He didn’t get many open looks Thursday, but three early shots by Nashville senior Ryan Brink helped erode the confidence of Mater Dei and robbed the Knights of any chance at some early momentum.
Brink tossed in two quick 3-pointers and scored eight of his game-high 17 points in the first quarter to help lead the Hornets into the Mater Dei Christmas Tournament championship with a 55-40 victory over host Mater Dei.
“Those were big shots,” said Nashville coach Brad Weathers, whose 10-2 squad will face Central (9-3) for the tourney championship at 7:30 p.m. Friday. “We got that lead early, and we kind of played off of that. I thought our shot selection was pretty good, too.”
Nashville, which finished 3-1 in pool play, beat Central for the 2014 tourney championship and the Hornets will be looking for their seventh tourney title since 1996. Central’s last title came in 2011, and the Cougars have won all five of their Mater Dei Tourney championships since 2003.
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Brink’s 3-pointer put the Knights in an early 12-2 hole and another 3-pointer by Bultman pushed the Hornets’ lead to 22-11 early in the second quarter. The Knights were never able to recover.
“We left the shooter open,” said Ron Schadegg, whose team will play for third place. “That was the thing we talked about going out, you’ve got to cover 30 (Brink). He’s a shooter, and he’ll make shots. We give him space, and he makes his first two. I wouldn’t say it put us in a hole, but it gave them a little bit of early momentum.”
Nashville hit 11 of 20 shots in the first half, with Brink and Bultman doing much of the damage.
“We knocked down some shots early and got a lead. That enabled us to play off that for most of the night,” Weathers said. “I thought we guarded awfully well considering the size (differential). I was really, really concerned with their overall size and their athleticism, and it obviously showed at times when they cut loose.”
Along with Brink’s 17 points, Bryce Bultman scored 12 for Nashville, and Brogan Kemp, who battled foul trouble, finished with 10. Hayden Heggemeier added eight points and eight rebounds and helped lead a ball-hawking perimeter defense that kept the bigger Knights from scoring inside.
Lucas Theising topped Mater Dei (7-3) with 13 points, while Mason Toennies added seven.
“Everybody contributed tonight, really, if you just go down the list,” Weathers said, noting offensive and defensive efforts. “I’m pretty pleased from the top to the bottom of the lineup.”