AT DEVANEY CENTER
Lincoln Southeast (23-3) vs. Bellevue West (27-1), 1 p.m.
What to watch: The Knights played a solid first-round game against Bellevue East and stepped it up another notch Friday in a dominating victory over Millard West. Nebraska recruit Jessica Shepard has shown why she’s one of the top players in the state, scoring 27 on Thursday and 28 on Friday. Alexa Kastanek chipped in 19 against the Wildcats and is one of the Knights’ top defenders. The Thunderbirds outlasted upset-minded Omaha Benson in the first round before posting a gritty 53-50 win over defending champion Omaha Central. Junior center Kate Liveringhouse scored 18 against the Eagles, and another big game will be needed Saturday.
Our pick: The Knights have the motivation of last year’s runner-up finish, while Bellevue West wants to make amends for missing state last season. Southeast is very good, but the Thunderbirds’ depth gives them a slight edge to capture their fourth state title.
Norris (19-6) vs. GINW (24-3), 6:30 p.m.
What to watch: This class has been unpredictable all season, and few expected the third-seeded Vikings and the fifth-seeded Titans to play for the title. Norris nipped Gretna by a point on Thursday and then outlasted top-seeded Beatrice 59-54 in the semifinals. The Vikings had an equally dramatic semifinal Friday, ousting four-time defending champion Seward. Northwest has won one state title (1982) while Norris is seeking its first.
Our pick: Not sure which way to go on this one, but we’ll give a slight edge to the Vikings to add a state basketball title to its volleyball championship from the fall.
Kearney Catholic (26-2) vs. Pierce (22-4), 4:30 p.m.
What to watch: The fifth-seeded Lady Bluejays thought their season might be over after a subdistrict loss to Norfolk Catholic, but the team managed to reach state on the wild card. Pierce hasn’t been to the tourney since 1995 but has played fearlessly in double-digit victories over Minden and Chadron. The Stars struggled in their opener against Norfolk Catholic but used their height to great advantage Friday in a 65-33 semifinal win over Wahoo. The finalists played earlier this season, with Pierce prevailing 47-42.
Our pick: These have been two of the top teams in C-1 all season, and the fact they’re meeting in the final is no surprise. In a close one, look for Kearney Catholic to avenge its regular-season loss and take home the school’s fourth title.
Hastings St. Cecilia (23-4) vs. Crofton (26-0), 9 a.m.
What to watch: To nobody’s surprise, the top-seeded Warriors have continued to roll through the tourney. Crofton remains the only undefeated team in the state, and impressive wins Thursday over North Bend (54-19) and Friday over Homer (54-36) have the Warriors primed for their second consecutive state title. Second-seeded St. Cecilia dispatched Sutton in the first round and Hershey in the semifinals. Like Crofton, the Hawkettes also know something about tourney success — four titles, including the Class C-1 championship in 2011.
Our pick: St. Cecilia has rattled off 14 straight wins since losing four of five at midseason, but the Warriors are riding an even longer streak — 33 in a row, dating to last season. Victory No. 34 comes Saturday to wrap up Crofton’s perfect season.
O’Neill St. Mary’s (24-2) vs. Pender (24-3), 8:30 p.m.
What to watch: The Pendragons have regrouped since losing in subdistricts, defeating Palmer by 40 points in the first round and Emerson-Hubbard by four in the semifinals. St. Mary’s cruised past Sutherland on Thursday and then surprised top-seeded West Point GACC in Friday’s semifinal. Both schools are seeking their first state titles.
Our pick: The last championship game Saturday is a toss-up, but Pender’s height advantage gives the Pendragons a slight edge.
Osmond (19-2) vs. Wynot (24-4), 11 a.m.
What to watch: The final will be a matchup between a school that has never won a title (Osmond) and a school seeking its third championship in a row and fourth overall. It also will be the third game between the schools, which split the previous two. The Tigers bounced Deshler in the first round and then took out top seed Falls City Sacred Heart in the semifinals. The Blue Devils rolled past Giltner in the first round and then slipped past Lindsay Holy Family 43-40 in Friday’s semifinal.
Our pick: Experience means a lot at state, and it’s hard to look past that factor in the final. Look for Wynot to pull down its third straight title and send its eight seniors out on a positive note.
— Mike Patterson