Doubling down on defense Friday night helped South Sioux City nearly double its offensive output in the second half.

The Class B No. 1 Cardinals girls scored 37 second-half points to pull away from Omaha Skutt 57-45.

Junior point guard McKenna Sims scored all 21 of her points in the second half to lead the Cardinals (6-1), who also are ranked No. 8 in all-class Top 10. While Sims was 4 of 12 from the field, she made 11 of 12 free throws in the final 16 minutes.

“Those fourth-quarter free throws were huge,” South Sioux City coach Molly Hornbeck said. “We just had to dig deep in the second half because they were beating us on the boards.”

That’s one reason South Sioux used full-court zone pressure. The SkyHawks (2-5) struggled with that much of the second half, and a handful of turnovers led to steals and layups that helped the Cardinals limit Skutt’s chances at sustained rallies.

Skutt’s inability to solve the zone overshadowed another big performance by Sydney McDermott. The 6-foot-1 post was 10 for 10 from the field and finished with 22 points.

Despite a cold first quarter from the field, the SkyHawks rallied with a strong second quarter to take a 23-20 halftime lead. With the game tied 5-5, the Cardinals outscored Skutt 8-3 in the final 3:50 for a 13-8 first-quarter lead.

Freshman Kyra Fischer, who finished with 13 points, had a pair of 3-pointers from the right side in that end of the quarter run. Fischer finished the first period with eight points.

South Sioux, the defending Class B champion, scored the first five points of the second quarter to double its lead before the SkyHawks called timeout 36 seconds into the period. Once the SkyHawks settled into playing one of their most fundamentally sound quarters of the season, they outscored the Cardinals 15-2 for a three-point halftime lead.

“There was no magic formula,” Skutt coach Marty Plum said. “We did the simple things better, things like cutting hard and finishing layups around the rim.”

Skutt took its first lead of the game when freshman Lindsay Krause put back an offensive rebound to put the SkyHawks up 19-18. Krause scored all six of her points in the final two minutes of the half.

Following the intermission is when things went south for Skutt.

“We went away from what we were doing well in the second quarter,” Plum said. “We had a couple of players get nicked up and a couple get into foul trouble, and that took us out of what we normally do.”

South Sioux City started doing what it does best to take a 35-31 lead heading into the final eight minutes. A trio of 3-point baskets, including two by Sims, and six free throws helped the Cardinals reach that perch.

Sims went 9 of 10 at the foul line in the fourth quarter to keep the SkyHawks at bay.

South Sioux City (6-1).......13 7 15 22—57

At Omaha Skutt (2-5).........8 15 8 14—45

SSC: McKenna Sims 4-12 11-12 21, Kyra Fischer 4-8 2-5 12, Marybeth Rasmussen 4-8 1-2 11, Taryn Christensen 1-2 5-6 7, Tiffany Tinker 0-5 3-4 3, Nyabyay Diew 1-1 1-6 3, Hannah Strom 0-1 0-0 0, Selene Guzman 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 14-38 23-35 57.

OS: Sydney McDermott 10-10 2-4 22, Lindsay Krause 3-5 0-0 6, Kate Drueke 2-6 0-0 5, CeCe Behrens 2-12 1-2 5, Peyton Rohlfs 1-5 2-4 4, Hayley Weeder 1-5 0-0 3, Hannah Weeder 0-3 0-0, Ellie Bassett 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 19-50 5-10 45.

3-point goals: SSC 7-21 (Fischer 3-5, Rasmussen 2-6, Sims 2-8, Christensen 0-1, Strom 0-1), OS 2-20 (Drueke 1-4, Hayley Weeder 1-4, Rohlfs 0-1, Bassett 0-1, Hannah Weeder 0-3, Behrens 0-7). Rebounds: SC 25 (Fischer 9), OS 37 (McDermott 14). Total fouls: SSC 15, OS 27. Fouled out: Rohlfs, Hayley Weeder. Technical fouls: None. Turnovers: SSC 19, OS 24. Field-goal percentage: SSC .368, OS .380. Free-throw percentage: SSC .657, OS .500. A-350 (est.)

Steve covers swimming, softball, track and field, the Omaha Lancers and more for The World-Herald.

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