A great start Friday pushed Okawville toward the state basketball title game. Senior Noah Frederking made sure the Rockets got there.
The University of Evansville recruit exploded for 15 of his 24 points in the third quarter and also added 14 rebounds as the Rockets reached the Class 1A state championship game with a 63-48 semifinal victory over Newark.
“Shane (Ganz) got in foul trouble, so I felt like I needed to score to get us a bigger lead for the fourth quarter when they were going to make their run,” said Frederking, who scored 15 of Okawville’s 18 points in the third quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Our community deserves it. It’s a basketball-first town, and it’s the first time we’ve been there in a long time.
Senior Noah Frederking
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Okawville (32-3) has never won a boys state basketball championship. The Rockets last played for the state title in 1987 when they lost to Venice. But they have another shot at 12:45 p.m. Saturday against St. Anthony (29-5), from Effingham.
“It’s huge,” Frederking said of the opportunity to win a state title. “Our community deserves it. It’s a basketball-first town, and it’s the first time we’ve been there in a long time. Our town’s going to be hyped up for this game.”
So are the Rockets, who realize they are already a big part of the school’s storied basketball tradition.
“I think it’s the history, honestly,” said Okawville senior Shane Ganz, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half to get the Rockets off to a quick start. “We’ve had a lot of (great) basketball teams go through here over the years, and it’s an honor to be here and make history with some of these teams.”
Newark hit just two of its 14 shots in the first quarter as Okawville broke on top 12-4. Ganz and Frederking combined to score all 12 points for the Rockets, while Newark went nearly eight minutes in the first half without scoring a point.
“It was a rough start for us — our worst shooting game all year,” said Newark coach Rick Tollefson, whose team missed its first nine 3-point tries and was 4 of 23 from beyond the arc (17.4 percent).
The Norsemen hit only 19 of 56 shots overall (33.9 percent) and were also outrebounded 38-23. Okawville cleaned up at the foul line, hitting 19 of 23 free throws.
If the Rockets were nervous Friday, they certainly didn’t show it.
Every postseason game, you just have to establish what you want to do. We were able to do that early in the game, and that dictated how we could play in the rest of the game.
Okawville coach Jon Kraus
“I think everyone was kind of calm, actually,” Ganz said. “Everyone was real excited (Thursday). A lot of people stayed up real late last night because they couldn’t fall asleep waiting for this moment. Of course we’re going to have some nerves because it’s a state championship.
“It’s fun stuff, but you’ve just got to go out there and play your game. Have some fun.”
The Okawville lead reached 20-6, and Newark’s scoreless stretch reached nearly eight minutes before the Norsemen finally climbed back into the game. An 8-2 run cut into the Rockets’ lead, but Okawville still was on top 24-15 at halftime.
“We did a good job of getting off to a good start; that’s critical in these postseason games,” Okawville coach Jon Kraus said. “Every postseason game, you just have to establish what you want to do. We were able to do that early in the game, and that dictated how we could play in the rest of the game.”
Frederking had seven points at halftime, but he pushed that total to 22 by the end of the third quarter.
“(Earlier) he wasn’t really finishing inside or hitting some of his outside shots,” Ganz said. “He’s a good player, obviously, so you know it’s going to come. It had to come at some point, and it came during a big jump in the third quarter.”
Ganz added 17 points, while Caleb Frederking had eight points, six rebounds and five assists.
Newark got 17 points from Dylan Patrick and 12 from Will Clausel, who had three fouls in the first half and later fouled out.
Class 1A all-state selections
Noah Frederking was named to the Associated Press Class 1A all-state basketball team for the second straight season on Thursday. He was the top vote-getter and a unanimous selection.
The 6-foot-4 senior guard got 95 points, more than any other Class 1A player in the state. Noah Frederking averaged 21.8 points and eight rebounds per game this season and he is Okawville’s all-time leading scorer.
Gibault senior forward Trevor Davis was an honorable mention all-state selection in Class 2A, and Marissa senior guard Kyle Smith earned honorable mention all-state in Class 1A. Davis led Gibault (22-8) in scoring (17.6 ppg) and rebounding (9.6 rpg). Smith, Marissa’s all-time leading scorer, averaged 23.6 points with 70 3-pointers and 81 assists.