LINCOLN — Crofton rallied Saturday night for its first girls basketball state championship since 2016 and its ninth overall.
The top-ranked Warriors (26-3) trailed No. 7 Ponca 38-34 after three quarters but won 46-42 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Kaley Einrem clinched the win with two free throws with 22.1 seconds left for a three-point lead. Ponca missed on a 3 and Jayden Jordan tacked on another free throw.
Ponca (21-5) went on a 13-2 run in the second quarter for a 26-19 lead that was fueled by five Crofton turnovers. The Warriors responded with the next six points before Samantha Ehlers’ basket in the closing seconds resulted in a 28-25 halftime lead for Ponca.
Ehlers had 14 points in the first half – she was averaging 12 before state and finished with 17.
Crofton took the lead for good, 41-40, on a steal and score by Alexis Folkers with 2:56 left in the game. Folkers and Jordan each had 11 points.
Crofton was in the finals for the second time in three years in search of its ninth state title. The Warriors’ only instate loss before state was to new Class D-2 champion Humphrey St. Francis in a holiday tournament.
Crofton beat Ponca 57-46 in the regular season behind 22 points from Lacey Sprakel and 14 from Folkers. That was the Indians’ first loss and they dropped games to state qualifiers BRLD (C-2) and Wynot (D-2) before losing in subdistricts to North Central.
Getting to Lincoln on a 28-23 district win over Cross County, Ponca beat West Point Guardian Angels and then BRLD in a rematch to return to the finals.
Crofton (25-3).....12 13 9 12—46
Ponca (21-4).......11 17 10 4—42
C: Folkers 11, Jordan 11, Sprakel 8, Einrem 8, Wragge 5, Tramp 3.
P: Ehlers 17, Evans 10, Kingsbury 13, Crosgrove 2.