LEXINGTON – The Cozad Haymakers improved to 14-3 with a win over 13-4 and second seeded Ainsworth in the Southwest Conference semi-finals in Lexington, 65-51.
Both teams started on fire. In the first half, both teams shot over 50% from the floor, including a first quarter in which Cozad only missed two shots. Josh Denney was on the mark, pouring in 14 points. The Haymakers jumped out to a 19-11 lead, but Ainsworth battled back to take a 22-21 lead at the end of the first quarter, however, Cozad hit two shots prior to the buzzer and took a 25-22 lead into the second quarter. That ended up being the only time the Bulldogs ever led in the game.
Cozad extended their lead to 40-31 by halftime as the Bulldogs shooting cooled off and the Haymakers stayed warm. making 56% of their shots. In the second half, it would be Cozad’s free throw shooting abilities that were the difference in the game.
As hot as both team were in the first half the second half saw an Artic cold front move through the gym. Cozad went 1-10 from the floor, however, Ainsworth didn’t shot much better, but their 25% from the floor allowed them to make it a game again, only down by four points going into the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs pulled to within two points during the final stanza, however when the fouls began to be called Cozad was more than up to the task as they hit 14-14 tries from the charity stripe. That and a strong inside game by Kadyn Marhenke ended up being keys to lead the Haymakers back to the SWC championship for the second year in a row.
Denney led Cozad with 18 points, Marhenke had 17 points, Geiser had 15 and Nate Neil chipped in with 11. Gage Delmont led all scorers with 22 points for Ainsworth, Grant Stec had 10 points.
With the win, Cozad will take on top-seeded Ogallala in Saturday Night’s game. The Indians beat Cozad on Jan. 4, 74-57.