LEBANON — Despite taking a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter, things got a little scary for the Gibault Hawks.
Jacob Rueter and Nick Row each sank two free throws after Okawville drew within two points with 46 seconds left as the Hawks held off the Rockets 51-44 Friday in the championship game of the Class 1A Lebanon Regional.
"You have a 16-point lead going into the fourth quarter, and I started thinking, 'If we lose this game, that's going to be monumental,''' Gibault coach Dennis Rueter said. "That's a huge lead to lose. We made some mistakes, but they made an awful lot of plays and there were a couple of calls that didn't really go our way. It was scary, it was scary.''
The Hawks (23-8) advance to play the Hardin Calhoun Warriors at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the semifinals of the Class 1A Okawville Sectional.
The Warriors knocked off the Madison Trojans 52-42 Friday in the title game of the Bunker Hill Regional.
Row led the Hawks with 19 points. Senior Wes Degener added 16 points and sophomore Jacob Rueter had nine.
"We're a senior-led team. We have a bunch of them, so it was awesome,'' Row said of the Hawks' seven seniors getting to celebrate their second straight regional title.
Degener went 2-for-7 at the free-throw line in the final 1:33. but he sank a free throw with 14 seconds left to give the Hawks a seven-point cushion.
"Wes missed a bunch of them, and he's a pretty good free throw shooter,'' Dennis Rueter said. "Once you miss a couple, it starts weighing on your mind a little bit.''
The Rockets ended their season at 23-8. They were led by senior Jacob Brammeier with 15 points and freshman Noah Frederking with 13.
"We didn't panic,'' Okawville coach Jon Kraus said of his team's comeback. "We just told the kids, 'You've got to get stops.' I think we gave up 31 (points) in the first half and until the end there 13 or so in the second hall.
"We just didn't quite do the things we needed at certain times of the game to close it out. I still like the fight and our competitiveness of our guys.''
Unlike their 44-33 loss to the Rockets on Feb. 7 in Okawville, the Hawks started off hot with their shooting.
They made their first four shots in jumping out to a 10-4 lead, and they were 13-for-17 shooting in the first half while building up a 31-18 advantage by halftime.
"We couldn't miss, could we?'' Row said. "Everybody was making shots, from our post players to our perimeter guys.''
The Hawks' lead reached 16 points on a three-point play by Jacob Rueter with 1.8 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Rockets weren't done as they put together a 17-3 run in the fourth quarter.
"We just competed in the second half,'' Kraus said. "In the first half, we didn't compete every single possession like we needed to win this kind of game. The second half we did, and you saw the result a little bit.''
Alec Wisneski scored five points to key a 7-0 run to start the final period, and Brammeier scored eight straight points as the Rockets closed the gap to 46-44 with 46 seconds remaining.
"We knew they were going to fight back with their leader Brammeier out there,'' Row said. "He's a competitor, so we knew they were going to make a charge.''
The Rockets got a bad break when Frederking had two put-backs roll off the rim with about a minute left that would have trimmed their deficit to a point.
"I was waiting for the three-point play,'' Kraus said. "I thought maybe we would get one in there. It sat on the rim, and he got another stick back and he couldn't get it in there. That was big, no question.''
Jacob Rueter made his two free throws after being fouled with 43 seconds to go, putting the Hawks up 48-44.
Brammeier missed a shot off a spin move. The Rockets got the rebound, but Frerderking missed two free throws with 28 seconds remaining.
Row made two free throws with 23 seconds to give the Hawks a 50-44 lead.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.