Brianne Haskell

Brianne Haskell of Lyons-Decatur Northeast works to put up a shot against Avery Taylor of Sandhills/Thedford.

LINCOLN — Though members of the Sandhills/Thedford basketball team did a bang-up job performing the national anthem, it took until the second half for the Lady Knights to find their harmony on the court in Thursday’s Class D-2 first round opener.

After a clunky first half, No. 6 Sandhills/Thedford broke loose for 38 points over the final two quarters of a 49-36 win over No. 9 Lyons-Decatur at Lincoln North Star.

Six-foot-one senior Avery Taylor scored a game-high 18 points for Sandhills/Thedford (23-4) and twin sister Madison Taylor added 11 for the Lady Knights, who pulled away with a 16-5 run to end the game.

Sandhills/Thedford coach Jordan Arensdorf said the slow start for his team surprised him after the team made a trip to the second round of the state tournament last year. Lyons-Decatur controlled the tempo in the opening half and led 14-11 at halftime.

“You never know how the girls are going to react right away in the game,” Arensdorf said. “It was a matter of settling down. Our size was a presence in the second half for sure. That was our key at halftime was to get the ball down low."

Sandhills/Thedford made use of a considerable size advantage over Lyons-Decatur, which plays only six players regularly. After a Lexie Bacon basket drew the Cougars within two points at 33-31, Avery Taylor scored inside and Madison Taylor added a follow basket off a miss to push the Sandhills/Thedford lead to 38-31.

“We knew we were going to have to rebound the ball well and not give them second shots,” Lyons-Decatur coach Ray Haskell said. “We didn’t shoot as well as we normally do. We usually make a few more 3-pointers."

The Cougars shot 11 for 48 from the floor for the game including 3 for 15 from beyond the arc.

After missing all four of its free throws in the first half, Sandhills/Thedford went 17 of 20 from the line in the second half, with Avery Taylor hitting all eight of her second-half free throws.

Sandhills/Thedford (23-4) 7 4 18 20 — 49

Lyons-Decatur (16-8) 7 7 13 9 — 36

S/T: Avery Taylor 18, Rebecca Higgins 16, Madison Taylor 11, Kyra Miles 3, Marlee Taylor 1

L-D: Brianne Haskell 17, Kelly Wakeley 6, Lexie Bacon 5, Abigail Peterson 5, Mariah Jessen 3

Officials: Carlson, Finke, Wells

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