FULLERTON — Going into Fullerton and Nebraska Christian’s matchup, you knew one team had to fall from the ranks of the undefeated.
It was the Class D-1, No. 5 Warriors that came out unscathed, winning 44-33 in a loud home environment over the C-2 No. 4 Eagles.
Fullerton wore down Nebraska Christian in a game that showed where each team is heading into the Goldenrod Conference tournament and beyond.
“I think the girls stayed disciplined and were disciplined when they needed to be,” Fullerton head coach Stacy Kramer said. “The team plays a little better when they’re relaxed, have fun and smile.”
The Eagles did their best to slow down Fullerton’s inside game, leaving it up to the guards to make plays. They did, as senior Cheyanne Ostrander scored a game-high 18 points and fellow senior Macy Peregrine added nine points and eight rebounds.
“My guards did a good job hanging on to the ball,” Kramer said. “They did a good job of taking our inside shot away and our guards took the shots they needed to. They made just enough to pull it out.”
Fullerton’s 7-0 start to the game quickly evened out as it became clear the two teams matched up well. Nebraska Christian had 11 turnovers in the first half, but was able to make up for it with ball movement and a hot start from 6-foot-1 senior Whitney Heuermann.
Heuermann scored 11 points and had five rebounds in the first half alone, while clogging up the paint on defense. The Eagles defense helped slow down Warriors center Halle Plumbtree, who was held scoreless in the first half.
Plumbtree was able to get to the line in the second half, finishing with five points and 15 rebounds.
With the Eagles up 23-15, Ashley Frenzen hit a 3-pointer to help make the deficit more manageable for the Warriors.
The Warriors once again started a half well, going on a 8-0 run to take the lead. It was a lead they didn’t give up for the remainder of the game.
“We just need to take the positives from tonight,” Nebraska Christian head coach Gordon Thiessen said. “For the most part, we played great defense most of the night. We just went cold in the second half on our shots. Sometimes that happens. We just couldn’t buy a bucket.”
Baskets from Frenzen, Ostrander and Peregrine helped the Warriors pull away as the Eagles went cold from the floor. Frenzen finished with 10 points.
“This team seems to have a fifth gear when we need to,” Kramer said. “I think we did a better job in the second half of keeping them off the boards. We took that inside shot away and it made them have to shoot from outside, so the rebounds went long and we adjusted.”
The Eagles scored just five points in the fourth quarter, three of which came on a late 3-pointer from Alyssa Prettyman.
Heuermann finished with 13 points. Thiessen said he was pleased with Heuermann’s effort and his younger players in a big-game atmosphere.
“They know we can improve from this and I hope we do,” Thiessen said. “We hope that maybe we’ll see (Fullerton) in the conference tournament.”
Kramer said she we pleased with the loud gym that was filled for the top-10 matchup.
“It’s what our girls expected,” Kramer said. “We knew what it would be a loud crowd and we knew it would be a close game. Nebraska Christian is a great team.”
Nebraska Christian plays at Central Valley Friday, while Fullerton hosts Cross County.
Nebraska Christian (8-1) ....................... 11 12 5 5—33
Fullerton (11-0) ..................................... 11 8 12 13—44
NEBRASKA CHRISTIAN — Cl. Ostrand 2 0-2 6, Ca. Ostrand 3 0-0 6, Falk1 0-2 2, Heuermann 6 1-2 13, Totals 14 1-5 33.
FULLERTON — Ostrander 7 2-3 18, Peregrine 3 3-5 9, Frenzen 4 1-2 10, Plumbtree 0 5-6 5, Herman 1 0-1 2.
* * *
BOYS: Neb. Chrisian 50, Fullerton 40
Nebraska Christian put a slow start behind them Thursday with a dominating second half to grab a road win at Fullerton.
The Eagles topped the Warriors 50-40 with the help of a 22-0 run that went from the middle of the third quarter into the fourth.
A switch to man-to-man defense was the spark for Nebraska Christian, that grabbed its first win of the 2016 calender year.
“Our zone was a little bit flat tonight,” Nebraska Christian coach Mark Leonard said. “They did hit some shots against out zone. Once we switched to man-to-man, putting a lot more ball pressure, kids got into the passing lanes and got some steals. That energized our offense.”
Both teams ran a successful full-court press in the first half, preventing offensive rhythm for both teams. When the teams did get established, turnovers were a problem.
It was the Warriors who were able to rise above the turnovers in the first half.
Trevor Conway scored three-straight baskets in the low post for six points in the second quarter. Fullerton closed the half with a Tyson Hellbusch layup that came off a Nebraska Christian turnover.
Fullerton came out strong in the second half, going on a quick 7-2 run that gave some cushion. Then things changed.
Fullerton racked up 12 turnovers in the third quarter alone as the Eagles went on their 22-0 run where the they were able to get to the rim in a way they hadn’t before.
Senior Dillon Rose helped fuel the Eagles run and finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“Dillon was really rebounding well for us,” Leonard said. “He had two fouls in the second quarter and we left him in there for rebounding purposes. He’s our big guy on the boards and he had a nice game offensively inside for us, which was definitely a big help.”
Nolan was one of the players that were getting into the passing lanes for Nebraska Christian, and scored nine of his 11 points in the third quarter.