LINCOLN — Lincoln Southeast’s Jess Shepard and Alexa Kastanek were scoring dervishes in the first half Friday, and Shepard’s second wind was enough to blow the Knights back into the Class A girls basketball championship game.
After combining with Kastanek for 33 points to help forge a 36-24 halftime lead over Millard West, Shepard ran off the final seven points in a 28-point game by the Nebraska recruit to seal a 67-48 semifinal win at the Devaney Center.
Kastanek, a senior guard headed for Iowa, had 19 points, seven assists, six steals and six rebounds.
“What do you do?” Millard West coach Kip Colony said. “We tried everything: double-teaming, triple-teaming. Nothing we did was going to slow down a team on a mission.”
Southeast coach Kara Graham said Kastanek picked up her game, as the coach had hoped, after Thursday’s first-round win over Bellevue East in which she scored only five points.
“Today started with Alexa on both ends of the floor,” Graham said.
No. 3 Millard West (23-5), which never led, trailed 47-26 in the third quarter before a 10-0 run gave hope of another rally like in its district final, when it came from 12 down in the final three minutes to defeat Kearney.
“Three-fourths of this game was the best we’ve played this year, but the third quarter was pitiful,” Graham said. “Tomorrow, they said, they’re going to play four quarters. I’m excited about that.”
Millard West three times in the fourth quarter trimmed the Southeast lead to nine, the last time at 55-46 on a basket by Paige Phipps with 5:14 left.
Shepard, who had taken and made only one shot since halftime, again became the focal point of the offense and bookended 3 of 4 free throws with baskets. She was 12 of 14 from the field and 4 of 6 from the line.
“Jess is so fundamentally sound,” Colony said. “She squares up to the basket so well. She would be starting at Nebraska right now.”
Alexa Haas then hit a basket and a 3-pointer to get the Southeast starters to the bench for the final two minutes. she had all 12 of her points in the second half.
Marisa Lowe had 13 points to lead Millard West, which shot 38 percent (19 of 50) while Southeast was 27 of 53 for 50.9 percent. Phipps had 12 and Dani Saenz 10 for the Wildcats.
Lincoln Southeast (23-3)...............................22 14 14 17—67
Millard West (23-5).....................................11 13 15 9—48
Lincoln SE: Jess Shepard 28, Alexa Kastanek 19, Alexa Haas 12, Reanne May 8.
Millard West: Marisa Lowe 13, Paige Phipps 12, Danielle Saenz 10, Samantha Waldron 9, Mallory Woodring 2, Jaylin Bosak 1, Brooke Savage 1.
Officials: Chris Ladwig, Kevin Wood, Brian Shaw.
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>> Video: See Millard West-Lincoln Southeast game highlights: