LINCOLN — Crofton used a 17-0 run in the final five minutes of the first quarter and never looked back in defeating Blue Hill 55-36 in the opening round of the Class C2 state high school basketball tournament on Thursday at Lincoln Southwest.
Blue Hill jumped on the Warriors early. Brianna Danehey's 3-pointer had the Bobcats on top 9-4. Then Crofton's full-court pressure defense took over and forced nine first-quarter turnovers.
In the final 45 seconds of the quarter, senior point guard Josie Sanger stole a pass and made a layup, was later fouled and made one of two free throws. She also scored on a transition layup with an assist from Kaley Einrem.
Crofton pulled down 14 first-quarter rebounds.
"They crashed the offensive boards and got us some long rebounds, but (sophomore center) Lacey (Sprakel) is a good offensive rebounder. She scores a lot of points that way," said Crofton coach Aaron Losing.
Crofton's defense then held the Bobcats to eight second-quarter points while Sprakel went to work on the offensive end by scoring off an inbound play, a putback and free throw as the Warriors took a commanding 34-17 lead into the halftime break.
"We played pretty well for a good stretch there," said Blue Hill coach Tim Streff. "But the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second quarter, they built a lead and it was a little bit too much to overcome."
The Bobcats made halftime adjustments and started the third quarter on a 9-3 run. Rylee Kohmetscher's layup pulled them to within 11 at 37-26 with exactly three minutes to go in the third. They would get no closer.
Sprakel turned the tide by scoring on a brilliant post move and later sinking a pair of free throws to put the Warriors up 41-28 going into the fourth quarter.
The Crofton defense continued to smother Blue Hill in the fourth. Jamie Bonifas scored on a putback for the Bobcats at the 5:45 mark before a four-minute scoring drought that coincided with a Warrior 8-0 run.
Sanger led a balanced scoring attack for Crofton with 16. Einrem added 15 and Sprakel 13.
Kacey Allen paced the Bobcats with eight points while leading scorer Rylee Kohmetscher was held to seven — four under her average.
It was the first state tournament win for Crofton since the 2016 team defeated Guardian Angels Central Catholic, 46-43, for the school's fifth consecutive Class C2 title.
Crofton coach Aaron Losing said this is a whole new team.
"Josie (Sanger) was on the court as a freshman the last time that we won it," he said. "Danielle (Steffen) and Aubree (Potts) just got a little bit of time.
“Most of these kids were sitting in the stands in elementary or junior high watching when we were going through our really, really good years, and I knew they came into high school very, very motivated and we went through some bumps in the road last year. We learned a lot and we're still in the process of growing into the team that we can become."
The win improved Crofton's record to 31-4 in state tournament games since 2005, during which, Warrior teams have won eight state championships and finished as runner-up twice.
Blue Hill ends its season with a record of 21-5, while the 22-3 Warriors move on to a Friday afternoon semifinal against Fillmore Central.
Opening tip-off is slated for 3:45 p.m. at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Blue Hill 9 8 11 8 — 36
Crofton 21 13 7 14 — 55
BLUE HILL (21-5): Brianna Danehey 1 1-2 4; Rylee Kohmetscher 3 1-3 7; Jamie Bonifas 2 0-2 5; Kacey Allen 2 2-2 8; Madison Menke 2 2-3 6; Emily Meyer 2 2-3 6; Totals: 12 8-15 36.
CROFTON (22-3): Danielle Steffen 1 0-0 3; Josie Sanger 4 7-10 16; Kaley Einrem 5 3-4 15; Aubree Potts 1 0-0 2; Alexis Arens 2 1-4 5; Ryah Ostermeyer 0 1-2 1 Lacey Sprakel 4 5-6 13; Totals 17 17-26 55.
3-point field goals: BH 4 (Danehey, Bonifas, Allen 2), CRO (Steffen, Sanger, Einrem 2); Rebounds BH 22 (Meyer 7), CRO 42 (Sanger 11); Blocks: BH 7, CRO 2; Turnovers: BH 19, CRO 18; Fouls: BH 21, CRO 17.