LINCOLN — Fourpeat complete.
North Bend Central became the second school to win four consecutive Class C1 state titles — and ninth overall — in record-setting fashion on Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Tigers held Adams Central to the fewest points in a C1 championship game en route to a convincing 45-28 victory.
“It’s so surreal,” said Kaitlyn Emanuel, a four-year starter and NBC’s career scoring leader. “A lot of people just beg to get this chance once, and I’ve been blessed enough to get it four times. I give all glory to God for this.”
After winning three, the obvious goal for the Tigers was to go for four to join Battle Creek (1984-87) in an exclusive Class C1 club.
“All the other seniors were able to go out with a bang, and it was my goal to go out with a bang with my amazing teammates,” Emanuel said.
To do that, North Bend Central had to get past the Patriots, who spoiled a potential NBC vs. Bridgeport finals matchup that had been anticipated to take place since before the season even started. Adams Central upset previously undefeated Bridgeport in overtime in the semifinals.
And North Bend Central coach Aaron Sterup knew the Patriots (26-2) provided unique challenges.
“We just knew going in that this was going to be a physical game,” he said. “We were probably outsized at most positions, so we knew that it would be physical and just tough in general. I thought that we took that to heart. I thought that we took it to the rim hard and got a lot of free throws today.
“I thought our defense again was physical inside against some of their big people and battled well. I think they took that physical mentality to heart and really got after it.”
North Bend Central (28-1) never trailed and led 8-1 before the Patriots got their first field goal from 6-foot-4 senior Rachel Goodon with 4:21 remaining in the first quarter. Those turned out to be the final points of the period.
The Tigers led 19-14 at the half and took control by scoring the first nine points in the third quarter and allowing only one basket in the period.
“They’re tough because they have shooters and they have size, and that combination’s difficult,” Sterup said. “Our philosophy is to make them take tough shots and (then) rebound. If they make tough shots, you tip your hat to them.”
Foul trouble by Goodon hurt the Patriots. She was limited to under 20 minutes on the court and had six points after averaging almost 14 this season.
Emanuel, who had 12 points and nine rebounds, drove at Goodon after she picked up her second foul in the second quarter and forced a third.
“I try to be aware of how many fouls people have because it makes a big difference when people who are good players are out of the game,” she said. “I took it at her.”
Sterup said getting Goodon in foul trouble helped tip things toward the Tigers.
“She makes it tough because when you have someone sitting under the basket with that size, it’s tough to get points,” he said. “I thought early we did a good job scoring in spite of her being there, but it certainly made things easier getting her away from the basket.”
Senior Madison Bishop came up big in her final game, tying sophomore Lindsey Emanuel for game-high honors with 13 points.
With starter Josie Cleveringa sidelined all state tournament with an injury, four of North Bend Central’s starters put in more than 28 minutes. Kathryn Gaughen, Bishop and Lindsey Emanuel played all but 88 seconds.
“It was tough because we knew that we have to be out there a lot in the game and be physical against those girls,” Bishop said. “We had to be mentally tough.”
Kaitlyn Emanuel said it was an exhausting game, and that showed in her uncharacteristic 2 for 10 performance at the free-throw line.
“I think we had every curveball thrown at us,” she said. “I think it kind of showed in my free throws for sure that we were tired. But it worked out.”
Lindsey Emanuel added: “I think it was just getting out there and trying to be stronger than the other team. We just wanted it more.”
North Bend Central won its final 28 games after losing in the season opener to Bishop Neumann. That loss might have been a blessing in disguise.
“We weren’t too upset about it because it is a long season, and we had a lot of new people and new places,” Sterup said. “It wasn’t completely surprising. We always talk to the girls that a loss isn’t bad if you learn from it, and we learned a lot from it. It maybe got our heads on straight.
“I’m not so sure that that wasn’t the catalyst for a lot of things that happened after that. These guys have faced a lot of adversity in four years and have always overcome it.”
While there was plenty of joy for the Tigers in their latest trip to Lincoln, this one also involved sadness.
Sterup’s father, Vic, died in North Platte on Thursday at the age of 73. It made for an emotional final two games for Sterup and his daughter, Lauren, a freshman who started with Cleveringa out and had four points and five rebounds in the championship.
“It’s been an emotional week,” Aaron Sterup said. “I’m super blessed that these girls have helped take my mind off things. It’s been super important to my family. These girls are great. You get to practice and it’s great. They’re super hard workers and are fun to be around. They made the tough stuff a lot easier.”
Class C1 final
Adams Central 3 11 3 11 — 28
North Bend Central 8 11 11 15 —45
ADAMS CENTRAL (26-2): Megyn Scott 2-7 2-3 6; Rachel Goodon 2-7 2-2 6; Gracie Weichman 0-0 2-2 2; Kylie Lancaster 1-6 0-0 3; Lauryn Scott 0-6 0-0 0; Kadi Kimberly 1-6 2-2 5; Briley Nienhueser 0-1 2-2 2; Lynsie Lancaster 0-0 2-2 2; Irelyn Samuelson 0-0 0-0 0; Charlee Mucklow 0-1 0-0 0; Annabelle Trausch 0-0 0-0 0; Savannah Lewis 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 7-35 12-13 28.
NORTH BEND CENTRAL (28-1): Kathryn Gaughan 0-4 0-0 0; Madison Bishop 3-5 6-7 13; Kaitlyn Emanuel 5-13 2-10 12; Lindsay Emanuel 2-4 9-12 13; Lauren Sterup 1-8 2-2 4; Cassandra Burbach 0-0 0-0 0; Brooklyn Shaw 0-0 3-4 3; Abbygail Johnson 0-0 0-0 0; Hailey Johnson 0-0 0-0 0; Jayla Van Ampting 0-0 0-0 0; Reese Petersen 0-0 0-0 0; McKrae Muller 0-0 0-0 0; Sarah Voss 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 11-35 22-35 45.