HARTINGTON — A strong defensive effort and a dominating rebounding performace led the Cedar Catholic Lady Trojans to a 60-36 D1-3 District championship game win Friday over Niobrara/Verdigre.
The win gives the Trojans their fourth straight trip to the State basketball tournament.
“It was nice to have this all come together tonight,” said Cedar Catholic coach Craig Wortmann. “We took care of what we needed to take care of and came away with the win.”
Cedar Catholic jumped out from the opening tip and grabbed a lead and then kept a shorthanded, but stubborn Lady Cougars team at an arm’s length the rest of the night.
Turnovers and errant shots dominated the first frame as the teams stumbled to a 6-3 Lady Trojan lead at the end of the first quarter, but the game heated up from there.
For Cedar Catholic, Katy Jones scored early on with four points in the first quarter and with the first five points in the second eight minutes. She had a bucket inside to open scoring and then converted a pair of free throws later in the first before opening the second by canning a 3-pointer and taking a steal coast-to-coast for another basket.
“This feels really good,” Jones said. “We just focused on getting back down to Lincoln and did everything we could to get there.”
Makenna Noecker, who would finish with a game-high 22 points, scored the other basket in the first and used a nifty move in the paint for a bucket after Jones’ score in the second to put Cedar Catholic up 13-3.
Laney Kathol drove through the paint for a basket to make it 15-3 and then made a nice pass to Noecker, who was fouled breaking to the hoop to make it 17-3 after Noecker hit the foul shots.
Kathol handed out another assist, this one to Lauren Bernecker, and then canned a couple of charity tosses herself to complete a 15-0 run to open the second period.
“We kept the pressure on them, especially in the second quarter,” Wortmann said. “We got some baskets from the pressure and shared the ball really well.”
The Lady Cougars were without the services of leading scorer Josilyn Miller, who was sidelined during the SubDistrict tournament due to an injury.
“It took us a while to figure things out without her,” Niobrara/ Verdigre coach Chris Swalley said. “We got things going better as the game wore on, but they had already established a lead.” Niobrara/Verdigre did manage a 15-foot jump shot from Chrissena Swalley along the baseline and a traditional 3-point play by Hehaka Frazier to close out the half to send the teams to the locker room with the Trojans in front, 23-10. The lead grew to 19 with 3:32 left in the third quarter after a Noecker bomb from beyond the arc, but a foul shot by Chloe Hanzlik and her offensive rebound and put-back trimmed the lead to 35-20.
Niobrara/Verdigre got the lead down to 13 early in the final frame, but a Jones trifecta with 5:05 left made it 49-30. Jones finished with 19 points.
“I got open a few times and my teammates got me the ball,” Jones said. “I just had to make the shots. We were not going to lose this game.”
The Lady Trojans will return to Lincoln to try to improve on three-straight fourth-place finishes since 2020.
“We’re happy to get back there,” Wortmann said. “We just need to settle in and put together three more wins. It will be a huge challenge.”
Cedar Catholic 6 17 16 21- 60 Niobrara/Verdgre 3 7 12 14- 36 Cedar N/V FG 22-57 13-45 3PT 5-19 4-21 FT 6-8 6-8 Reb 37 13 TOs 11 6
Cedar - Makenna Noecker, 22; Katy Jones, 19; Laney Kathol, 8; Melayna McGregor, 4; Lauren Bernecker, 3; Addison Walter, 2; Katelyn Arens, 2; Samantha Pick, 1.
Cedar - Laney Kathol, 9; Lauren Bernecker, 6; Addison Walter, 6; Katy Jones, 5; Samantha Pick, 5; Makenna Noecker, 2; Melayna McGregor, 2; Katelyn Arens, 1; Bailey Hochstein, 1.
Cedar - Laney Kathol, 4; Katy Jones, 2; Addison Walter, 2; Samantha Pick, 2; Bailey Hochstein, 1.
Cedar - Makenna Noecker, 2; Laney Kathol, 2; Bailey Hochstein, 2; Katy Jones, 1; Lauren Bernecker, 1; Addison Walter, 1.