LINCOLN — Crofton's girls handled the role of tournament favorite the same way they dealt with being an underdog a year ago — by winning a state championship.
The Warriors completed their perfect season Saturday with a 43-31 victory over Hastings St. Cecilia in the championship game of the Class C-2 girls state basketball tournament at the Devaney Center.
In 2012, Crofton came to Lincoln as the No. 6 seed. The Warriors scored an overtime victory over Shelby-Rising City in the first round and a four-point semifinal win over North Platte St. Patrick's before defeating Norfolk Lutheran Northeast 41-28 in the title game.
Senior Bridget Arens — who led all players Saturday with 20 points and 14 rebounds — said the pressure of being the top seed never got to her and her Warrior teammates.
Arens and Crofton's other seniors — Tiffany Tramp and Olivia Monaghan — instead focused on enjoying the mixture of emotions that comes with playing their final high school game.
“Last year was a little more of a dream,” Arens said. “Today it all just hit me that this is it. I wanted to give everything today.”
Saturday's victory over the 23-5 Hawkettes was a little harder than Crofton's first 26 wins this season as both teams struggled shooting.
After trailing 6-4 at the end of the first quarter and going into halftime tied at 15, Crofton started the third quarter with a 12-2 run to create a cushion that allowed it to work the clock for the final 10 minutes.
The game was scoreless until St. Cecilia's Alyssa Schropp — who led the Hawkettes with 11 points — made a jumper with 4:25 remaining in the first period. The Hawkettes went up 6-2 when Morgan Nikkila blocked a shot, grabbed the loose ball and dished it to Shandra Farmer for a layup.
Crofton tied the game four times in the second quarter. The fourth deadlock came courtesy of two free throws by Arens 8 seconds before halftime. The Warriors got their first lead when Tramp hit a 3-pointer from the right wing 1:09 into the third quarter.
“The first half was uncharacteristically sloppy for us,” Crofton coach Aaron Losing said. “Our outside shots never did start to fall consistently.”
That shot provided just enough momentum to kick off a 12-0 run that put Crofton up 27-17 1:16 before the fourth quarter. The Warriors steadily pulled away in the fourth, outscoring St. Cecilia 16-11 in the final eight minutes for the school's fifth girls state title.
“We didn't control the defensive rebounding nearly as well in the second half,” Hawkettes coach Jahn Kile said. “We held them in check most of the game, we just didn't score enough on our end.”
Crofton (27-0) ...................... 4 11 12 16—43
Hastings St. Cecilia (23-5) ........................ 6 9 5 11—31
At Devaney Center
C: Allison Arens 3-9 5-7 11, Tiffany Tramp 2-5 0-3 6, Bridget Arens 6-12 8-10 20, Quinn Wragge 1-8 2-2 4, Maria Wortmann 0-1 0-2 0, Breanna Allen 0-1 0-0 0, Alexandria Allen 0-3 2-4 2, Olivia Monaghan -0 0-2 0. Totals-12-39 17-30 43.
HSC: Josie Jackson 0-1 0-0 0, Clare Hamburger 1-4 0-0 2, Alyssa Schropp 4-6 2-2 11, Morgan Nikkila 1-7 4-4 6, Olivia Thomas 1-7 0-1 2, Shandra Farmer 1-8 1-2 3, Shanelle Farmer 1-8 2-2 5, Karlee Wright 1-1 0-0 2. Totals-10-42 9-11 31.
3-point goals: C 2-11 (A. Arens 0-3, Tramp 2-5, B. Arens 0-2, Allen 0-1), HSC 2-9 (Hamburger 0-1, Schropp 1-1, Nikkila 0-2, Shanrda Farmer 0-2, Shanelle Farmer 1-3). Total fouls: C 14, HSC 21. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: None. Turnovers: C 15, HSC 16. Rebounds: C 42 (B. Arens 14), HSC 31 (Schropp 11). Field-goal percentage: C .308, HSC .238. Free-throw percentage: C .567, HSC .818.