LINCOLN — No. 1-rated Kearney Catholic used a 10-0 game-closing run to get past Norfolk Catholic 39-31 on Thursday afternoon in first-round play of the Class C-1 state tournament at Pershing Center.
Despite their offensive struggles, the Knights (15-10) took a 31-29 lead with 3:23 remaining on Michaela Barry's 3-pointer — the only trey of the game for Norfolk Catholic, which finished 1 of 17 from beyond the arc. But the Stars (25-2) quickly answered with two Shayla Conner free throws and got a three-point play from Michaela Mestl with 2:36 left to regain the lead.
Mestl scored a game-high 21 points, including 10 in the second quarter, to go with nine rebounds to lead the Stars. Therin Baum added nine points and eight rebounds for Kearney Catholic, which entered the state tournament averaging 69.8 points per game.
“Our kids persevered — that's the important thing,” Kearney Catholic coach Rick Petri said. “At this point in the season, I told the kids that sometimes you have to win ugly games. We battled back, knocked some free throws down coming down the stretch and played pretty good defense the entire game.”
The win advanced Kearney Catholic to Friday's 2 p.m. semifinal at the Devaney Sports Center.
Kearney Catholic was 5 of 8 from the free-throw line in the final 1:58, while the Knights went scoreless after taking the lead. Norfolk Catholic finished the game shooting 16.7 percent (9-of-54) from the field.
The Stars shot 25 percent (10-of-40) from the floor and committed 16 turnovers. Kearney Catholic had nine turnovers and just four points in the third quarter as Norfolk Catholic cut its deficit to 26-22.
“I was really pleased with our defensive effort and I thought we really made things hard for Kearney Catholic,” Norfolk Catholic coach Tim Kassmeier said. “On the offensive end, we really struggled … but if you play a team like Kearney Catholic, their defense is very good and it makes everything really difficult all over the floor.”
Barry scored 15 points to lead Norfolk Catholic. Teammate Geena Piper added eight points and eight rebounds.
Norfolk Catholic (15-10)........................................6 9 7 9—31
Kearney Catholic (25-2)......................................10 12 4 13—39
NC: Rachel Wieser 4, Joelle Heng 2, Michaela Barry 15, Amy Miller 2, Geena Piper 8.
KC: Michaela Mestl 21, Shayla Conner 2, Allie Prososki 2, Whitney Colling 5, Therin Baum 9.
Officials: Chris Carlson, Kelly Classen, Brett Swanson.
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