With 16 seconds left in the third quarter, Taylor Gilsdorf gave Norfolk Catholic a 31-29 lead in a Class C1-7 subdistrict semifinal against Pierce.
But the Knights wouldn't score again, with Pierce clamping down on defense while making its first 10 free throws of the fourth quarter to pull away for a 44-31 win at Norfolk High School on Tuesday.
"The biggest thing we told them is that old cliche that defense wins championships," Pierce coach Darren Sindelar said. "We had to be able to contest shots and rebound. They outrebounded us tonight, so we were lucky that they weren't able to hit shots. But we contested some shots and made it a little harder on them."
Junior Carly Sutherland, who set out much of the third quarter with three fouls, was 6 of 6 from the line and scored eight of her 12 points in the fourth quarter, while sophomore Kayla Simmons went 4 for 4 at the line in the quarter.
Meanwhile, the Knights went 0 of 13 from the field and turned the ball over five times in the final eight minutes. Among their 13 misses were six second-chance opportunities as Norfolk Catholic finished with 17 offensive rebounds but was outscored 7-4 in second-chance points.
"We just couldn't find that right mix to get it in, and you need to catch a break and see it go in once in awhile," Norfolk Catholic coach Tim Kassmeier said. "We haven't gotten many of those this year but, at the same time, you can't question the heart of our kids."
For the Bluejays, the biggest second-chance bucket came from senior Hailey Race, who matched Sutherland with 12 points. With Pierce down 28-26, Race knocked down a 3 following an offensive rebound by Simmons to make the score 29-28 with 1:58 left in the third quarter.
Race had also connected from deep moments earlier, following a Molly Knake putback that had given the Knights a 28-21 lead, to help turn the tide for the Bluejays.
"Any time you get a little success there, you can kind of get on a run. Basketball is a game of runs, and we got the momentum there," Sindelar said. "Then we got a couple stops on the defensive end and we were able to pull ahead of them a little bit."
Senior Alex Anderson scored eight points to lead Norfolk Catholic. She scored the last bucket of the first half and the first of the second half as a part of a 12-0 Norfolk Catholic run that led to the 28-21 lead after Norfolk Catholic had fallen behind 21-16 on a Sidney Zimmerer basket with 37 seconds left in the first half.
Prior to that, Norfolk Catholic maintained the lead for all but 14 seconds prior to Maggie Brahmer's and-one basket that gave the Bluejays their first lead at 19-16 with 1:52 remaining in the first half.
"I thought we had some momentum going, but we weren't able to sustain that," Kassmeier said. "Then Pierce came right back, and it was a typical Pierce-Norfolk Catholic game. They just made a couple more plays and got the momentum."
Peitz finished with seven points and four rebounds off the bench, and Gilsdorf matched her with seven points. Drue Pieper, Molly Knake and Abby Miller had five rebounds each to lead a 28-24 rebounding advantage for the Knights.
Race added five assists to her 12 points, and Sutherland led Pierce on the boards with nine rebounds. The Bluejays improve to 17-7 and will play in Thursday's subdistrict final.
Norfolk Catholic finishes the season at 4-18.
"Some of the same things that have shown up for the last month and a half -- we'd be right there with the opportunity to make a play or two, and it just doesn't go our way," Kassmeier said. "Give Pierce the credit. They made a lot of plays down the stretch. I was really proud of our kids. I thought we played hard the whole time."
Norfolk Catholic.......10 11 10 0 - 31
Pierce......................8 13 8 15 - 44
NORFOLK CATHOLIC (4-18): Hailey Lammers 1-2 0-0 3, MacKenna Kalin 0-2 0-0 0, Alex Anderson 4-15 0-0 8, Drue Pieper 0-4 0-0 0, Molly Knake 2-5 0-0 4, Jordan Peitz 2-5 2-2 7, Taylor Gilsdorf 2-8 2-2 7, Chelsey Reifert 0-2 0-0 0, Hayden Wolf 0-2 0-1 0, Abby Miller 1-3 0-1 2. totals 12-48 4-6 31.
PIERCE (17-7): Hailey Race 4-11 1-4 12, Sidney Zimmerer 3-7 1-3 9, Carly Sutherland 3-5 6-6 12, Maggie Brahmer 3-7 1-1 7, Ellexis Dunn 0-4 0-0 0, Kayla Simmons 0-1 4-4 4. Totals 13-35 13-18 44.
3-point field goals: NC 3-18 (Lammers 1-2, Peitz 1-2, Gilsdorf 1-6); PIE 5-13 (Race 3-7, Zimmerer 2-5). Rebounds: NC 28 (Pieper 5, Knake 5, Miller 5, Peitz 4); PIE 24 (Sutherland 9, Brenna Collison 6, Brahmer 4). Assists: NC 6 (Kalin 2, Anderson 2); PIE 11 (Race 5, Zimmerer 3). Steals: NC 8 (Anderson 3, Kalin 3); PIE 9 (Sutherland 3, Race 2, Collison 2). Blocked shots: NC 2 (Peitz 2); PIE 2.