With the Cardinals stuck in a 7-5 game ten minutes in against Omaha Roncalli, they needed a spark. Much like the previous game against Ogallala, Tyleigh Strotheide shouldered the scoring in the first quarter, but the Cardinals were stuck on seven points from the 4:00 mark of the first to the 6:00 mark of the second. Olivia Reed got the Cardinals to nine points on a possession where she bullied defenders.
Reed received an entry pass that was tipped away, but she beat two defenders to the ball by diving on the court and flipping the ball from her back to the top of the key. She hopped to her feet and immediately slid to the backside low block where there were no Roncalli players. Jacey Garrett found her with a sharp pass between two closing defenders. Reed reached through the gap and pulled the ball through traffic while drop stepping for a two point bucket. The approximately fifty Chadron students in the student section immediately filled the large gymnasium at North Platte with a roar.
Reed backed up that bucket two possessions later. She gathered her own miss and went straight up through two defenders for a bucket. Then two possessions later she gathered more defensive attention before going to the free throw line to hit one of two. It seemed to spark the Cardinals the rest of the quarter on the offensive end, especially for Anika Burke. Burke scored on back to back possessions in the quarter with assists from Reed and Shea Bailey. One of the buckets was nice a touch shot from midrange which Burke hit with confidence. Anybody who has watched Anika knows she has great touch from fifteen feet.
The first half was a little bit of a struggle from Shea Bailey as she missed her first six from three. Bailey finally got her first three to fall late in the second quarter which put the Cards up 20-11. Shea would use that confidence to hit two of three from deep in the second half.
One thing Chadron can be proud about is the amount of fans they put in the seats. North Platte is a four hour drive, and the Cardinal fans at least tripled the amount of Roncalli fans in the seats. A vibrant pep band and a student section that never sat down the entire night, helped the Lady Cardinals when they needed confidence in tight spots in the second half.
One of those tight spots was the continuous full court pressure by a fast Roncalli team. Coach Jonn McLain commented on their speed: “Very fast team, really athletic, they get the ball from point A to point B really quick. They had some okay size underneath, but mostly it was their guards…they pressured basically the whole game in various ways, and then to add to that we weren’t hitting shots that we normally make. So the frustration grew a little bit, but we tried to stay the course. But a lot of it was just mental to keep continuing the play the whole game.”
Roncalli was practically without their best player in Abbey Schwarz. The junior, UNL soccer commit, rolled her ankle on Wednesday and didn’t start in the contest. She did come off the bench when her team needed a lift and played a little less than half of the game. Despite her absence, Roncalli is a team that plays pressure defense and doesn’t turn the ball over. If you can have those two assets you can stay in most any game despite the struggle to score.
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In a 33-25 game early in the fourth, Baily knocked down a three before Burke cut open for a layup. This 38-25 lead would be more than enough to keep Roncalli at bay for the remainder of the game.
When the buzzer went off, the Cardinal players were in the northeast corner of the gym, opposite the Chadron fans. The bench players immediately rushed to the side of their teammates and it was smiles across the court. The Chadron players immediately turned to the student section and the two, classmates and players, met a center court to celebrate the win in unison.
McLain ended by talking about his team: “So proud, they’ve accomplished so much. You look at some of the wins they’ve had this year…it’s a special thing to be a part of…a team like this…a season like this.”
The Cardinals finished their run to state by cutting down the nets on both ends of the floor. They will take on the number seven seed Adams Central in the first round of state. The game is on Thursday, March 5th, at 2:00 in the Devaney Center in Lincoln.
Chadron: Reed 16, Bailey 12, Burke 7, Strotheide 6, Hamar 3, Dunbar 2. 16-44 (5-15) 9-17 46 points. Rebounds 40 (32-8): Reed 15, Bailey 8, Burke 6. Assists 14: Burke 5, Bailey 3, Garrett 3. Turnovers 21, steals 9, blocks 1, fouls 11.
Roncalli: Bennett 12, Mausbach 11, Wilson 4, Stoffel 3, Meenan 2, Murcek 2. 11-48 (4-24) 8-11 34 points. Rebounds 28 (25-3), assists 6, turnovers 15, steals 12, blocks 1, fouls 17.
Chadron 7 13 13 13 -46
Roncalli 5 9 7 13 -34
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