COLUMBUS -- Twenty-six points helped Stanton put an end to a 26-year state-tournament drought.
The Mustangs opened with a 26-5 run before holding off a second-half surge to defeat Twin River 47-37 in the Class C2-3 district final at Central Community College here Friday, earning a berth to state for the first time since 1990.
"This is amazing," Stanton senior Hiliary Huss said. "We've worked really hard for this, and it's so exciting to be the group that is going down there."
Huss was instrumental in both igniting the Mustangs early and fending off the Titans late. With four steals, she was a catalyst in a full-court pressure defense that forced 16 turnovers in the first half and held Twin River without a field goal for the first 10 minutes, 26 seconds.
And after the Titans had trimmed the Mustangs' lead to single digits less than 2 minutes into the second half, the 5-foot-7 senior buried a corner 3-pointer to give Stanton a 30-18 lead with 6:03 left in the third quarter. Moments later, she knocked down another 3 to give Stanton a 33-19 lead.
"She's an outstanding player," Twin River coach Jeff Morris said. "She really knows how to create space."
Twin River got within nine twice in the final 2 minutes of the third quarter and on a Lexi Ramaekers basket that made the score 38-29 in the first half minute of the fourth quarter, but that's as close as it got.
Ramaekers, who led Twin River with 14 points, lifted the Titans' spirits when she beat the first-half buzzer with a 3 to pull them to with 27-14.
"Lexi has been great for us," Morris said. "I use the term warrior, and she is. She doesn't rest much, and she's our best offensive player."
Joining Huss at the top of Stanton's 2-3 zone, MacKenzie Brandl added three steals and three transition assists. Brandl also scored nine points, while freshman Bree Burtwistle added eight.
Burtwistle scored five in the first quarter to help Stanton avoid the same slow start they had in a 42-44 win over Twin River in the East Husker Conference tournament.
"They came out real fast in the conference tournament, so we knew what they were capable of," Huss said. "We knew we had to come out and start fast."
Twin River finishes the year at 13-12, with three losses to Stanton. The Mustangs also defeated the TItans 60-38 on Jan. 26.
Stanton improves to 19-7 and not only put an end to its state-tournament hiatus but also helped erase the frustration of a 23-2 season that ended with a 46-28 subdistrict loss to eventual state champion Pierce while competing in Class C1 last year.
"We said that we wanted to be the group that broke that 26-year drought, and they've had some pretty good years in the past. They kind of felt cheated a bit last year with that 23-2 record," Stanton coach Greg Wegner said. "We've told them that you win with defense, and tonight we did."
Twin River ........................ 2 12 13 10 - 37
Stanton ............................. 16 11 9 11 - 47
TWIN RIVER (13-12): Samantha Wyman 0-1 0-0 0, Jenna Oberhauser 1-3 1-2 3, Lexi Ramaekers 5-10 3-4 14, Tera Paczosa 2-12 2-3 6, Taylor Kemper 2-3 0-0 4, Gabi Wieck 2-2 4-4 8, Jasmine Lewis 0-1 2-2 2, Shyanne Sutton 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 12-33 12-15 37.
STANTON (19-7): MacKenzie Brandl 3-7 2-3 9, Hiliary Huss 6-13 4-7 18, Bree Burtwistle 3-3 2-4 8, Jessie Brandl 1-4 1-2 3, Leah Arens 1-5 1-2 3, Alison Wade 2-4 2-4 6, Alex Oestreich 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 15-38 12-22 47.
3-point field goals: TWR 1-9 (Ramaekers 1-4); STA 3-16 (Huss 2-6, M. Brandl 1-5). Rebounds: TWR 31 (Ramaekers 9, Wieck 7, Paczosa 5, Kemper 4); STA 17 (J. Brandl 5, Wade 4). Assists: TWR 5 (Ramaekers 3); STA 9 (Huss 4, M. Brandl 3). Steals: TWR 4 (Ramaekers 3); STA 11 (Huss 4, Brandl 3, Burtwistle 2).