LINCOLN — Asked how many players have led his team in scoring this season, Hastings St. Cecilia coach Jahn Kile had no idea.
“I’d have to go back and look,” Kile said. “Any girl on a given night can score 15 or 16 points. That makes us tough to defend.”
In Friday morning’s Class C-2 state tournament semifinal, it was Clare Hamburger (22 points) and Morgan Nikkila (14 points) who took over the scoring duties as the No. 3-rated Hawkettes beat No. 5 Hershey 52-42 at Pershing Center.
St. Cecilia (23-4), which will face No. 1 Crofton (26-0) in Saturday’s 9 a.m. championship at the Devaney Center, entered the state tournament without a single player averaging double figures in scoring. But the Hawkettes, who average 52 points per game as a team, do have six players who came to Lincoln averaging between 6.4 and nine points per contest.
“This is one of the best chemistry teams I’ve ever coached,” Kile said. “They just love each other. They pull for each other and they don’t get jealous. That’s why they’re moving on at this point.”
Hamburger scored eight third-quarter points as St. Cecilia led 43-34 after three quarters. Hershey forced seven fourth-quarter turnovers and cut its deficit to 45-40 before the Hawkettes made 7 of 8 free throws in the final 1:32 to hold on.
“We were rushing things a little bit, but some of that was their good defense,” Kile said. “With Hershey’s press, they force you through some tight alleys and get a lot of tipped balls, so (turnovers) are something that’s going to happen sometimes.
“I think we kept our composure for the most part. We knew what we needed to do — we just had to go and do it.”
Daynlee Miller scored 14 points and Maddie Seamann had 12 to lead Hershey. The Panthers (21-5) will play No. 2 Homer (24-4) in the Class C-2 consolation game at noon Saturday at Lincoln East High School.
Miller hit a floater in the lane to beat the first-quarter buzzer, giving Hershey a 14-12 lead. The Panthers fell behind early in the second quarter, but pulled into a 23-23 tie on a Miller 3-pointer before St. Cecilia finished the first half on an 8-0 flurry, capped by a Hamburger trey with two seconds left in the first half.
“That run to end the first half was key for them,” Hershey coach Jeremy Thomas said. “That allowed them to go into halftime with a comfortable lead. We looked really tired there. They were beating us down the floor and getting position.
“Our execution at the end of the first half wasn’t as good as we would’ve liked.”
St. Cecilia will be playing in its first Class C-2 state final after winning the C-1 state title in 2011. The Hawkettes won Class C titles in 1977, ’78 and ’79 and finished as the Class C state runners-up in 1982.
“It’s always great to move on, (win) the second day and be going to ‘The Bob,’ ” Kile said. “Playing there is always a fun experience for the girls.”
Hershey (21-5).....................................14 9 11 8—42
Hastings St. Cecilia (23-4)........................12 19 12 9—52
H: Daynlee Miller 14, Brooke Frederick 5, Brooke Munsen 2, Maegan Hiatt 6, Tayler Baker 3, Maddie Seamann 12.
HSC: Shandra Farmer 9, Clare Hamburger 22, Shanelle Farmer 5, Morgan Nikkila 14, Olivia Thomas 2.
Officials: Kelly Classen, Chris Carlson, Brett Swanson.