Elkhorn sophomore post player Brooke Carlson answered the challenge coach Jennifer Wragge made before Friday night's Class B-3 district final.
"She's really carried us throughout the season, but we kind of challenged her to get off to a fast start tonight, and she did," Wragge said. "I think she was on a mission to play well for four quarters tonight."
Carlson had a double-double before halftime and finished with 25 points, 19 rebounds and four steals to lead the Antlers to a 51-43 victory over Omaha Roncalli at Bryan High.
It's the second straight year that Elkhorn defeated Roncalli in the district final, and the Antlers will make a return trip to the state tournament, which begins Thursday.
Elkhorn (17-7) also edged the Crimson Pride in the regular-season finale last Friday, but the Antlers won in a much different fashion.
Last Friday, Elkhorn trailed by 16 and erased a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to win 47-43.
"I think that prepared us more for this game. Just realizing how tough Roncalli is really helped out," Carlson said. "We just tried to not get ourselves in a hole. We started pretty well in the first quarter."
In the district final, Elkhorn took the lead for good with 2:40 left in the first quarter as the Antlers held Roncalli without a field goal for the first half's final 10 minutes. Thanks to a pair of 3-pointers off the bench by Reese Simons, the Antlers stretched their lead to 27-14 at halftime.
Elkhorn also scored on its first two possessions of the third quarter. Carlson scored on a put back — nine of her rebounds were on the offensive end — and Abigail Sufficool hit a 3 to make it 32-14.
But behind senior Maribeth Hall, who scored all 13 of her points after halftime, Roncalli started whittling its deficit.
The Crimson Pride trailed by nine heading to the fourth and got it down to 43-40 after two Hall free throws with 2:08 left.
"We knew they were going to make a run. They're a team that has a lot of runs in them," Wragge said of Roncalli. "Had we not built up that momentum and that big lead, who knows what would have happened."
Elkhorn shot 60 percent from the foul line for the night, but it knocked down key ones in the final two minutes. The Antlers were 6 of 8 in the final 54 seconds. That secured Elkhorn's trip back to Lincoln.
"I have a team that won't quit," Wragge said. "They absolutely won't quit. They believe they can beat anyone, and that's kind of an intangible."