LINCOLN — Memories of how they lost the 2012 Class A championship game provided Lincoln Southeast’s girls with all the motivation they needed throughout the 2012-13 season.
Even in the final hours leading to Saturday’s 2013 title game, the Knights wouldn’t let themselves forget how awful that 36-35 loss to Omaha Central felt.
“We thought about it a lot, actually,” Knights sophomore Jessica Shepard said. “We reminded ourselves before the game of how that felt and how we didn’t want that to happen to us again.”
Shepard, a sophomore, had a little extra incentive that helped Southeast get off to a fast start and not have to worry about how things might work out at the end of Saturday’s 65-57 win over Bellevue West at the Devaney Center.
With less than 3 seconds to play against Central, Shepard was whistled for a controversial foul away from the play that led to the free throws that gave the Eagles the lead and win.
So few were surprised that the 6-foot-3 Nebraska recruit scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds in the opening eight minutes as the Knights bolted to an 18-9 first-quarter lead. She finished with 26 points on 9-of-20 shooting and made 8 of 12 free throws.
“We just knew that we just needed to come out and play basketball the way we have all season and it paid off for us,” Shepard said. “Once the game came, it was just all about this game; it wasn’t about what happened last year.”
Shepard had a set of three games that will be tough for her to top. With those 26 points against the Thunderbirds, Shepard set the Class A state tournament scoring record with 81 points in three games.
That topped the 80 scored in three games by Omaha Central’s Maurtice Ivy in 1984. Shepard also replaced Ivy in the Class A record book for most points in a single season with 666 points in 27 games. Ivy had 614 in ’84.
Shepard grabbed a game-high 19 rebounds and dished out four assists as she oftentimes brought the ball up court before moving into the post for layups and rebounds.
The way her teammates played is a big reason Shepard said she was able to be so effective.
“Everyone on our team has stepped up during the tournament and hit shots,” Shepard said. “So they couldn’t double on me, and that leaves me one on one, which is what I like, and it paid off.
“I just didn’t want to lose again, that was the bottom line. It drove us a lot because that feeling was awful. This is a much better feeling.”
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