LINCOLN — Once O’Neill St. Mary’s got its transition game going, the Cardinals were off to the races.
Transition points keyed a 24-3 run over the second and third quarters that allowed St. Mary’s to pull away from Spalding Academy.
“We like to push the ball ahead and that’s what helps us,” St. Mary’s coach Traci Berg said. “Right now, we’re playing really good team basketball, working the ball around, getting all kinds of players open looks. I think that’s what’s helping us right now.”
St. Mary’s (21-4) led 27-19 before it scored the final nine points of the first half. The Cardinals also scored the first six of the third quarter and then nine straight after Spalding Academy (18-4) got a 3-pointer from Kelly Kleffner.
“In the first half, we just turned the ball over,” Spalding Academy coach Dori Gills said. “We had 12 turnovers in the first half and I’m going to say it led to 24 points. We knew that press was going to come. We just didn’t handle it.”
Hattie Blumenstock led three Cardinals in double figures with 18 points on 9-for-13 shooting. Breanna Hedstrom added 14 points and Brianna Bauer chipped in 11.
St. Mary’s defeated Spalding Academy 67-54 Dec. 9, but Berg had her concerns about the rematch.
“They’ve gotten so much better and I feel that we’ve gotten better as well,” she said. “It was still a team that you most definitely could not overlook.”
Briana McKay led the Shamrocks with 13 points. But she was held scoreless in the third quarter and to four points in the fourth.
“They have some really good players,” Berg said. “McKay can pretty much drive to the basket whenever she wants and she’s a great basketball player. Finally in the third quarter we shut her down.”
O’Neill St. Mary’s (21-4)..............18 18 15 8—59
Spalding Academy (18-4)............13 6 5 17—41
OSM: Breanna Hedstrom 14, Brianna Bauer 11, Hattie Blumenstock 18, Taylor Colman 7, Hailey Eiler 8, Abby Hedstrom 1.
SA: Erin Stevens 7, Kate Hartley 2, Briana McKay 13, Kelly Kleffner 9, Anna Esch 6, Elizabeth Bauer 2, Elizabeth Keber 2.
Officials: Timothy Devlin, David Hoxworth, Tim Valleau.