Survive and Advance

The girls state tournament quarterfinals are in the books. Let's take a look back and get you set today's semifinals.

GREAT TEAMS, GREAT BENCHES: The Bellevue West bench celebrates during their win over Papillion-LaVista South on Wednesday night. (Harvest Sports / Andrew Placke)

The Final Four

Two awesome days of quarterfinals set us up for today’s semifinals at the Devaney Center (C2, D1 and D2) and Pinnacle Bank Arena (A, B, C1). Some favorites had to survive, but most everything went as expected which should give us some great matchups for today.

Let’s take you through a recap of each classes quarterfinal round of action in Lincoln. Some big performances, clutch plays and tournament leaders. As always, thanks for being with us and if you like the newsletter we’d love for you to share on social media.

Ok, here we go. Get that hotel breakfast and meet us at your first location before 9:00.

SUPER SOPH: Lincoln Southwest’s Eleanor Griffin had four 3s and 22 points as the Silverhawks survived Lincoln Southeast 58-56 in the opening round of Class A. (Harvest Sports / Andrew Placke)

The Big Three + History

As the Class A season drug on, it seemed that No. 1 Millard West and No. 2 Lincoln Southwest had set themselves apart from the rest. And, then, preseason No. 1 Bellevue West came on very strong during the last 45 days. The fourth semifinalist, kind of, seemed up in the air.

On Wednesday, we settled on history. Lincoln North Star joined that trio with a defensive-minded 46-31 win over Millard North in the day’s second semifinal. It was their first win at the state tournament in school history after losing to the Mustangs in the opening round last year.

THE GAMES: Millard West put three players in double figures and made 21-of-27 free throws to hold off Omaha Central 49-35 in the opening Class A contest. Bradley pledge Inia Jones had 19 to lead Central, which finished 19-7. The Eagles held West’s leading scorer Neleigh Gessert to 12 points, but Kylee Paben and Norah Gessert chipped in 13 and 12.

Lincoln North Star’s 1-3-1 defense held Millard North to just 31 points less than two weeks after a 68-49 loss to the Mustangs. Kendall Anderson and Ani Leu each had 13 for the Gators. Millard West and North Star have not played this season.

Second-ranked Lincoln Southwest avenged a post-Christmas loss to Lincoln Southeast to advance to the semifinals for the fourth time in school history. Trailing 35-30 at halftime — Southeast won the earlier game 40-37 — the Silverhawks used a 16-4 third quarter to take control before hanging on to win 58-56. The Knights had two shots at the basket in the final 10 seconds. Elenor Griffin had 22 for the Hawks and Nyalvak Dak had 23 for Southeast. Tim Barada post-game

Bellevue West led by as many as 18 points (25-7) in the first half and saw Papillion-LaVista South cut their lead to 37-30 in the fourth quarter before pulling away for their 13th straight win, 48-39. Naomi White scored 15 to lead the T-Birds, while Kenzie Melcher had 13. West and Southwest will tip at 7:45 and also have not played this season.

THROUGH TRAFFIC: Elkhorn North’s Britt Prince drives through the Scottsbluff defense during Thursday’s quarterfinal game at Pinnacle Bank Arena. (Harvest Sports / Andrew Placke)

The Heavyweights

Seeing top-ranked Elkhorn North and second-ranked Omaha Skutt survive to the semifinals was no surprise. It’s who joins them that is kind of fun. First year school Gretna East thumped Waverly in the second half and Beatrice enacted some revenge over Norris with a 50-49 thriller in the final game on Thursday.

THE GAMES: Top-seeded Omaha Skutt wasted little time taking control of their game with South Sioux City. The Skyhawks led 33-7 in the first half and cruised 66-32 win over the Cardinals. Molly Ladwig had 27 points to lead the Skyhawks who are seeking their third straight finals appearance.

First year as a school. First game at state. No problem for Gretna East which topped Waverly 51-37 and beat the Vikings for a second time this season. Karli Williams scored 15 points as the Griffins outscored Waverly 31-13 after halftime changing a 24-20 deficit at the break. Despite their proximity, Skutt and Gretna East have not played yet this season. The Griffins hope to duplicate the first year finals trip of Elkhorn North three years ago.

The dynamic duo — Britt Prince (33) and Makenna Murphy (20) — combined for 53 of Elkhorn North’s 63 points in the Wolves 10th straight state tournament win 63-44 over Scottsbluff. The Bearcats led 21-14 in the second quarter before Prince sparked a 16-0 to end the half that put EN in control. In the win, Prince became the second all-time leading scorer in Nebraska prep history passing GICC’s KC Cowgill.

Alijah Stabler made two free throws with 13.5 seconds left to lift Beatrice to their 50-49 win over Norris. The Lady Orange had given up a 44-30 fourth quarter lead to a Norris flurry. The Titans took a 49-48 lead when freshman Landri Gates got a steal and bucket with 1:12 to go. Addi Hatcliff scored 15 to lead Beatrice. The Orange look for their fifth title appearance against Elkhorn North.

EYES ON THE SEMIS: Bridgeport’s Olivia Loomis-Goltl takes the ball to the basket in the Bulldogs 65-57 win over Minden. (Harvest Sports / Dante Boelhower)

The Headliners

The four teams that rose to the top of the Class C-1 rankings as the season moved on, made good on their rankings on Thursday. Lincoln Christian will battle Bridgeport and Sidney will face Grand Island Central Catholic with a trip to the finals on the line on Friday.

THE GAMES: Lincoln Christian had to scrap and claw their way to a win over four-time defending champion North Bend Central in the opener. The Crusaders led 30-17 at half, but saw the Tigers get within 36-28 early in the fourth quarter, before puling away for a 51-39 win. Maci Pittenger led three LC players in double figures with 16 points.

Bridgeport opened the second half with an 8-2 run over the first four minutes to extend a 24-19 halftime lead to 32-21. Despite Minden cutting the lead to six twice in late in the third quarter and midway through the final frame, the Bulldogs had just enough while controlling the Whippet press for a 65-57 win. Olivia Loomis-Goltl took her career point total to 2,097 with 22 points for the Bulldogs. The top-two ranked teams will meet in the 9:00 am semifinal at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Karsyn Leeling’s 23-foot, 3-point shot with just under six seconds left sent Sidney to the semifinals over Adams Central 40-38. AC led 31-27 heading to the fourth, but Sidney used an 8-0 to take a 37-34 lead. The Patriots then regained the lead with on two Briley Neinheuser free throws with 49.5 seconds left that set up Leeling’s heroics. Leeling led all scorers with 15 points.

Grand Island Central Catholic’s Ruby Five continued their winning ways in Lincoln as they used a big second quarter to take control over Broken Bow. The Crusaders got 10 of Maggie Herbek’s 16 points in the decisive eight minutes that turned a 13-11 lead into 27-17 at the break. The Indians couldn’t get much closer in the 49-33 GICC win. Bryndal Moody had 19 points for the Crusaders, will look for their first finals appearance in school history. 

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: Yutan’s Jade Lewis moves the ball up the floor against Niobrara/Verdigre. The Chieftains won their first state tournament in school history on Wednesday. (Harvest Sports / Dante Boelhower)

Working Extra

If we expected anything on Wednesday, it was that season-long No. 1 Crofton the heavy favorite to win the Class C-2 title. The ended up being almost not advancing to today’s semifinal round.

THE GAMES: Top-seeded and second-ranked Yutan held Niobrara/Verdigre scoreless in the second quarter — leading 26-5 at the break — and cruised to a 60-28 win. It was the first state tournament win in school history for Yutan in their fifth attempt. Mylee Tichota had 16 points and 10 players scored for the Chieftains. The state’s leading scorer, Josilyn Miller, had 20 for N/V.

Bishop Neumann sprinted to a 30-21 lead on Cross County in the first half the blew the game open with a 14-7 third quarter before winning 61-40. AJ Bosak had 15 points for the Cavs, who also got 10 points each from Jill Johnson and Bridget Whitney. The Cougars only had three players score, led by Shyanne Anderson’s 19. Yutan and Neumann will meet for the third time since February 6th on Friday. The Chieftains have won both contests.

Phew. Crofton got a rebound and basket from Caitlin Guenther with under 15 seconds left to tie Clarkson/Leigh at 30 and then outscored them 8-2 in the extra session. The Warriors struggled with the Patriot zone that bottled up the lane. Brynn Settje scored 20 for the Clarkson/Leigh, which finished 17-7.

Brooklyn Mans and Tatum Backemeyer scored all of Elmwood-Murdock’s 15 points in a decisive third quarter as they upended 2023 finalist Oakland-Craig 44-33. Backemeyer finished with 20 points and Briar Ray scored 13 points for the O-C. E-M looks for their first final in school history on Friday, while Crofton will try to advance to their 14th final.

BLUEJAY DOMINANCE: Centura’s Kennedy Davis shoots over the GACC defense of Izzy Kreikemier and Charlie Dinslage on Thursday night. (Harvest Sports / Dante Boelhower)

When The Rankings Are Right

Showdown’s will begin the day in Class D-1 as second-ranked Pender will face fourth-ranked St. Mary’s in the opener and top-ranked GACC will face No. 3 Southern Valley in the second semifinal. Possible finals opponents, Pender and GACC have already played an overtime game to end the regular season.

THE GAMES: A third game with Pender didn’t change the result for Bancroft-Rosalie. The second-ranked Pendragons, who defeated B-R 51-19 in the sub-district final cruised to a 54-29 win in the opening round over the Panthers. Avery Wegner had 15 points for Pender which moved their season 3-point total to 254, fourth best season in state history.

Pender will get St. Mary’s, which beat McCool Junction for a second time this season. The Cardinals pulled away after halftime behind 25 points from Mya Hedstrom in the 53-40 win over the Mustangs. St. Mary’s trailed 20-13 after one quarter, but stormed back for a 23-22 halftime lead. St. Mary’s will look to return to the finals for the first time since 2016.

Top-ranked GACC proved their ranking quickly in the night session of the D-1 opening round. They sprinted to a 35-19 lead on defending champion Centura and never looked back in a 70-27 win. Joelynn Skoda had 16 points to lead four Bluejays in double figures.

No. 3 Southern Valley moved to 27-1 on the season

OLD HAT: Falls City Sacred Heart and Makinley Scholl advanced to the state tournament semifinals for the 11th consecutive season with a 30-21 win over Humphrey St. Francis. (Harvest Sports / Dante Boelhower)

Hey There, Old Friend

Friday’s evening session at the Devaney Center will have four teams that are very familiar with each other in Class D-2. 

In the 6:00 game, Overton will face Howells-Dodge. H-D beat the Eagles for the 2022 state volleyball title and now Overton seeks a volleyball-basketball double after winning last fall. The nightcap features Falls City Sacred Heart and Wynot for just the 11th time at state since 2010 — the series is tied 5-5.

THE GAMES: After finally shaking off some opening round jitters, Overton cruised after halftime for a 51-27 win over Paxton. Jolee Ryan’s banked in 30-footer at the second quarter buzzer tied the game at 15 and the top-ranked Eagles outscored the Tigers 23-8 in the third quarter to take control.

It’s probably time to throw Howells-Dodge’s record out the window. At 14-10, the Jags — who survive life in the loaded East Husker — beat 21-5 Sandhills/Thedford 52-44 by having two starters score 10 points and three more score nine. The Jags seek their first final since 2017, while Overton looks for their first championship in school history and finals appearance since 1991.

Sacred Heart outscored St. Francis 8-2 in the third quarter then went into an effect delay game that held off the Flyers, 30-21. Jentry Lechtenberg had 12 for the Irish.

Wynot got 19 points from Kenna Olgimueller in defeating Lewis and Clark Conference mate Plainview for the second time this season, 46-31. The Pirates, at state for the first time in school history, got 13 points from Teya Boyer. Wynot seeks their 13th state finals appearance, but has lost to Sacred Heart each of the past three seasons.

GREAT BENCHES, PART TWO: Beatrice’s most important stat keepers cheer on the Lady Orange on Thursday night in their 50-49 win over Norris. (Harvest Sports / Andrew Placke)