LINCOLN — The Falls City Sacred Heart Irish tightened up late to beat the Humphrey St. Francis Flyers 33-29 in overtime of the Nebraska Class D2 girls state basketball semifinal on Friday night at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
“We battled to the end,” Flyers coach Bryan Reichmuth said. “The girls are stinging right now, but I couldn’t be more proud. We didn’t get stuff to fall at the very end there, but we played a good game.”
A putback by Jentry Lechtenberg with 3:28 remaining in the overtime period put the Irish ahead by two. St. Francis turned it over on the ensuing possession but got it back after Sacred Heart committed a five-second violation with 1:25 to go.
St. Francis turned it over only for the Irish to give it right back. As they held the ball, the Flyers struggled to find an opening, eventually calling timeout with 16.1 seconds remaining.
Emma Baumgart got the inbounds pass from Hannah Baumgart and took it to the top of the key. After time spent dribbling up top, she took it to the hoop looking to tie the game on a layup. However, Jessica Wertenberger was right there to make a clean block, get the rebound and take a foul.
Wertenberger made both free throws on the other end, sending the Irish to their eighth title game in the past nine years.
Wertenberger led the Irish with 16 points. Olivia Eickhoff trailed her with 10.
The Flyers’ final play was designed to get penetration or have someone kick it out for a 3-point shot if there wasn’t anything available. However, it wasn’t enough to puncture a Sacred Heart defense allowing just 33.6 points per game this season.
“They’re a heck of a team, and their defense is stellar,” Reichmuth said. “They know when to sag, they know when to be tight. I thought we didn’t have too bad a look, but it’s just not good enough.”
The teams traded blows to start the game, then Macy Keller put Sacred Heart up by two with a layup. Leah Kosch answered with a free throw for St. Francis before Wertenberger hit two free throws to put the Irish back up.
Makenna Wietfeld responded with a mid-range jumper to put the Flyers up by one after the first quarter.
Eickhoff got a layup off a turnover to put Sacred Heart ahead 38 seconds into the second quarter, then St. Francis used a 5-0 run to go up 14-10 with 3:22 to go. The Irish answered with a 7-0 run of their own, with Wertenberger getting five of those points.
Isabel Preister drew a foul on a shot underneath and made two free throws to tie the game 17-17, a score that held up at halftime.
After some back and forth to start the third quarter, Kylee Wessel put the Flyers ahead with a 3-pointer with 6:21 to go. She added a layup with 4:58 to go to make it 24-19.
Wessel led the Flyers with nine points on the day.
A layup from Eickhoff and two free throws by Wertenberger made it a one-point game. Karly Kessler then made the front end of two free throws and Leah Kosch hit a jumper to give the Flyers a 27-23 lead going into the fourth.
Another layup by Eickhoff and two free throws by Wertenberger to open up the fourth quarter tied the game with 5:50 to go in regulation.
With 2:39 left, Lechtenberg got fouled on a shot and made a free throw to put the Irtish ahead, then Emma Baumgart made a layup for St. Francis’ first field goal of the quarter. On the next possession, Wertenberger made her first of two free throws to tie it but missed the second.
The Flyers then let the clock roll until 14.1 seconds remained, when they called a timeout to set up a play. After the ball was worked around for a few seconds, Emma Baumgart put up a shot that was short of the rim. Sacred Heart recovered, forcing overtime.
This was the third straight meeting between St. Francis and Sacred Heart in the girls state basketball tournament. The teams played for the D2 championship in each of the past two years, with the Flyers winning in 2021 and the Irish winning in 2022.
“It was a knock-down, drag-out game, That’s kind of what we figured it was going to be,” Reiuchmuth said of the game. “That’s kind of our history. I’d like to play them on Saturday instead of Friday.”
Falls City Sacred Heart advances to the Class D2 final on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. at Pinnacle Bank Arena where it will face the Wynot Blue Devils. Humphrey St. Francis will play in the third-place game on Saturday at 3 p.m. against Shelton at Lincoln Northwest High School.
Class D2 semifinal
St. Francis 9 8 10 2 0 — 29
Sacred Heart 8 9 6 6 4 — 33
HUMPHREY ST. FRANCIS (20-6): Emma Baumgart, 2-4 0-0 4; Hannah Baumgart, 0-9 2-2 2; Kylee Wessel, 4-8 0-0 9; Karly Kessler, 0-2 1-2 1; Leah Kosch, 2-5 0-0 5; Makenna Wietfeld, 1-7 0-0 2; Isabel Preister, 2-7 2-5 6. Totals, 11-47 5-9 29.
FALLS CITY SACRED HEART (24-3): Olivia Eickhoff, 5-14 0-3 10; DeLanie Witt, 0-2 0-0 0; Jentry Lechtenberg, 2-6 1-2 5, Jessica Wertenberger, 3-10 10-12 16; Macy Keller, 1-2 0-0 2. Totals, 11-34 11-17 33.