LINCOLN — The Humphrey St. Francis Flyers finally achieved what has seemed just out of reach over the past decade and a half, winning their first state championship since 2007 by beating the Falls City Sacred Heart Irish 57-48 in the Class D2 finals on Saturday afternoon at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The game started off as a tale of two approaches. The Irish used their size to seek out points inside while the Flyers looked for points on the perimeter, attempting 10 3-pointers in the period and making two. Allison Weidner was held scoreless early on but broke out for six points to tie the game at the break.
In the second quarter, Sacred Heart continued to work the inside, but Kaylee Stricklin had two early putbacks to keep it a ballgame. Weidner would pick up her second foul and be taken out with 7:04 left, but when she came back in three minutes later, the future Cornhusker was able to get the Flyers going with a coast-to-coast layup and a 3-point play that put them up 25-19.
Meanwhile the St. Francis defense began to heavily contest what seemed like all of Sacred Heart’s passes, none more so than Emma Baumgart, whose presence was a huge reason for the Flyers’ 14 steals and why the Irish finished with 19 turnovers.
“Even if she’s not getting steals, she’s just wearing them down. We’ve seen it all year long. Emma and Hannah (Baumgart) both, they’re just fantastic at that,” Reichmuth said. “I think they’re both gonna be underrated players, but man, they were key to our team.”
Alissa Kosch opened the second half with a 3-pointer to put the Flyers up 37-28, but the Irish answered with an 11-2 run over the next four minutes, including a 3-pointer from DeLanie Witt, the team’s first of the day. They’d take that momentum into the fourth quarter, as Erison Vonderschmidt scored Sacred Heart’s next six points to put her team up 45-43 with 5:50 to go.
Although the stakes were high and things weren’t clicking, Weidner saw no reason to worry. After all, they had been in this situation recently. The Flyers were down by one late in the fourth quarter against Mullen in their semifinal game before coming back to win Thursday.
“We just kept playing the game, kept going with the flow.” Weidner said, “We made a big run at the end of Mullen, and we did the same thing today.”
It started with a made free throw by Stricklin, followed by 3-point plays from Weidner and Stricklin. Then Baumgart did what she did so well all day, making a steal on an inbounds pass and converting it into another two points.
With a minute left and looking to stay alive, Falls City’s Olivia Eickhoff lost control of the ball, allowing Weidner to steal it and give the Flyers a 54-45 lead, one that they would not relinquish.The end result certainly stung for Sacred Heart coach Luke Santo.
“Just super proud of our girls,” Santo said. “We lost to a really good team today, and Allison, she’s just special. She’s a special player.”
There’s plenty of reason to believe the Irish will be back in Lincoln this time next year. The team returns four of its five starters for 2021-22 and 13 of its 14 players on the roster, including top scorers Vonderschmidt and Rachel Magdanz, the latter of whom missed the title game with an ankle injury sustained in their semifinal contest.
Weidner’s 21-point performance put her in the top eight all-time for most career points in a state tournament and in the top 50 for most points scored in Nebraska girls basketball history. Although it was a shining accolade for her, she couldn’t have done it without her coaches, friends and family.
“They’re always pushing me to be better,” Weidner said “Huge credit goes to them because they’re constantly supporting me."
Weidner’s talent and work ethic will be gladly welcomed by the Husker faithful when she takes the court at Pinnacle Bank Arena in the fall, this time in a scarlet and cream uniform.
Class D2 girls championship
FCSH 14 10 15 9 — 48
St. Francis 14 16 11 16 — 57
FCSH (26-3): Olivia Eickhoff, 3-5 6-9 12; DeLanie Witt, 1-2 0-1 3; Jessica Wertenberger, 2-8 1-1 5 ; Erison Vonderschmidt, 8-11 1-2 17 ; Lauren Malone 2-3 0-2 4, ; Danielle Bippes, 0-2 2-2 2; Jessica Wertenberger 2-8 1-1 5; Emma Littrel, 1-2 0-1 2; Ella Simon 1-1 0-0 3. Total, 18-34 10-18 48.
Humphrey St. Francis (25-0): Allison Weidner, 7-17 7-8 21; Emma Baumgart, 3-9 0-1 6; Kylee Wessel, 3-7 0-1 7 ; Kaylee Stricklin, 3-8 4-5 10; Alissa Kosch, 4-14 2-2 13. Total, 20-60 13-17 57.