LINCOLN — After Crofton was conspicuous by its absence at last year’s state tournament, the Warriors’ first-quarter flurry ensured their return trip in 2019 would be extended at least a day.

No. 3 Crofton reeled off the last 17 points of the opening period and cruised to a 55-36 win over No. 7 Blue Hill in the first round of the Class C-2 state tournament on Thursday night at Lincoln Southwest.

"We played really hard tonight. I was really pleased and impressed with what we did at the defensive end of the court,” Crofton coach Aaron Losing said. "We caused a lot of problems, and we used a lot of defense to turn it into some offense, especially there in the first half. It really, really fueled some fast break baskets.”

Blue Hill (21-5) led 9-4 when Crofton exploded for 17 straight points over the final five minutes of the first quarter starting with Kaley Einrem’s 3-pointer. Josie Sanger added a 3-pointer and added eight points during the run including the final five to put Crofton on top 21-9 at the end of the period.

Sanger, a senior, was a freshman in 2016 when Crofton won the last of five straight C-2 state titles, but she and senior Danielle Steffen are the only upperclassmen in the Warriors’ starting lineup this season. Crofton missed the state tournament last year after going 15-9.

Einrem, a sophomore, scored a team-high 16 points for the Warriors while sophomore Lacey Sprakel added 13.

"This is a bunch of new kids,” Losing said. "Most of these kids were sitting in the stands in elementary school and junior high watching when we were going through our really, really good years. But I know they came into high school really, really motivated.”

Kacey Allen’s eight points led Blue Hill.

Crofton (22-3) built a 42-19 rebounding edge in the game to run its winning streak to 12 straight games heading into Friday’s 3:45 p.m. semifinal at the Devaney Center against Fillmore Central. All but one of the Warriors’ victories in the streak have come by double digits.

"They went through some bumps in the road last year, but we’re still in the process of growing into the team we can become,” Losing said. "But we’re definitely motivated. You can see that."

Crofton (22-3)..............21 13 7 14 — 55

Blue Hill (21-5)...............9 8 11 8 — 36

C: Kaley Einrem 16, Josie Sanger 15, Lacey Sprakel 13, Alexis Arens 5, Danielle Steffen 3, Aubree Potts 2, Ryan Ostermeyer 1

BH: Kacey Allen 8, Rylee Kohmetscher 7, Madison Menke 6, Emily Meyer 6, Jamie Bonifas 5, Brianna Danehy 4

Officials: Russell, Wolfe, Wagner

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