Cedar girls get defensive in first round win
LINCOLN - Cedar Catholic got a touch defensive Wednesday to open its run in the 2023 Class D State basketball tournament here at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
The Lady Trojans held Johnson-Brock to just 36 points after the Lady Eagles reeled off eight -of-nine wins in nine games to arrive in Lincoln.
"That was probably the best defense we have played all year," Cedar Catholic coach, Craig Wortmann said. "We pressured them all night and it paid off."
The Lady Trojans held the Lady Eagles to eight points below their season average and came away with a relatively easy, 69-36 win.
"We wanted to get after them from the start," said Cedar Catholic senior Makenna Noecker. "We wanted to focus on defense and hitting open shots - I think we did both."
Noecker had poured in over 500 points during her final campaign and ended her career with well over 1,000.
But this game was more about moving forward than setting personal records.
"We just want to keep winning," Noecker said. "There is nothing to be said other than we intend to go home with a state title."
Not that anything besides a title would be a failure, but take into consideration Cedar Catholic is in the middle of its fourth consecutive run in the Class D1 girls' basketball tournament and a good share of this team won a title in volleyball this fall and you get the feeling of very high expectations.
Well, whatever expectations are or were out there, the Lady Trojans met them in the opening round.
Although the defense was impressive, the offense was off the charts.
"We were hot from the beginning," Wortmann said. "I almost thought we should save some shots for later in the tournament, we were knocking down a lot of them early on and kind of all game long - if we keep doing that we should be all right."
Cedar Catholic sprinted to a 7-0 lead to open the game and ended the first eight minutes with a 20-8 advantage.
Laney Kathol hit Katy Jones for the opening bucket of the contest then Samantha Pick made it 4-0 with a steal and lay up.
"Our press was really working," Noecker said. "We really used our defense to set up our offense tonight."
After the defense forced another turnover, Noecker splashed her first 3 of the game on her way to a game-high 25 points.
She would finish 9-of-14 from the field, including a 3-for-4 performance behind the 3-point line.
After a Lady Eagles' basket, Noecker drove to the hoop and scored again then hit a couple of foul shots to make it 11-2 with 5:30 left in the first.
Katy Jones hit a step-back 3 to make it 14-3, Noecker scored again driving o the basket then Pick spotted Kathol breaking to the hoop to make it 18-6.
Kathol made a couple of charity tosses with 12.4 seconds left in the first frame and the quarter ended with the Lady Trojans' 20-8 advantage.
By the half the lead grew to 36-12 and Cedar Catholic was on its way to the big first-round win.
"This was a great win for us," said Jones. "It will really help our confidence as we move along in the tournament."
The next round of the tournament could send this group of Lady Trojans to uncharted waters
Although appearing in four straight tournaments, Cedar Catholic lost in the semifinals the past three seassons.
"We're going to see teams we haven't seen before," Wortmann said. "We'll be more concerned with what we do and just make everybody on the other team handle the ball to see if they can do it and go from there - we're looking forward to the challenge."
J-B 8 4 7 17 - 36
Cedar 20 16 12 21 - 69
JOHNSON-BROCK (21-6) Brooklyn Behrends 1 4-6 6; Halle Rasmussen 1 0-0 2; Natalie Knippelmeyer 1 2-4 4; Chloe Vice 1 1-3 3; Taryn Otteman 4 3-4 13; Anna Lillenas 1 0-0 2; Natalie Clark 2 0-0 4; Charlotte Metschke 0 2-2 2.
CEDAR CATHOLIC (21-6): Makenna Noecker 9 4-4 25; Katy Jones 3 0-0 8; Samantha Pick 1 0-0 2; Laney Kathol 4 2-2 10; Lauren Bernecker 2 0-0 5; Melayna McGregor 1 0-0 2; Bailey Hochstein 1 1-2 3; Katelyn Arens 1 1-2 3; Addison Walter 2 2-2 8; McKinlee Lammers 0 0-1 0.