By Kurt Ritzman
Assistant Sports Editor
Logan Wilhelm made a free throw with just under 6 minutes left in the third quarter to give Preston a one-point lead over Lone Tree.
Over the next five minutes, Lone Tree outscored the Trojans 11-1 to take a nine-point lead and went on to beat Preston 57-46 in the Class 1A District 6 final Friday night.
“We played some bad defense, and our execution on offense wasn’t very good,” Preston coach Dan Beck said of the decisive run.
Lone Tree’s star senior Bryan Forbes scored five points in a row during that stretch and finished with a game-high 29.
“They hit some big shots,” Preston senior Colton Bormann said. “They’ve got a pretty good player on their team in Forbes. He stepped up big. It seemed like every time we made a run, he would make a good play. That hurt us.”
Forbes said it was important for the Lions (24-1) to respond quickly after Preston went on a 12-4 run starting in the second quarter to capture the lead.
“This game was just back and forth,” he said. “We knew they were going to be a good team. Even if we took a big lead, we knew they were going to come back. We just had to keep focused. That 11-1 run was huge.”
Bormann got the deficit back to six points when he made a 3-pointer off a handoff from Colin Larson, but the Trojans got no closer the rest of the way. Lone Tree shot 7-of-9 from the free-throw line during the first 7:45 of the fourth quarter. Lone Tree missed four free throws after reserves entered the game.
“It was a matter of wanting it and we did,” Forbes said. “It was our shot to make our free throws, close it out at the end and get out of here with a win. This was probably the best finish to a game for us this year.”
Preston (20-4) shot 9-of-15 from the line in the game.
“Something that was huge in the second half was we did a good job of being aggressive and getting to the line, but then we missed free throws,” Beck said. “This a group that went 8-for-8 in our first game. We practice and practice and practice free throws. The last couple weeks it’s like they’ve lost their focus on free throws. ... Tonight we missed six free throws. Until we started fouling them, we would have been right there if we made our free throws.”
Lone Tree didn’t extend its lead to double figures until less than 90 seconds remained and the Trojans began fouling to stop the clock.
Forbes — who is planning to play basketball at the Division II or III level — averaged 23 points a game heading into the district final, and the Trojans were focused on stopping him.
“We let Forbes get off to a good start,” Beck said. “Our goal was to hold him under double figures, and we let him score eight points in the first couple minutes.”
Forbes scored Lone Tree’s first eight points and 13 of its first 14.
“I got open looks in the beginning, and I knocked them down,” Forbes said. “I think we had a really good gameplan. They put me in positions where I could get the ball to the rim and didn’t have to rely on jump shots. My teammates did a great job moving the ball. We beat their zone — zones gave us trouble all year — so beating that was huge. I’ve got to give it up to them.”
Preston’s leading scorer Chase Zaruba poured in 20, but the Lions seemed focused on limiting Bormann’s shots.
“They had us well-scouted,” Beck said. “It was hard to get Colton open.”
Bormann — Preston’s all-time leading scorer — finished with 11 points, shooting 3-of-4 on 3-pointers.
The way the game was officiated did the Trojans no favors, as both Zaruba and Wilhelm sat on the bench for more than half of the second quarter with three fouls apiece.
“Getting in foul trouble definitely hurt us,” Beck said.
Lone Tree extended its lead to eight with those two on the bench, but the Trojans rallied without two of their top three scorers to cut the deficit to three at halftime.
“With them out, it’s a little bit tougher on us,” Bormann said. “Ethan (Carstensen) and Brett (Earles), they did a really good job. They stepped up big. We knew we couldn’t go into halftime down eight, 10 points. We had to get right with them.”
The Trojans started the second half on a 6-2 run to grab their first lead since 11-8 in the first quarter, but that’s when things fell apart.
“We didn’t play our best by any means in the first half,” Bormann said. “We felt if we got off to a fast start in the second half, we could run away from these guys. But they did a good job on us. ... It just didn’t work out.”
The loss ended the Trojans’ dreams of making the Class 1A state tournament.
“It’s a tough feeling,” Bormann said. “Since we were in third or fourth grade, we dreamed about getting out to Des Moines. We just couldn’t make it happen.”
LONE TREE 57, PRESTON 46
LONE TREE (24-1) — Logan Forbes 2-4 0-0 4, Riley Stumpf 0-0 0-0 0, Trenton Gosnell 3-7 1-2 7, Gabe Lorack 3-6 2-2 9, Lucas Sieverding 1-1 0-1 2, Shay Hudachek 0-0 0-0 0, Andy Dodson 2-7 4-4 8, Jordan Quigley 0-1 0-4 0, Jacob Quigley 0-0 0-0 0, Matt Wieland 0-0 0-0 0, Bryan Forbes 10-14 5-7 27. Totals 21-40 12-20 57.
PRESTON (20-4) — Chase Zaruba 6-10 5-7 20, Craiton Andresen 1-7 0-2 3, Ethan Carstensen 0-3 0-0 0, Colton Bormann 3-6 2-2 11, Colin Larson 0-3 0-0 0, Logan Wilhelm 3-6 2-4 8, Brett Earles 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 15-38 9-15 46.
Lone Tree 16 13 13 15 — 57
Preston 14 12 10 10 — 46
3-point goals — Lone Tree 3-11 (B. Forbes 2-4, Lorack 1-3, Gosnell 0-1, Dodson 0-3); Preston 7-18 (Bormann 3-4, Zaruba 3-6, Andresen 1-5, Carstensen 0-1, Larson 0-2). Total fouls — Lone Tree 18; Preston 20. Fouled out — Wilhelm, Zaruba. Rebounds — Lone Tree 28 (B. Forbes 9); Preston 28 (Bormann 6, Andresen 6). Assists — Lone Tree 11 (L. Forbes 3); Preston 11 (Larson 5, Andresen 4). Steals — Lone Tree 9 (B. Forbes 3); Preston 5 (five with 1 each). Blocks — Lone Tree 3 (three with 1 each). Turnovers — Lone Tree 8; Preston 15.