O'NEILL -- Every time it seemed Class D No. 3 Stuart would get some momentum, Class D No. 1 O'Neill St. Mary's responded.

The most critical response came in the third quarter, when the Cardinals scored 10 points in 58 seconds en route to a 56-45 victory in a matchup of the top two teams in the Niobrara Valley Conference.

Nursing a 31-29 lead with 2:03 left in the third quarter, Riley Sibbel drove the lane for a layup. She missed a chance at a three-point play, but Sydney Hupp rebounded the missed free throw, put it back in for a bucket, was fouled, and hit a free throw of her own for five St. Mary's points in one second of game time.

As if that wasn't enough, Sibbel got a steal, and 27 seconds later drilled a 3-pointer in front of the St. Mary's bench for a 39-29 lead.

"That's what really got us going," St. Mary's coach Traci Berg said. "That set the tone for the rest of the game."

Stuart made one more run, cutting the gap to 45-41 after Jaden Schafer scored two of her game-high 25 points on a drive through the lane with 5:05 remaining. But the Broncos were held scoreless for the next 4:10, enough time for the Cardinals to put them away.

That was how most of the night went for Stuart, which tied the game three times in the second quarter off buckets by Schafer, but they never led after scoring the opening basket.

"It was a little bit frustrating," Stuart coach Dexter Goodner said. "We couldn't get over the hump, and it felt like we should have at times."

St. Mary's got another big night out of the 6-foot senior post Hupp, who finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Hattie Blumenstock came off the bench for 15 points and eight rebounds, Riley Sibbel finished with 10 points despite hitting 1 of 9 shots in the first half.

Stuart countered with Jaden Schafer, who was 10 of 23 from the field for a game-high 25 points and added four rebounds and three steals, while twin sister Monique had 10 points and six rebounds.

Stuart was held to 28.0 percent (16 of 57) shooting on the night, while St. Mary's hit 35.6 percent (21 of 59) on the night.

But the biggest difference was rebounding, where the Cardinals pulled down 37 boards, 30 between Hupp, Blumenstock and Taylor Colman. Stuart finished with 19 as a team.

Stuart ...................... 11 11 12 11 - 45

SMH ......................... 12 13 19 12 - 56

STUART (15-3): Harlee Fischer 3-11 0-2 7; Taylor Kubik 0-2 0-0 0; Kennison Kunz 0-1 1-2 1; Alison Stracke 0-2 0-0 0; Tessa Fox 0-3 2-2 2; Jaden Schafer 10-23 2-6 25; Ariel Larsen 0-2 0-0 0; Monique Schafer 3-13 3-4 10. Totals 16-57 8-16 45.

ST. MARY'S (15-2): Breanna Hedstrom 3-7 1-2 8; Sydney Hupp 5-11 5-5 15; Tracy Chvala 2-2 0-0 4; Hattie Blumenstock 6-16 3-6 15; Taylor Colman 1-4 0-0 3; Riley Sibbel 4-13 0-1 10; Emily Pongratz 0-2 1-1 1; Logan Connot 0-4 0-3 0. Totals 21-59 10-18 56.

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