SIDNEY — Even before Friday’s Class C-1, District 6 final tipped off, the Chadron girls basketball team knew it was pretty much a lock to qualify for this year’s Nebraska state tournament.
The Cardinals, though, were determined to get to state as a district champion – not as a wildcard qualifier.
Chadron certainly took care of business, using an explosive offense and a stingy defense to whip past Gothenburg 76-49 in the district final. The victory propels the Cardinals into next week’s state tournament, where they’ll have a good chance to enter as the No. 1 seed.
Chadron coach Curt Holmquist praised his team for executing their game plan, which included starting strongly. The Cardinals did just that, bolting to a 23-12 lead after the first quarter.
“One thing for sure is we wanted to get off to a good start, and that did happen,” Holmquist said. “We had a fantastic week of practice, and I was hoping that would parlay into a great game, which it did.”
Chadron, which will take a 22-2 record into its first-round state tournament game on Thursday in Lincoln, had a number of players come up big throughout the contest.
Offensively, ten Cardinals reached the scoring column, led by Peyton Hinn’s game-high 21 points. She tallied eight of her points in Chadron’s first-quarter outburst. Two other Cardinals scored in double figures. Briley Hannaford and Bailea Kerr both tallied 12 points. Ashlyn Eitemiller pitched in eight points.
Holmquist was elated to see his team click so well on offense.
“With shooting, you never know,” he said. “You hope you’re on, and tonight we were on.”
The Cardinals were also on defensively, frustrating Gothenburg with its press. Chadron’s tough defense helped the Cardinals stay well in front after the first quarter. Chadron led 39-29 at halftime and then continued to inch further ahead in the second half.
“It seemed like our girls kept the pressure on; they didn’t back off,” Holmquist said. “Gothenburg tried a couple things, but we made a couple adjustments, and that really helped us.”
Holmquist said the Cardinals take pride in their pressure defense. Friday’s contest, in fact, was one of Chadron’s best defensive performances of the season, he said.
“We do work on it a lot,” he said. “We know it’s one of our strengths, and it’s something that the girls enjoy.”
Holmquist said the Cardinals’ strategy won’t change when they get to the state tournament.
“Our trademark is our pressure, so we’re not going to change,” he said. “We might adapt, but we’re going to try to go in with the attitude that they’re going to have to adjust to us. We know that there’s going to be some teams down there that can do some damage against a press, so we’re going to have to be smart and back off when needed and double team when needed.”
Gothenburg, which ended its season with a 15-11 record, had three players score in double digits against Chadron. Brittyn Munster tallied 12 points, Jacey Wiggins had 11, and Taylor Wolf finished with 10.
“We got kind of a nice start, but then we just started to panic against their press,” Gothenburg coach Chris Lecher said. “We knew the press was coming; we practice it. But we can’t simulate their height and length. It’s just hard to do. I was hoping that it wouldn’t get us rattled, but it did. So that just took us out of everything.”
Gothenburg (15-11) ........................ 12 11 14 12 — 49
Chadron (22-2) .................... 23 16 19 18 — 76
G: Brittyn Munster 12, Aryn Meisinger 4, Taylor Mraczek 4, Regan Geiken 6, Jacey Wiggins 11, Taylor Wolf 10, Emily Franzen 2.
C: Jayden Garrett 2, Peyton Hinn 21, Maggie Earney 2, Briley Hannaford 12, Ashlyn Eitemiller 8, Ashlea Kerr 9, Bailea Kerr 12, Chandler Hageman 4, Alia Brennan 4, Carly Churchill 2.