WAYNE — The Lewis & Clark Conference finals belonged to the Indians.
Ponca and Winnebago that is, both of whom returned to the stage after making appearances a year ago, this time at the Rice Auditorium at Wayne State College.
After finishing as the runners-up last year, the Class D No. 4 Ponca girls won in dominating fashion, beating No. 8 Wakefield 51-22.
Winnebago’s boys, meanwhile, defeated Class C No. 7 Laurel-Concord-Coleridge 48-44 after falling twice earlier in the season.
“It feels good, especially with the group we got out. We had some ups and downs through this tournament so I’m glad the boys came out and showed out,” coach Jeff Berridge said. “It’s big time for us and big-time momentum going into the end of the season.”
With 38.7 seconds left, the Bears had the ball out of a timeout down 45-44. Gibson Roberts inbounded the ball to Grant Erwin. Roberts got the ball back and tried to find Evan Haisch around the free-throw line, but his throw sailed out of bounds.
The orange and white were forced to foul, and Dyami Berridge made both free throws to make it a 3-point game with 16.9 seconds left. Still, the Bears had a chance to send it to overtime.
This time, Roberts inbounded to Haisch, who dribbled at the top of the 3-point arc before serving up a shot. It was wide and Winnebago’s Javon Price got the rebound, allowing the Indians to draw a foul on Berridge, who sunk another free throw and put the game away.
Berridge led the blue and black with 22 points and scored 10 of their final 12 points of the game. To him and his teammates, the previous two losses — one during a holiday tournament and one in Winnebago — gave them plenty of motivation.
“We were just hungry. It’s hard to beat a team three times,” he said. “We got it back tonight when it means something.”
Following a first quarter that saw the Indians sink four 3-pointers, Laurel-Concord-Coleridge began working the paint more, finding Jake Rath and Carter Kvols for buckets down low. It was a 3 by Roberts that put the Bears up 27-23 with one minute, 10 seconds left in the first half.
Just 14 seconds later, Timothy LaPointe hit a layup to make it a one-possession game. Then just before the buzzer, Price forced a turnover and drove to the hoop for a basket. He was fouled on the way up and the basket counted. Price missed the free throw but tied it up before halftime.
After exchanging a free throw apiece, Wilton Roberts hit a 3 to break the tie with 4:45 left in the third quarter, but another layup by LaPointe and a 3 by Price sparked a 9-2 run to end the period with a 37-33 lead.
“The atmosphere tonight really had our kids thinking instead of playing,” Bears coach Todd Erwin said. “The kids worked hard, but they just made it tougher than they needed to.”
Winnebago will have a quick turnaround as it travels to take on Wakefield on Tuesday. Laurel-Concord-Coleridge hits the road to face Wisner-Pilger on Thursday.
IN THE FIRST game of the night, Ponca led Wakefield by four after the first eight minutes. Shortly after the second half started, a 3-pointer and two free throws by Ashlyn Kingsbury sparked what would end up being a dominant third quarter.
The Indians didn’t allow a single Trojan field goal in the period, and only two free throws by Aisha Valenzuela put them on the board.
“We did a great job rotating. We rebounded really well that quarter,” Ponca coach Bob Hayes said. “So we gave them one shot, rebounded the ball and went down and ran some offense and got something good.”
Ponca used the third quarter as the chance to pull away. Six field goals and three free throws helped it open up a 35-18 lead heading into the fourth.
Kingsbury led the charge for the blue and white with 18 points. The junior was on the Indian teams that lost to Wynot in the finals the past two years. She hopes that coming in first this time around starts a new trend for the rest of the season.
“We’ve always been silver. We got silver in conference. We got silver in state,” she said. “So I think this is a good start to our new journey.”
Ponca also has finished second in Class C2 the past two years.
These teams may very well see each other again down the road. The two — along with Class C No. 3 Crofton — will be in the same subdistrict once play starts in two weeks. For Wakefield coach Kent Emswiler, being ready involves being more aggressive
“Ponca was definitely the aggressor tonight. If we can be the aggressor 50% of the time, I think we can be back in the shape of playing a closer game,” he said. “But they did come out aggressively against us, and we didn’t adjust well enough.”
The Indians return to action on Friday when they host Homer. Wakefield hosts Winnebago on Tuesday.
LEWIS & CLARK CONFERENCE GIRLS FINAL
Wakefield 7 2 9 4 — 22
Ponca 11 9 15 16 — 51
WAKEFIELD (15-6): Aisha Valenzuela 0-7 3-4 3; Alex Arenas 2-12 0-2 4; Destiny Helzer 1-4 0-0 3; Jordan Metzler 2-6 2-2 8; Makenna Decker 1-1 0-0 2; Daveigh Munter-McAfee 1-5 0-2 2; Katie Borg 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 7-36 5-9 22.
PONCA (19-1): Addie McGill 0-2 0-0 0; Mattie Milligan 3-9 2-3 8; Ashlyn Kingsbury 5-9 7-10 18; Gracen Evans 1-6 2-5 4; Samantha Ehlers 2-15 2-2 6; Abbie Hrouda 1-1 0-0 2; Ellie McAfee 2-5 0-0 5; Julien Buckles 2-2 0-0 4; Tierney Peterson 1-1 0-0 2; Kaylie Heiner 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 18-55 13-20 51.
LEWIS & CLARK CONFERENCE BOYS FINAL
Winnebago 17 10 10 11 — 48
LCC 11 16 6 11 — 44
WINNEBAGO (12-8): Kevin Tebo Jr. 1-3 1-2 3; Zaiden Bernie 3-7 1-6 7; Javon Price 4-12 0-1 10; Dyami Berridge 5-11 10-12 22; Timothy LaPointe 3-3 0-0 6. Totals 16-38 12-21 48.
LAUREL-CONCORD-COLERIDGE (16-5): Grant Erwin 0-2 1-2 1; Wilton Roberts 1-5 0-0 3; Jake Rath 5-6 5-11 15; Lucas Rasmussen 3-5 0-0 7; Evan Haisch 2-16 2-3 7; Gibson Roberts 1-6 2-2 5; Carter Kvols 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 15-44 10-18 44.