LINCOLN — The Chadron girls basketball team couldn’t overcome an ice-cold, second-half shooting performance during a 52-34 setback to Pierce in the semifinals of the Class C-1 state tournament on Friday afternoon in Lincoln.
The Cardinals, who were averaging over 60 points per game, were held to a season-low point tally and managed just 13 points in the final two quarters.
“It was a game where our shots just weren’t falling,” Chadron coach Curt Holmquist said. “Part of that was due to Pierce and the other part was we just had an off night shooting.”
Chadron will look to bounce back today in the consolation game. The Cardinals (23-3) will take on Wahoo (17-10) at 9 a.m. at Lincoln Northeast High School.
Pierce will play Kearney Catholic in today’s championship game. Kearney Catholic advanced into the final with a 65-33 blowout of Wahoo in Friday’s other semifinal.
Chadron, which usually enjoys a height advantage over its opponents, was undersized against a Pierce team that featured multiple players standing at 6-feet or taller. The Bluejays’ size advantage was very evident in the rebounding department as Chadron especially struggled to keep Pierce off the offensive glass.
“We had a tough time rebounding against them,” Holmquist said. “They really went to the boards hard and rebounded well.”
Chadron’s ability to rebound and score was made even more difficult when 6-0 junior Ashlea Kerr re-injured her knee early in the first quarter and never returned. Kerr is the Cardinals’ leading scorer on the season and one of the team’s top rebounders.
The loss of Kerr, along with Pierce’s physical presence on both ends of the court, eventually took a toll on Chadron in the second half.
“They’re just a tough team to match up against,” Holmquist said of Pierce. “They all looked 6-2 or 6-3 out there. They were able to alter our shots with their size.”
Chadron managed to get off to a good start in the contest. The Cardinals held a 12-9 advantage after the first quarter and increased their lead to as many as six in the second quarter. However, Pierce rallied to take a 24-21 lead into halftime. Bailea Kerr paced Chadron offensively in the first half with 10 points.
“It was just a three-point game at halftime, so we felt really good going into the second half,” Holmquist said. “We probably would have even been ahead at the half if we didn’t send them to the line so many times. It seemed like every time they shot a free throw they made it.”
Any momentum Chadron owned after the first half quickly went in Pierce’s favor in the third quarter. The Cardinals went cold from the field and didn’t score a single point until Briley Hannaford’s free throw with under three minutes to go in the frame. By that time, Pierce had built a double-figure lead after going on a 9-0 run. Chadron tallied just five points in the quarter.
Similarly to the start of the third quarter, the Bluejays opened the final stanza by scoring the first 11 points to increase their advantage to over the 20-point mark. The Cardinals never threatened the rest of the way.
Like she did in Chadron’s first-round win over Lincoln Christian, Peyton Hinn led the Cardinals in scoring Friday with 12 points. Bailea Kerr followed with 10 points, all coming in the first half.
Three players scored in double figures for Pierce. Rachel Wiedenfeld led the way with 16 points, while Jacy Bretschneider and Rachelle Tucker both added 10.
After finishing fourth in last year’s state tournament, Chadron has an opportunity to accomplish what few teams can — end the season with a win.
“There are only two teams in each class that get to finish with a win. We want to be one of those teams,” Holmquist said. “Our seniors want to end their careers with a win, and I think the girls will go out and play as well as they can. We’re down here with the best of the best, and we’re deserving of playing another game of basketball.”
Wahoo is the sixth seed in the tournament. The Warriors opened with a 45-31 win over Fillmore Central in the first round before being routed by Kearney Catholic in the semifinals.
“They are very athletic and they like to play up-tempo,” Holmquist said of Wahoo. “We’re a tad taller than them, but having Ashlea out changes the complexion of what we do a little. Hopefully, we’ll be able to compensate.”
Pierce (22-4) .............. 9 15 11 17 — 52
Chadron (23-3) ............ 12 9 5 8 — 34
Katie Atkins 3, Branigan Stonacek 4, Jacy Bretschneider 10, Rachel Wiedenfeld 16, Rachelle Tucker 10, Krystina Koepke 9.
Peyton Hinn 12, Briley Hannaford 5, Ashlyn Eitemiller 2, Bailea Kerr 10, Alia Brennan 5.