RAPID CITY — In each of the last two seasons, O’Gorman’s championship aspirations have been quashed by in-city rival Lincoln.
On Friday, any thoughts of that scenario playing itself out for a third consecutive season were quickly put to rest as the top-seeded Knights built a 15-point halftime advantage, then coasted to a 64-44 win over the No. 6 Patriots.
With the win, O’Gorman advances to its first state championship game since 2012, when it beat Mitchell for its third consecutive title.
“It was really sweet to finally get the postseason win against them,” O’Gorman senior JP Costello said.
“We talked about (last year) a lot,” added Matt Cartwright. “We didn’t want to feel that way again after this game.”
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Class AA state tournaments
“I’m really, really proud of our kids. Our seniors really stepped up, especially as of late. They’re having a tremendous run,” O’Gorman coach Derek Robey said. “To be able to beat a team like Lincoln three times, that’s a tough thing to do.”
Sam Higgason gave Lincoln a 7-4 lead three minutes into the opening half, but it was all O’Gorman from there, with the Knights limiting their opponent to just five points the rest of the half.
When the horn sounded on the first half, O’Gorman had hit 10 of 21 shots, while limiting Lincoln to just four field goals on 24 attempts.
“I think we’re playing great defense right now,” Costello said. “Everybody was locked in, lots of talk, getting hands on passes and things.”
Lincoln’s offense found its rhythm in the second half (11-22), but it had no answers for O’Gorman’s high-octane offense, which actually improved upon its first-half performance, knocking in 14 of 23 shots (.609).
“When you shoot 16 percent in the first half, it’s hard to play catch-up with a team like O’Gorman,” Lincoln coach Jeff Halseth said. “Our offense started coming around in the second half, but we couldn’t trade baskets. We had to get some stops.”
Cartwright led the Knights with 20 points on 6 of 13 shooting with six boards, three assists, a block and a steal. Costello and Joey Messler added 18 and 10 points, respectively.
As a team, O’Gorman shot 55 percent from the field and went 12 of 16 from the free throw line.
“You could just tell they were dialed in (before the game),” Robey said. “They were wanting to win and wanting to get to that championship game. That’s a kid’s dream, ever since they’ve been a little tomato. I’m just thrilled with that for our seniors.”
For Lincoln, Alex Glanzer led the way with 13 points, while teammates Diang Gatluak and Simon Higgason added 10 points apiece.
LHS’ shooting percentage (.326) was weighed down by its performance in the first half. The Patriots hit 6 of 25 3-point attempts.
Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen .