BATTLE CREEK — The Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur girls came from behind twice in the first half before clinching a return trip to the Nebraska Girls State Basketball Tournament with a double-digit 54-42 defeat of North Central in the Class C2-7 district final.
North Central, which ends its season with a 20-5 record, scored the first three field goals of the game — the last a 3-pointer from the corner by Brielle Bussinger that put the Knights up 7-1.
But BRLD, after cashing in three free throws, got a boost from point guard Caragan Tietz. The senior converted a full-court layup through a lane filled with Knights defenders and then, after three free throws from 6-foot 2 post player Jordan Snyder, nailed a 3 from the point and added an offensive rebound-putback to complete a 10-0 run that finished the final four minutes of the first period with the Wolverines up 13-9.
“We came out tonight and we struggled at the beginning; they had a 7-1 lead,” BRLD coach Rod Peters said. “After we got through that first two or three minutes, I thought we played a lot better. I’m really proud of how we faced adversity at the beginning and were able to attack the basket and score.”
The Knights were focusing their defensive effort on Snyder, contesting her shots inside the lane. As a result, the junior scored just two baskets — both in the fourth quarter — and made 4 of 9 free throws to finish the game with eight points.
“We struggled in the post today; the Snyder girl averages 14, but that’s a credit to North Central and their post players,” Peters said. “They focused on her and did a really good job on her.”
North Central pulled ahead again by scoring the initial five points of the second quarter, this time on a basket inside by Jenna Hallock and three free throws, but the Knights also missed three important free throws during that time to limit their lead to 14-13, and the Wolverines were quick to respond.
Isabel Freemont’s 3 from the wing returned BRLD, now 20-4, to the lead before Tietz scored 10 of her team’s next 12 points, expanding the Wolverines’ advantage to 28-21 by halftime.
Aubrey Berg contributed a pair of 3s and a drive in the third period, while Tietz added seven more points to her eventual game-high total of 27 — including a 3-point play on a drive to the basket through traffic that increased the BRLD lead to 14, at 43-29, its largest lead of the game. The Wolverines settled for a 45-36 lead heading into the game’s final eight minutes.
“Caragan makes us go; when she was a freshman, she was the tallest kid on the team, so she came off the bench and was my post player,” Peters said. “Our point guard graduated that year, and she became my point guard; it’s not always pretty, but she’s got a motor that really goes. She made plenty of mistakes tonight, but she went hard and she’s gutsy. She’s a gamer.”
The cumulative effect of battling against BRLD’s 1-2-2 zone slowed North Central’s half-court offense in the fourth, limiting the Knights to just two field goals, and North Central converted just 2 of 4 free throws.
“We run a 1-2-2 because we’ve got two bigger girls on the back side of it, so if you can penetrate us, it’s hard to get something (at the basket),” Peters said. “But give a lot of credit to North Central; I thought they did a really good job of attacking. They’re a really good team and are well-coached, and they hit some shots.”
Meanwhile, the Wolverines melted time off the clock on the offensive end, but also got four points from Snyder and three from Tietz before Megan Beutler created the 54-42 final score by making a fast-break layup with 20 seconds remaining.
“We were at state last year and faced Crofton; it was a tough matchup, and they were really good,” Peters said. “So, with that experience, this is our second trip to state. We’ll find out who we’ve got later tonight, and we’ll start working on a plan to attack them.”
Tietz described the chance to return to state as “an opportunity to redeem ourselves” after last season’s loss to the Warriors.
“Last year we got to state, but with our first-year jitters, it didn’t go real great, so this year it’s really good to be back there with an opportunity to redeem ourselves,” Tietz said. “We seniors have been playing together since the third grade, so this has been a dream of ours for a long time.”
Class C2-7 girls district final
North Central 9 12 15 6 — 42
BRLD 13 15 17 9 — 54
North Central (20-5): Brielle Bussinger 2-7 5-5 9, Keely Munger 5-9 0-0 12, Adisyn Anderson 0-9 0-2 0, Hunter Wiebelhaus 3-5 3-7 9, Jillian Buell 0-2 0-0 0, Allie Cosgrove 0-5 2-2 2, Lanie Pospichal 0-1 0-0 0, Jenna Hallock 4-11 1-2 9, Adyson Linse 0-0 1-4 1. Totals: 14-49 12-22 42.
BRLD (20-4): Isabel Freemont 1-7 0-0 3, Aubrey Berg 3-8 0-0 8, McKenzie Murphy 0-2 0-0 0, Megan Beutler 2-4 0-1 4, Caragan Tietz 9-12 8-9 27, Alyssa Buchholz 0-2 4-4 4, Jordan Snyder 2-6 4-9 8. Totals: 17-41 16-23 54.