Central DeWitt expected nothing less in its first postseason game.

The Sabers took the lead right away, expanded on it in the second quarter, then had to fight off a second-half charge from Maquoketa to win the Class 3A District 10 boys basketball semifinal 50-39 on Monday night. The Sabers advance to the district final against Dubuque Wahlert on Thursday in Maquoketa.

“We expected it to be a hard-fought battle,” Sabers coach Jeff Frick said. “It’s difficult when you play a conference team, let alone one of your rivals, in the first round.”

Not that anyone really minded, though.

“As always, when you play Maquoketa it was intense,” Central DeWitt senior Patrick Burmester said.

“I think it’s awesome,” Sabers senior Brandon Jasper said. “I love playing in an atmosphere like this.”

The Sabers (16-6) wasted no time asserting themselves. They built a 12-5 lead in the first quarter behind five points from the 6-foot-9 Burmester and four from Devin Daniels.

“A big key was that we came out pretty well in the first half, like we have since Christmas break,” Jasper said.

“That’s always important,” Burmester said of starting well. “We’ve had trouble with some of our starts lately.”

Things got even better for the Sabers in the second quarter.

Jasper (13 points) scored eight in a row — a 3-pointer from the right corner at the 5-minute, 48-second mark, another from right of the top of the key with 4:47 left after no one came out to pick him up as he looked inside for Burmester, then a driving basket along the left baseline that put the Sabers ahead 22-7 with 3:55 remaining.

“I haven’t been known for the 3-point shot,” Jasper said. “The first one felt good so I said why not with the second, and it gave the team a lift.”

Central DeWitt enjoyed one more 15-point lead, at 24-9, before Maquoketa ended the half on a 7-3 run to get within 27-16.

“Take away our defensive breakdowns in the first half and it would have been a different ballgame,” Maquoketa coach Matt Uthoff said.

The Sabers led by as much as 13 early in the second half, but Maquoketa started chipping away.

“We would have liked to pull it out more, but that’s a credit to what Maquoketa did,” Frick said.

Of course, Uthoff said had the Cardinals done more on offense it would have been even closer.

“We had a lot of good looks; we just didn’t finish,” he said.

The Cardinals (8-14) got within 33-24 on a layup by Nick Clasen with 3:48 left in the third quarter, then a 3-pointer by Peyton River made it 33-27. A free throw by Anthony Burke with two-tenths of a second left put the Sabers ahead 34-27 as the third quarter ended.

Maquoketa continued its comeback in the fourth quarter, pulling within 36-32 when Blaise Waller drove through the lane and tossed in an off-balance shot with 4:41 left. DeWitt countered with a basket by Daniels off a long inbounds pass from Burmester, but Maquoketa came back one more time. Chase Coakley grabbed an offensive rebound on the baseline and seconds later got open for a 3-pointer from the left wing that cut the gap to 38-35 with 2:37 remaining.

“Anytime the game gets close like that you feel it,” Frick said.

The Sabers responded, getting two free throws from Jasper, four straight from Burmester and one more from Jasper, and the lead was back to 10. From there it was just a matter of what the final margin would be.

“We just relaxed and battled it out,” Jasper said. “With the free throws, it’s important for us to stick together and know we can knock them down.”

Burmester said: “Toward the end of the game, I want the ball in my hands. I’ve been a decent free-throw shooter, and I want to be at the line.”

The win was the Sabers’ 14th in the past 15 games.

“I love the way we’re playing, especially defensively,” Frick said.

CENTRAL DEWITT 50, MAQUOKETA 39

MAQUOKETA (8-14) — Chase Coakley 2 0-0 5, Jon Bopes 2 3-5 7, Peyton River 2 0-0 6, Craig Johnson 0 2-2 2, Nick Clasen 1 0-0 2, Eric Callahan 0 0-0 0, Bradley Waller 0 0-0 0, Perry Hawks 0 0-0 0, Blaise Waller 3 0-1 7, Spencer Bronson 0 0-0 0, Derek Hopson 2 0-0 4. Totals 15 5-10 39.

CENTRAL DEWITT (16-6) — Anthony Burke 0 1-2 1, Devin Daniels 2 2-3 6, Dillon Connell 3 2-3 10, Dylan Petersen 0 0-0 0, Patrick Burmester 4 5-5 13, Cody Block 1 3-4 5, Brandon Jasper 4 3-6 13, Anthony Green 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 16-23 50.

Maquoketa    5    11    11    12    —    39

Central DeWitt    12    15    7    16    —    50

3-point goals — Maquoketa 4 (River 2, Coakley, Waller); Central DeWitt 4 (Connell 2, Jasper 2). Total fouls — Maquoketa 21; Central DeWitt 14. Fouled out — Bopes, River.