The Niobrara Valley Conference had a few reasons to celebrate Friday night.
Four players from the league, along with head coach Traci Berg of O'Neill St. Mary's, helped the Dark team rally from an 18-9 first-quarter deficit for a 60-53 come-from-behind win in the annual Northeast Nebraska All-Star Girls Basketball Game.
The familiarity borne from having Cardinal teammates Sydney Hupp and Riley Sibbel, along with former conference rivals Jenna Parks of Elgin Public/Pope John and team MVP Dawn Klabenes of Chambers/Wheeler Central did have an impact.
"I think it really did help," Berg said. "We knew their strengths. When you scout a team so much, you can really see their strengths and weaknesses. Plus, some of them had played together on summer league teams."
Klabenes, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, scored her team's final nine points of the first half, helping them stay within striking distance with a 32-24 halftime deficit.
They landed some strikes in the second half, starting by hitting 4 of 6 field goals, including three-straight, to cut the gap to 36-32. Augusta Thramer of South Sioux City, who had a game-high 13 points, found Hartington Cedar Catholic's Taylor Lammers to pull within 37-36, and Hupp hit a pair of free throws to take the lead with 3:35 left in the third quarter.
"It felt like we were more jumbled at the beginning, but then we settled down and hit some shots," Klabenes said.
Despite that, the Dark team never pulled away.
Parks hit a runner in the lane with 2:46 left in the game to put them up six. Thramer finally put it on ice with her driving layup with a minute left for a 58-50 lead.
"Dawn was a rebounding machine, and I thought Augusta really pulled us too in that third quarter," Berg said. "They were all so athletic. It was almost like, 'Who do you go to?' "
That rally was needed because the Light team opened on a tear. Abby Drieling of Emerson-Hubbard hit a second-chance 3-pointer for an early 6-3 lead, and then Jaden Schafer of Stuart hit a short jumper and a 3 on back-to-back possessions for an 18-9 Light team lead.
"We had a great first half," said Light team coach Tim Kassmeier of Norfolk Catholic. "It was about making shots more than anything else."
Dark team.....................9 15 26 10 - 60
Light team....................18 14 9 12 - 53