Thursday's first-round victory for Guardian Angels Central Catholic won't win any beauty pageants, but the defensive effort was a sight to behold.

A gritty defense that finished with 16 steals allowed the No. 1 seed Bluejays to withstand a tough battle from No. 8 Stanton before pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 56-34 victory Thursday afternoon at Lincoln Southwest High School.

Twenty-six points helped Stanton put an end to a 26-year state-tournament drought. The Mustangs opened with a 26-5 run before holding off a second-half surge to defeat Twin River 47-37 in the Class C2-3 district final at Central Community College here Friday, earning a berth to state for the first time since 1990.

The first six minutes belonged to Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family. But the final 26 minutes and, ultimately, the game belonged to Stanton as the Mustangs turned up the defensive pressure for a 48-32 win in the Class C2-5 subdistrict final at the Norfolk Catholic Activities Center on Thursday.

The O’Neill boys, with an inside-outside scoring attack, scored 44 first-half points to take control early in the championship game of Stanton’s Holiday Basketball Tournament Tuesday night. The Eagles then scored 21 more points--including a 19-2 run--in the third quarter to cruise to a 76-50 win over the host Mustangs.

For as back-and-forth as Tuesday's game between preseason Class C No. 3 West Point-Beemer and No. 5 Stanton was, it was probably fitting that it came down to the final possession.

Stanton didn’t let its affinity for starting slow stop it from winning in its first-ever state-tournament appearance. The Mustangs — who trailed in early in all five sets — defeated Crofton 26-24, 20-25, 25-20, 19-25, 15-12 at Lincoln Southwest on Thursday in the first round of the Class C-2 tournament.

It’s not often a freshman steals the show, but Stanton’s Jessie Brandl did just that Tuesday night. Brandl’s 22 kill, 3 ace serve performance sparked the Mustangs to a 20-25, 25-19, 25-17, 25-21 win over Lutheran High Northeast in the Class C2-5 subdistrict championship at Norfolk Catholic.

North Bend Central avenged its loss to Stanton in the East Husker Conference title game this month with a 2-1 win vs. the Mustangs at Logan View’s triangular Tuesday near Hooper.

At times, it seemed Class C No. 6 Pierce had a wall at the net with hitters taller than those for No. 2 Stanton. But the Mustangs kept pounding, and they found enough ways to get around that wall to record a 25-16, 23-25, 25-18 victory over the Bluejays here Tuesday in the midpoint of a triangular.

The Battle Creek offensive line was eager to show it was up to the task of replacing the core of a group that was instrumental in leading the Braves to back-to-back state semifinals.

After finishing as East Husker Conference boys basketball runner-up last year, Bancroft-Rosalie wasn’t leaving Central Community College’s Raider Fieldhouse in Columbus Saturday without winning it all.

Stanton coach Sarah Klinetobe hit the nail on the head on her preseason sheet. “We are very excited for the possibilities the season holds,” she wrote. “This group of girls is very focused and determined to succeed.”

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