Concordia (18-4) plays Leo (10-10) in the semifinals Friday at 6 p.m. Bishop Dwenger finishes the season 5-14.
“I think it prepared us a lot more,” Concordia's DJ McCall said of losing last year. “We were a lot more hungry this year, and last year showed us we couldn't look past anyone, we had to play every game one-by-one.”
Early in the game, Concordia's hunger was matched by a Bishop Dwenger team that had found its stride recently. The Saints won four straight games coming into the sectional match-up and were up 14-12 after the first quarter behind 75 percent shooting.
“I think that's part of when you're playing postseason, you're fighting for your life, but with Dwenger, their tough with physical players,” Concordia coach Josh Eggold said. “That's one strength that they have and they try and both teams tried not to back down from the other.”
Bishop Dwenger's effort let them maintain the lead for most of the second quarter, going ahead 22-19 with 2:35 remaining in the first half until Concordia took control. The Cadets went on a 17-3 run spanning the last minutes of the first half and opening minutes of the second half.
The biggest proponent behind this was McCall, who scored eight of the 17 points and caused three turnovers during the run.
“I feel like there were makings at times in the first half, things weren't going our way, and I felt like the strides we made in maturity to handle those things was evident tonight,” Eggold said. “And DJ, the second half, pushing the ball and getting some things for us in transition and some easy hoops made a difference.”
McCall's quick start to the second half created a 36-25 lead for Concordia as he finished with 13 points to lead the Cadets. The Cadets spread the ball extremely well as a team as they had 14 assists on 23 made baskets with Thomas Starks chipping in 12 points and Brian Gremaux 11. Bishop Dwenger was led by Kyle Hartman's 13 and Grady Eifert's 10.
“They're a very good team, they're long and they're a great passing team,” Bishop Dwenger head coach Matt Kostoff said. “We were right there at halftime, but they did to us what they did the first time we played (a 54-40 Concordia win). They came out and put a run on us in the third quarter and that was really the ball game right there.”
Concordia now switches gears from Bishop Dwenger to the frenetic pace Leo plays. The Lions offense has the fourth highest average of teams in the state across all classes at just more than 76 points a game.
“I'm happy we didn't have to play them in a Saturday situation where we didn't get two days of preparation,” McCall said. “Them and Dwenger, obviously, are two different teams. You have to practice differently and prepare differently. The two days of practice is going to help, but we look to run as well.”Concordia Lutheran 12 15 21 7 — 55
Bishop Dwenger 14 9 10 7 — 40
Concordia Lutheran - McCall 13, Starks 12, Gremaux 11, Gross 7, Harris 6, Rogers 6
Bishop Dwenger - Hartman 13, Eifert 10, Centlivre 6, Stepp 5, Christman 4, Wattercutter 2