Mater Dei head basketball coach Ron Schadegg puts a lot on his senior center Nolan Gerling.
Saturday night, in a cross-city showdown with Central, his faith looked well placed. The 6-foot-8 center scored a game-high 23 points to go with 11 rebounds in a 51-35 Mater Dei victory.
"He just does what he does. He's a good post player," Schadegg said. "As Nolan goes, we go."
Gerling leveraged a decided size advantage over Central to control the tempo of the game from start to finish.
Central junior Logan Kohrmann pitched in 20 points, but the rest of the Cougars shot just six of 26 from the field mostly because they couldn’t get close to the basket.
Junior Chase Schneider and 6-foot-7 freshman Tyler Joest were Central's only answers for Gerling.
"He's awfully hard for us to guard. We give up four inches to him with just about anybody I play and when I use Tyler in there against him, I give up 95 pounds," said Central coach Jeremy Schubert. "We let him get too low too often, but the guys played hard and did everything they could do. You've got to give them a lot of credit.
"When we are out-sized, we've got to be able to shoot it. We didn't do that very well tonight."
Gerling got good support on the outside from sophomore Zach Haake and senior Ben Lampe, who scored 12 and 10 points respectively.
"I've said before, if you have a good balance of inside out you can be good," said Schadegg, whose Knights improve to 17-8. "Early in the year we didn't shoot the ball very well, but we're doing that a lot better and our defense is really improved. It's put us on top of some good games."
Mater Dei took control early, sprinting to an 18-7 lead just five minutes into the game. Haake scored eight points, including back-to-back three-point baskets, during a 10-2 run.
Gerling stretched the lead to 28-13 in the second quarter with six points on an Mater Dei 8-2 run. Central was held to just two field goals in the quarter until Kohrmann scored on a baseline drive to beat the first-half buzzer.
"I worked hard to get into position because I feel like if I can establish myself in my place I can beat my man," Gerling said. "We shot much better and our defense has been much, much improved lately. Everything seems to be falling into place for us right now."
Kohrmann opened the second half with a 3-pointer, but Mater Dei answered with another 12-2 run to make it a 20-point lead.
Chase Schneider hit a three-point basket and a short jumper for Central to close the lead to 45-33, but the Knights closed with six straight to seal the commanding win.
Gerling, who entered the game averaging 15.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, said beating the cross-town Cougars made his performance extra satisfying.
"You always get excited for the Central game," he said. "You grow up wanting to be a part of it. There's just a lot of energy for these games."
Central falls to 19-6 with the loss. In addition to Kohrmann's 20, the Cougars got eight points from Schneider, three from Robbie Harmon, and two each from Jack Strieker and Joest.
Mater Dei got baskets each from Brendan Timmermann, Nick Pollmann and Zach Deiters.