KEARNEY – Eventually, it had to happen.
After losing four straight Fort Kearny Conference tournament championship games, Overton proved that a fifth time can be the charm.
Hitting seven 3-pointers and shooting 52 percent Saturday, the Eagles defeated Elm Creek 61-49 to claim the FKC title at the Viaero Event Center.
“We knew it was going to be a very difficult game,” Overton coach Jay Staehr said. “It was just about executing.”
After an even 6-6 start, Overton closed out the first quarter on a 12-3 run to take control early. A back-and-forth second quarter gave the Eagles a 35-25 lead heading into halftime.
Tanner Ryan caused Elm Creek fits, scoring 15 of his 18 points in the first two quarters, including three treys. He also finished the game with seven rebounds and five assists.
“Tanner Ryan played like an all-stater that first half,” Elm Creek coach Tanner Cavenee said. “He wasn’t missing anything.”
To make matters worse for the Buffaloes, post Jake Bartling picked up a third foul in the first quarter and had to be used sparingly until halftime.
Despite early struggles, Elm Creek bounced back with an 8-0 run to open the third quarter and pull within 35-33. Six of those points came from Zac Crowley, who netted a team-high 16 points and six rebounds.
Overton didn’t let the Buffs hang around long, responding with a 16-5 run. Joel Shafer, who shot 8 of 11 for 18 points and six boards, got the Eagles out of their scoreless slump in the third.
“I thought our guys responded pretty well,” Staehr said. “Teams can tighten up when that happens. During the timeout I said we need to get a basket. Joel responded and it got us going a little bit.”
Ryan beat the third-quarter buzzer with a long-range 3-pointer to put the Eagles back up by 10. Shafer then opened up the fourth quarter with a trey from the corner to extend the lead.
“They shot with confidence,” Staehr said. “They get their buckets on the inside, and all the other shots became a lot easier.”
Creighton Ryan netted nine points and senior Matt Aten, who had endured the past three FKC title losses, made both of his shot attempts for five points and four assists in the win.
The Buffaloes couldn’t make another run in the fourth quarter as the lead remained at double digits. The Eagles shot 38 percent from the floor. Zach Johnson added 11 points and Nic Crowley finished with 10 points.
“It seemed like the moment got to us a little bit,” Cavenee said. “We had shots we normally make, but didn’t. Credit Overton, they made the plays to win the game. They’re very well-coached and have nice athletes.”
Staehr said the win was big for his players.
“This means a lot to them,” he said. “We have been runner-up the past four seasons in a row, so it was good to finally get the win.”
The boys and girls Overton Eagles basketball teams were in action Tuesday night at Wilcox-Hildreth. Those scores and stories will appear in the Saturday issue of the Lexington Clipper-Herald.