LINCOLN — Eighth-seeded Pierce had the momentum throughout the first quarter against top-seeded Mitchell.
That was about it.
The favored Tigers took control in the second quarter and didn't let up as they knocked the Bluejays out of the state tournament 53-36 Thursday at the Devaney Center.
The win is the first in program history for Mitchell at the state tournament.
“We take things one day, one game at a time,” Mitchell coach Tory Schwartz said. “To talk about the championship — yes, it's our goal to go 3-0. But to bring that up, we've got one more game to get to that point.”
The Bluejays couldn't get much offensive production outside of senior Carly Sutherland and junior Maggie Brahmer, who combined for 30 of Pierce's 36 points. Sutherland finished with a team-best 16 points, while Brahmer posted 14, including 8 of 12 free throws. Both grabbed seven rebounds.
Pierce was held to 23.8 percent (10 of 42) from the field, including 3 of 16 from 3-point range.
The Tigers enjoyed a balanced attack, led by 6-foot-2 junior Keyana Wilfred, who neared her season averages with 18 points and 12 rebounds. She entered state averaging 20.3 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.
Mitchell finished shooting 45.0 percent (18 of 40) from the field. Kenzey Kanno added 11 points, including three first-half 3-pointers, while Victoria Schwartz and Jori Peters added 10 points each.
“They've got the total package, in a sense,” Pierce coach Darren Sindelar said. “They have shooters on the outside, they've got a girl who can penetrate, they got a big girl inside who can finish. I knew coming in that they were going to be a very solid team. Obviously, they showed it.”
Brahmer hit four straight free throws for an early 6-3 lead, and right after Mitchell got a midrange jumper by Schwartz, Sidney Zimmerer found Sutherland open for a 3-pointer and a 9-5 advantage with 3:55 left in the first quarter.
But Pierce went silent, scoring zero points over the game's next 6½ minutes as Mitchell dialed up its defensive pressure that resulted in 22 Bluejay turnovers on the game. The Tigers scored nine-straight points to start a 17-2 run that stretched until the later stages of the second quarter.
“We did a lot of the same stuff we did all season long,” coach Schwartz said. “We didn't deviate from the plan. We ran the same press, we ran the same press break, we ran the same offenses. The same kids stepped up as we always have had.”
Wilfred got things going for Mitchell in the second quarter on a putback to take the lead, and then Kanno's steal turned into a Peters jumper down low. Trailing 14-9, it appeared Sutherland got a layup to go in, but she was called for a travel. Instead, Peters got another layup and a Schwartz putback before Sutherland answered with a layup, but Kanno answered with a 3 to lead 21-11. Kanno ended a 2½-minute scoring drought for both teams with another 3.
Pierce never got closer than 11 the rest of the first half after a Zimmerer 3 with 20 seconds left. From there, the Bluejays could never catch up. The closest deficit in the second half was 45-34 after a Zimmerer 3 with 5:02 remaining in the game. Mitchell answered with a 7-2 run to end the game.
“I thought our kids came out there in the second half … and I thought we might have had a shot to get back in it, and it just wasn't in the cards for us,” Sindelar said.
Mitchell (27-0)............9 20 13 11 — 53
Pierce (17-9)...............9 9 9 9 — 36
M: Anabelle Gillen 4, Kenzey Kanno 11, Victoria Schwartz 10, Olivia Armstrong 0, Jori Peters 10, Bethany Sterkel 0, Keyana Wilfred 18, Jessica Cotant 0, Ricci Ayala 0.
P: Kayla Simmons 0, Sidney Zimmerer 6, Brenna Collison 0, Brianna Aguilera 0, Carly Sutherland 16, Maggie Brahmer 14, Kenzie Moeller 0.