GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Grand Island Northwest overcame a fearless Scottsbluff squad Saturday in the District B-7 final as the Vikings secured a slot in the state tournament with a 58-50 victory.

This was one of those games, though, where the final score bears little resemblance to most of the 32 minutes that preceded it. Northwest, described by coach Russ Moerer as relaxed and focused in pregame warmups, somehow got tight once the game started.

The result was a first quarter dominated by the Bearcats, who jumped to a 13-3 lead. Scottsbluff saw guards Yara Garcia and Audry Krentz hit jump shots early.

It took at least until the second half for the Vikings (15-7) to focus on shutting down Garcia’s right hand and tightened their defense around the perimeter. But the Vikings still needed to find a way to score points.

With Scottsbluff harassing guard Whitney Brown, Northwest found its answers inside. Lauren Hauser and Whitney Jensen combined for 26 points and 15 rebounds.

Northwest did not rebound particularly well in the first half but assumed greater control of the boards as the game progressed, and the Vikings were able to get more effective second shots.

The other big plus for the Northwest offense was guard Shanae Suttles, who took advantage of the attention directed at Brown to finish with 21 points, including a pair of late 3-pointers that finally put the Vikings in control.

Scottsbluff coach Dave Bollish said the Vikings simply had too many weapons.

“Suttles did a great job for them. She hit big shots late in the game,” he said. “We wanted to limit Brown, and I think we did a good job, but at the end of the day, they found ways to score that we couldn’t stop.”

Moerer was proud of how his team overcame its initial stumble out of the gate.

“We were tight,” he said. “We wanted to stay loose coming in and treat this game like we’ve treated every other one, but that’s not what happened. Once we settled in and changed some defensive matchups we started playing more like ourselves. But for probably the whole first half, we were a half step off the pace.”

Scottsbluff (12-11) was able to maintain its lead at three or four possessions throughout the first half as the Northwest offense struggled.

However, those defensive changes took hold in the third quarter, when the Bearcats were limited to seven points.

A three-point play from Jensen tied the score early in the fourth, and a 3 from Suttles gave Northwest the lead for good with just less than two and a half minutes to play.

A 3-pointer by the Bearcats went wide, and once Northwest brought the ball into play, the Scottsbluff defense began to foul. The Bearcats were whistled for 12 fouls down the stretch.

Northwest hit 11 of 16 shots at the line in the final moments, and the Bearcats never got closer than two.

“At halftime, the girls were disappointed,” Moerer said. “So the second half was all about fighting our way back, and that’s when you saw our normal grit and determination. Our offense is designed to give everyone the chance to score, so if teams think that taking Whitney away will wreck us, they’re wrong.”

Northwest will advance to the state tournament, which begins Feb. 28 in Lincoln. The Vikings are making their first appearance in Lincoln since winning back-to-back state titles in 2013-14.

Moerer said his team needs to limit its attention to one game at a time, a strategy that has served it well so far this season.

“I think we’ve done a good job being focused on the next game,” he said. “Does it help us that we’ve played a lot of the teams that will be there? Absolutely, and that shows us that we belong there and we should be excited about going.

“This has been my favorite year of coaching. Every girl on the team responded to what we’ve asked, and they’ve done everything they can. This season has been a blessing.”

Scottsbluff (12-11)...............18 12 7 13—50

At GI Northwest (15-7).........11 12 11 24—58

S: Mariyah Avila 1-5 0-0 2, Yara Garcia 8-18 3-4 20, California Wright 0-1 0-0 0, Kieyerah Twombly 0-2 1-2 1, Aubry Krentz 5-19 2-4 16, Makenzie Dunkel 5-6 1-2 11, Brady Laucomer 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 19-53 7-12 50.

GINW: Whitney Brown 3-10 2-4 9, Megan Cooper 1-9 0-2 2, Megan Anderson 0-2 0-0 0, Lauren Hauser 5-6 4-5 14, Shanae Suttles 6-11 6-6 21, Whitney Jensen 4-8 4-5 12. Totals 19-46 16-22 58.

3-pointers: S 5 (Krentz 4, Garcia); G 4 (Suttles 3, Brown)

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