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PREP BOYS BASKETBALL

Knights perfect season ends, view loss to Osage as potentially 'good'

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Jerry Gatton gave a real firm warning to his Newman Catholic boys basketball team in the locker room prior to the opening tip against Osage.

"I told our guys that Osage shoots very well in their own gym," Gatton said. "If we did not cover the three or contest the three, that we would get beat."

Gatton's worry was realized once the Green Devils started burying nearly half of their shots from downtown in the first half Tuesday night.

And despite a couple of runs, the Knights just couldn't find a breakthrough in their first setback of the season, 79-65, to lose sole possession of first place in the Top of Iowa East.

"I thought we looked slow," Gatton said. "It is a tough loss, but maybe it is a good loss. You lost to a good team and it shows what we have to work on."

Nearly 20 hours later, Newman Catholic (10-1) went back to practice. Junior forward Doug Taylor described the mood as "focused."

A noticeable difference in his eyes than previous practices.

"There's definitely no remorse," Taylor said. "We came more focused than we have in awhile. It will be good for us, waking us up."

The Knights now have to run the table in order to garner at least a share of the conference title. If Newman slips up even once and if the Green Devils continue winning, their hopes could be dashed.

They were able to breeze by the first half of the league slate by winning every game by double digit points. Pending weather, Friday's game against North Butler is just as difficult as the Bearcats have won six in a row.

"The teams will throw some different stuff and adjust to us," Taylor said. "We got to come focused every single game and never slacking off. Any team can beat us on any night."

There were two areas Gatton looked back on one day later that Osage took advantage of.

Newman Catholic finished with 24 turnovers, just the second time that number was above 20. Several possessions in the third quarter were either rushed or the Green Devils stepped into the passing lanes.

"Give kudos to Osage," Gatton said. "To be honest, we didn't share the ball very well."

Despite having Taylor and Hamilton above 6-foot, the Knights finished minus-four in the rebounding battle, but they were minus-eight in terms of offensive rebounding.

Osage senior Nathan Havel had six of the Green Devils' 11 offensive boards. Newman Catholic had three as a team.

"I can honestly say we need to get more rebounders," Gatton said. "When we shot, we didn't miss a lot, but we had some opportunities to get some rebounds. Those 50-50 balls can win a game or kill you."

It was evident on the court for Taylor that the Knights struggled on that front. It was even more noticeable on film.

"That was easy to pick out," Taylor said. "We knew they would come in and give us everything they had."

There were still some positives. Newman Catholic shot 60% from the field, a percentage it's players and coaches will take 10 times out of 10. It went on a 12-6 run to close the first quarter.

It got to within one point in the second quarter and two points in the third. Osage went on runs to gain control in its wire-to-wire victory.

Tuesday marked the first time in 11 games the Knights didn't lead at any point in the game.

"How many times is a team that shoots 60 percent going to say they lost?" Gatton said. "I believed in my guys. We needed to fight that adversity, but to see how they responded, I thought they responded well.

"They hit a big shot when they needed to. We didn't."

There's an internal belief that Tuesday's game was a blip, at least that's what Taylor thinks. He and Gatton are on the same page in believing that the rest of the season will resemble the first 10 games.

Winning and winning comfortably.

"We'll get back on track," Taylor said.

For a veteran team that has the ultimate goal of prolonging the season into March, Newman Catholic understands one or more losses the rest of the way will shake up it's position in the district tournament.

No one is worried about the response.

"We can easily run the table," Gatton said.

Zach Martin is a sports reporter for the Globe Gazette. Reach him via email at zachary.martin@globegazette.com and follow him on Twitter @zach_martin95.

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