A Papillion-La Vista basketball team that has fought all season long battled one final time Thursday night against Lincoln Northeast.
The Monarchs gave the fifth-ranked Rockets all they could handle before eventually falling 51-43 in the District A-4 championship game on Northeast’s home floor.
Northeast advanced to its third consecutive state tourney while Papio’s season ended at 15-9.
“I’ve been doing this for 26 years and I don’t know if I’ve ever had a team max out as much as this one did,” Monarch coach Dave Hubert said. “We went nose-to-nose with the No. 3 team (wildcard points) and I’m very proud. They gave everything they had and more.”
It was a battle from the start as Papio raced to an early 10-2 lead, only to see the Rockets recover to take a 20-19 halftime lead.
The third quarter provided four lead changes as Papio would take its final lead of the night at 28-27 following an Ashley Nelson 3-pointer with 2:49 left in the quarter.
Northeast battled back to take the lead, but Nelson’s putback at the buzzer pulled the Monarchs within one (33-32) entering the final eight minutes.
The Rockets opened the final quarter with a 9-2 run to take their largest lead. But the Monarchs made one more charge as a Priscilla O’Dowd bucket, followed by a Brooke Hubert trey drew them back within three with 3:15 remaining.
But Northeast’s 7 of 8 showing from the foul line down the stretch would allow the Monarchs no closer.
“I thought we executed the game plan to a ‘T,’ Hubert said. “When we played them earlier this year (a 58-41 Northeast victory) it seemed like we turned it over every time down the court. Tonight, we knew to stop their transition we had to play better offense.”
Papio did just that, turning it over just 10 times while hitting 6 of 13 3-pointers.
Although the Monarchs executed their game plan to near perfection, no game plan can account for the presence of 6-3 Northeast center Toni Tupper in the middle.
After missing the district opener with an ankle injury, Tupper entered the game three minutes into the first quarter and was a factor throughout the evening. She finished with 14 points and nine rebounds while providing a roadblock on defense.
“They got exactly what they needed out of her,” Hubert said. “She played just enough to make an impact.”
O’Dowd made her own impact in the middle as she battled Tupper in the paint and finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. Alli Kalal and Maddie Willett added nine points apiece.
Kalal, Willett and fellow senior Katie Oswald all depart, but a solid nucleus is in place as the Monarchs look to make another run next season.
“Those seniors have been together since the second grade and they are true Monarchs,” Hubert said. “We’ve got a good group coming back and we hope to be back here again next year.”
P-LV 43, Lincoln East 31 - The Monarchs outscored the Spartans 24-13 in the second half of the Feb. 25 semifinal contest.
Kalal and O’Dowd finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively, while Oswald and Nelson each finished with nine.