WATERLOO — Even when his team led Okawville by 18 late in the first half Friday in a battle of state-ranked teams, Gibault coach Dennis Rueter knew what was coming.
"I was hoping we'd come out and establish again in the third quarter and it wouldn't have been a down to the wire game, but I didn't think they were going to roll over," Rueter said after Gibault hung on for a 42-39 victory as a potential game-tying 3-pointer by Jeremy Weeke from the left corner glanced off the rim.
Gibault led 26-13 at halftime and that equation included Okawville missing its first 10 shots and scoring just one point in the first quarter A fired up Rockets' contingent was far more aggressive throughout the second half and made a game of it with a furious comeback.
"In the first half they missed some shots that they normally would make," Rueter said. "I was a little upset we were up 13 and it should have been 17 or 18, so I wasn't happy either. We should have taken better control of this thing."
The game offered a sneak preview at a potential Class 1A Valmeyer Regional championship game.
Gibault (20-5) is seventh in the 1A state rankings and Okawville (18-6) is fifth. Gibault drew the top seed in the regional and Okawville is second.
"We've got to win two games to get there, they've got to win a game to get there," Okawville coach Jon Kraus said. "That we never even bring up. We don't talk about it."
For the second straight game this week, Gibault's 6-foot-8 senior Jacob Weiler made himself a viable option. Weiler had 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting in the Hawks' win over Triad on Tuesday and led Gibault with 13 points on Friday.
"I just think everyone's got to step up and play a little bit harder because we don't have as much room for error with missing our best player," Weiler said, referring to Wes Degener's season-ending finger surgery.
Gibault senior Brendan McFarland helped fuel the first-half surge with three 3-pointers for his nine points and Nick Row finished with 10.
Gibault also used its size advantage inside while building the lead with Weiler and Sam Toal both effective against the smaller Rockets.
"He's really been a big boost for us, no question," Rueter said of Weiler. "That's helped us immensely that he's been able to step up and score the ball a little bit."
Missed free throws kept Gibault from building on its lead in the fourth quarter as the Hawks were outscored 14-6 by the Rockets.
A 3-pointer by Jacob Brammeier cut Gibault's lead to 40-37 with 2:45 remaining and Connor Obermeier cut it to one at the 1:18 mark.
Row created some breathing room by hitting two free throws with 54.3 seconds remaining. Weeke missed a 3-pointer, but the Rockets maintained possession and were able to call two timeouts trying to set up a final shot.
Weeke --who led the Rockets with 17 points -- forced up a quick three from the corner that was off the mark and Gibault held on.
"At that point we just had to try to get something quick," Kraus said. "They had fouls to give, so we probably had to throw it and shoot it."
The offense was nonexistent early for Okawville as the Rockets missed all 10 field-goal attempts in the opening quarter and trailed 9-1.
Weeke connected for the Rockets' first basket 10 seconds into the second quarter, but Okawville couldn't slow down the Hawks.
"We didn't play with any competitiveness," Kraus said. "We didn't compete. We just kind of let them do what they wanted to do and push us around and do what they want. I thought the second half we competed and played hard.
"Good things, bad things, but when you're on the road in a tough environment against a state-ranked team, you'd better play 32 minutes, not 16 or 18 or whatever it was."
Two buckets by Toal pushed Gibault's lead to 17-5 and a 3-pointer by Row stretched the Hawks' lead to 15. A McFarland 3-pointer pushed Gibault's lead to 26-8 lead.
Okawville scored the final five points of the first half, including a running shot by Jacob Brammeier just before the half ended to make it 26-13.
"The second we dug our heels in a little bit better and challenged them a little bit more," Kraus said. "We did a better job for the most part
At halftime, longtime Gibault High boys soccer coach Jim Corsi was inducted into the Gibault Hall of Fame. Corsi guided Gibault to three straight Class A state championships from 2006 to 2008.