“It is hard to come back when you get behind like that, nine, 10 points in the first quarter,” Eversmeyer said.
“That early lead was tough to come back from,” said junior Matt Haferbier, who led Northeast with 13 points. “We all got together and tried to come back. We still felt confident, I thought.”
The Knights were more confident, though.
“We beat them twice, so obviously they (wanted) some revenge,” said Johnson, a 6-foot-4 junior who scored a game-high 23 points. “We knew if we stayed mentally sharp, things would take care of themselves.”
Johnson and senior Jacob Hay, another returning starter, did much of the early damage. Hay scored seven of his 14 points in the first quarter, and Johnson added six.
They alternated for the first four baskets — all from 10 feet or closer — then Hay answered a 3-pointer by Haferbier with one of his own from the right win for an 11-6 lead. Baskets by Andrew Fields, Johnson and three-year starter Josh Kintzel, the latter two off offensive rebounds, increased the edge to 17-6 with 2:13 left in the quarter.
Another 3-pointer — this one by Kyle Dell — brought Northeast within 17-9, but the Rebels never got any closer.
“We weren’t getting any points inside,” Eversmeyer said. “If you do that, you’re living and dying by the three. Eventually your legs are going to go a little bit.
“I thought they clamped down on us very nice and played a great defensive game. We just settled way too much. I thought when we got to the basket we were fading away from contact. We just weren’t ourselves.”
North Cedar, on the other hand, was quite content to attack inside. Many of their points came on drives, interior feeds and second-chance baskets.
“If we can get the ball to Jayden when we need to, he can be pretty effective,” Jackson said.