The Rebels scored the first four points of the game, but Ashland was able to come back and tie the game at 9-apiece by the end of the opening stanza. The two teams continued to play close in the second quarter with South Gray able to earn a 22-20 lead at intermission.
South Gray started to pull away in the third quarter with a put back basket by Holloway just before the end of stanza buzzer gave the Rebels a 40-30 going into the final quarter.
Ashland used a six-point run early in the fourth quarter to trail 44-40 with five minutes remaining. Neither team scored until a free throw by Ashland was answered by a South Gray short jumper. The Rebels hit a free throw to push the lead up to four with less than 10 seconds left in regulation. A three-pointer by Meininger came with 0.5 left on the clock for the final score.
The Rebels will play in the boys championship game, scheduled for 8 p.m. tonight. Ashland will play in the third place game with a 4 p.m. tip-off.
ASHLAND (46) – Grant Meininger 24, Kole Konrade 7, Corey McCann 15. Totals 17 6-10 46.