NICOLLET — New Ulm Cathedral boys basketball coach Al Woitas may have been a bit concerned when he learned that three of his starters would not be able to play in this weekend's Nicollet Holiday Tournament.
What he learned, however, is that the Greyhounds have pretty good depth.
Relying on a smattering of newer faces, Cathedral broke a 40-40 tie with 2 1/2 minutes to play and eked out a 49-47 victory over Cleveland in Friday's first round game. Collin Helget led the Greyhounds with a game-high 21 points.
"We knew we were going to be short-handed today," Helget said. "Some other guys stepped up and really played well for us. It was nice win."
Starters Michael Skillings, Jacob Gangelhoff and Gabe Knowles all had to miss the game either due to injury or vacation commitments. That gave opportunities to players like James Herzog, Jack Schwartz, Tyler Franta and Austin Cooper.
The first half of Friday's game was just plain ugly as neither Cleveland nor Cathedral had much luck shooting the ball. The two teams were not only missing perimeter shots but had trouble finding baskets inside, as well.
Trailing 12-11 with just under 5 1/2 minutes to go in the half, the Greyhounds went on a 7-1 run. Two close-in baskets by Helget and a couple of medium-range jumpers by Alex Guggisberg and Franta gave Cathedral a 19-13 lead at the break.
"At halftime we just talked about playing better defense," Helget said. "When our defense is clicking that gets our offense going. We felt we matched up well with them inside, and we tried to take advantage of that."
Cathedral extended its lead to seven points early in the second half before Cleveland went on an 8-1 run. Jordan Phillips' offensive rebound and putback, Carter Kopet's steal and fastbreak layup, two more big lay-ins by Phillips and Spencer Lynch's free throw accounted for the surge.
The rally tied the game at 29 with 8:55 to play.
Cathedral came right back with a 6-0 scoring spurt, which included four free throws and Brandon Beranek's inside hoop. The teams remained close the rest of the way.
The key play down the stretch may have come with 1:53 left when Helget penetrated the lane and hit a short banker while getting fouled by Phillips. The foul was the fifth of the game for Phillips who had to head to the bench and Helget hit the free throw to complete the three-point play for a 43-40 lead.
"We knew he was in foul trouble," Helget said. "We knew if we went inside against him he might give us a little room or we might be able to draw the foul. Fortunately it worked out for us."
Phillips finished with 15 points for Cleveland. Spencer Lynch also had 15, and Kopet ended up with 11.
Helget's free throw with four seconds left to gave his team a 49-47 lead. Cleveland's Kopet tried a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer but was unable to get it off in time.
"It was good to get back out there after the break," coach Woitas said. "Collin Helget had a great game. He really came through in the second half when we needed him."
Guggisberg finished with nine points for the winners and Beranek added eight.
The Greyhounds move to 2-6 and will take on Hope Academy at 2:30 p.m. Cleveland plays Nicollet today at 1 p.m.