Patterson: Pierce girls now in the spotlight

Krystina Koepke, left, averages 8.3 points per game in a balanced Pierce attack. The Bluejays are one of three undefeated teams in the state.

At Pierce, it's common knowledge that the boys basketball team has enjoyed much success in recent years.

The girls team? Not so much.

That's changed this season as the Class C-1 Bluejays are off to a 15-0 start. Coach Darren Sindelar's squad is one of just three undefeated girls basketball teams in the state, along with Class A Bellevue West and Class C-2 Crofton. Pierce plays at Crofton on Thursday night.

“The girls program hasn't been where the boys program has been,” Sindelar said. “But our kids have played well this year and we seem to be gaining confidence with each game.”

The Bluejays returned one starter from last year's 13-9 squad, but several players had varsity experience. That group has stepped up this year as the Bluejays started the season with a win over Howells-Dodge and have rattled off 14 more wins.

One of Pierce's biggest victories came Friday night in a 47-42 road win over Kearney Catholic. Senior guard Rachel Wiedenfeld, the lone returning starter, sank four free throws in the closing minute to help the Bluejays secure the win.

“Kearney Catholic has a solid program,” Sindelar said. “That was a good measuring stick for us because we know that we have to win games like that to achieve our goal.”

The goal at the start of the season was to win 20 games, which certainly seems to be within reach. Pierce has four regular-season games left, the Mid-State Conference tournament and then the postseason.

That 20-win mark might have seemed ambitious at the start of the season. Pierce was scheduled to play just five home games. The Bluejays played their last one Saturday night in a 59-23 win over Battle Creek.

“We've embraced the fact we're playing so many road games,” Sindelar said. “The girls take it as a challenge to go into a hostile environment and try to get the job done.”

Wiedenfeld leads the team in scoring at just under 10 points per game. She is followed closely by sophomore forward Rachelle Tucker (9.1 ppg), senior forward Krystina Koepke (8.3) and junior guard Jacy Bretschneider (7.6).

Balanced scoring has helped the Bluejays. So has the presence of three starters who are at least 6-foot. That height allowed them to stay with tall and talented Kearney Catholic.

“They were the tallest team we've faced,” Sindelar said. “We had some shots blocked, but our girls didn't back down. They kept their composure and kept working hard.”

Whether that hard work translates into a state tournament berth remains to be seen. Pierce has been to state three times, with the most recent trip coming in 1995.

Compare that to the Pierce boys, who have been to state 24 times dating to 1914. More recently, the Bluejays have been to the state tourney eight times since 2000.

This season, it's the girls who have been in the limelight.

“We've had a lot of fans showing up for our games and there is an excitement here in town,” Sindelar said. “It's been fun so far, and I know our girls are looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Ratings update: Minden remains No. 1 in Class C-1 after avenging one of its losses last week against Class B No. 7 Holdrege. Wahoo slips into the ratings at No. 10 after defeating previous No. 10 Norfolk Catholic.

Crofton, which posted a pair of wins last week, holds down the top spot in C-2.

West Point Guardian Angels Central Catholic continues to pile up the points and the wins atop D-1. The Bluejays have scored at least 62 points in 16 of 18 games.

Humphrey won three times to remain atop D-2. Wynot, Deshler, Lindsay Holy Family and Loomis round out the top five.

Top games this week:

Class C-1—Thursday: Pierce at Crofton. Friday: Sidney at Chadron.

Class C-2—Tuesday: Sutton at Sterling. Thursday: Sandy Creek at Sutton. Saturday: Sidney at Hershey.

Class D-1—Tuesday: Emerson-Hubbard at Pender, Hampton vs. Exeter-Milligan (Crossroads Conference tournament). Thursday: Friend at East Butler.

Class D-2—Tuesday: Humphrey at Cedar Valley, Southern at Falls City SH. Thursday: Ewing at Osmond. Friday: Hartington Cedar Catholic at Wynot, Loomis at Axtell.

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