FREMONT, Neb. — It's hard to imagine Saturday night going any better for the Fremont girls basketball team and standout forward Jessica Shepard.
The fifth-ranked Tigers pulled away to post a 67-53 victory over second-ranked Millard West. Shepard scored 32 points and broke a state scoring record that had stood for 30 years.
The 6-foot-3 junior needed just four points to break the single-season Class A scoring mark of 614, set by Omaha Central's Maurtice Ivy in 1984. Shepard achieved the milestone by sinking a layup with 3:23 left in the first quarter.
“I wasn't thinking about the record once the game got started,” the Nebraska recruit said. “It's a team game, and I owe a lot of my success to my teammates.”
Shepard closed within striking distance of the mark Friday night, scoring 34 points in a 67-33 win over Lincoln High. She made a layup on her first shot of the game Saturday night, missed her next shot and then drove the baseline for the record breaker.
“Jess came up big, but that's just the player she is,” Tigers coach Tony Weinandt said. “After playing against her for two years, I'm glad that she's on our side.”
Shepard, who transferred to Fremont High from Lincoln Southeast after her father Mark was named Fremont's superintendent of schools, was 14 of 19 from the field and 4 of 6 from the line. She entered the game leading the state in scoring (30 points per game) and rebounding (15 per game). She finished with 32 points and 13 rebounds.
Her record-breaking performance came in front of a near-sellout crowd of 1,900 at Fremont's Bahe Gymnasium. Most of the players and fans were wearing something pink as part of a fundraiser for breast cancer research.
“This was a great atmosphere for a high school game,” Weinandt said. “(Millard West coach) Kip Colony said the same thing.”
The Tigers boosted their record to 19-2 while the Wildcats fell to 19-3.
Millard West got off to a strong start and led 15-11 after the opening period. The game was tied four times during the second quarter but Millard West grabbed a 26-24 lead just before halftime on a jumper by Samantha Waldron.
Weinandt said he addressed two issues at half — the Tigers' (10) turnovers and the Wildcats' (11-4) advantage in made free throws.
“We needed to get those things straightened out,” he said. “We came out and played better in the second half.”
Shepard scored 11 of Fremont's 22 points in that third period as the Tigers surged to a 46-41 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Wildcats tied the game at 50 with 4:40 left on a 3-pointer by Waldron.
The Tigers outscored Millard West 17-3 the rest of the way, holding the Wildcats without another field goal. Shepard scored 10 in the fourth quarter, and sophomore guard Rylie Cascio Jensen sank 5 of 6 free throws to help Fremont pull away.
“We didn't do our job defensively,” Colony said. “That last four minutes, the game just got away from us.”
A pair of sophomore transfers from Bellevue East — Cascio Jensen and Meghan Luper — combined for 23 points for Fremont. Cascio Jensen scored 14 while Luper had nine.
Waldron led the Wildcats with 15 points while Brooke Savage added nine and Paige Phipps eight. Junior forward Marisa Lowe, the second-leading scorer on the team, was hounded by Cascio Jensen much of the game and was held scoreless.
Millard West also was hurt by an uncharacteristically poor shooting night from behind the arc. The Wildcats were 2 of 21 (9 percent) from 3-point range.
“We can enjoy it now,” Weinandt said. “But every game is big this time of year, and we've got to start getting ready for Southeast.”
Both teams return to action at home Tuesday night. The Tigers will play the Knights while the Wildcats play Papillion-La Vista.
Millard West (19-3) .......................................... 15 11 15 12—53
At Fremont (19-2) ............................................ 11 13 22 21—67
MW: Paige Phipps 3-6 2-2 8, Hanna Selinger 0-1 4-4 4, Madi Severson 3-6 0-0 6, Samantha Waldron 5-16 3-4 15, Brooke Savage 1-5 7-10 9, Marisa Lowe 0-6 0-1 0, Logan Black 1-3 1-1 3, Kate Suelter 2-4 1-2 5, Faith Cain 1-3 1-2 3. Totals 16-50 19-26 53.
F: Rylie Cascio Jensen 2-8 9-10 14, Claire Meyer 0-2 0-0 0, Katie Sorensen 3-4 0-0 6, Gessica Gdowski 2-2 1-2 5, Jessica Shepard 14-19 4-6 32, Meghan Luper 3-5 1-2 9, Kendall Niehaus 0-3 1-2 1. Totals 24-43 16-22 67.
3-point goals: MW 2-21 (Waldron 2-12, Phipps 0-1, Severson 0-1, Savage 0-4, Lowe 0-3); F 3-12 (Luper 2-3, Cascio Jensen 1-5, Meyer 0-2, Niehaus 0-2). Rebounds: MW 28 (Severson 6); F 33 (Shepard 13). Total fouls: MW 25; F 19. Turnovers: MW 10; F 18. Field-goal pct: MW .320; F .558. Free-throw pct: MW .730; F .727.
* * *
Video: Shepard sets record