LINCOLN — The clock struck midnight on Winnebago’s Cinderella story Friday morning after North Bend Central defeated the Indians 60-40 in the semifinals of the Class C1 girls state tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
With the win, North Bend kept its hopes of a repeat state championship alive.
The Tigers threatened to blow the game open early. Kaitlyn Emanuel's steal and layup put the Tigers on top 9-3, but Winnebago answered with a Madeline Cleveland layup and Natasha Deal 3-pointer to pull within one.
The teams traded buckets for most of the rest of the quarter. Winnebago's Sinya Harlan brought the Indians to within two with a layup at the 1:25 mark. But the Tigers closed the first quarter with back-to-back 3s from Emanuel and Madelyn Gaughen to take a 21-14 lead into the second quarter.
Winnebago had difficulty generating offense in the second quarter mainly due to North Bend's man-to-man defense, but also, the Indians were handicapped when guard Sylvia Valentino picked up her third foul just a minute in and had to sit on the bench for the remainder of the period.
Sydney Emanuel's free throw triggered a 9-2 run during which North Bend converted all four of its free throws while Winnebago went 0 for 4.
The Indians struggled for more than five minutes without a score before Ciarra Frenchman made a pair of free throws just before halftime. The Tigers led 32-20 at the break.
The third quarter was the Sydney Emanuel show. The North Bend junior guard outscored the entire Winnebago team 10-6 in the period as the Tigers continued to attack the basket and the Indians settled mostly for 3s.
North Bend led 46-26 after three quarters and Sydney Emanuel added an exclamation point to her game early in the fourth with four more points — including an amazing move to the basket that included a reverse pivot, splitting two defenders and laying the ball off the glass.
Reserves played the final four minutes and North Bend advanced to the C1 state title game for the second straight year with a final score of 60-40.
Sydney Emanuel led the Tigers with 25 while her sister Kaitlyn had 11. Deal paced Winnebago with 12 and Keisha Snyder added nine.
Winnebago will play in Saturday's third-place game against the loser of the Lincoln Lutheran-Hastings St. Cecilia game at Lincoln Northeast beginning at 9 a.m.
The Tigers will take on the winner of that contest for the championship on Saturday beginning at 10:45 a.m. at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Class C1 girls semifinal
Winnebago 14 6 6 14 — 40
North Bend Central 21 11 14 14 — 60
WINNEBAGO (16-11): Natasha Deal 12; Sinya Harlan 3; Tavey Sheridan 2; Latecia Contreras 2; Auriah Means-Ghostdog 1; Ciarra Frenchman 2; Madeline Cleveland 4; Keisha Snyder 9; Sylvia Valentino 5.
NORTH BEND CENTRAL (23-3): Kendyl Boyce 3; Hannah Williams 3; Ally Pojar 4; Kaitlyn Emanuel 11; Cierra Kluthe 6; Sydney Emanuel 27; Madelyn Gaughen 6.