With 7:21 left in the second quarter of Norfolk Catholic's 41-14 win over Pierce here Friday, Dylan Kautz had run for 144 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries.

Both Norfolk Catholic coach Travis Fisher and Pierce coach Brittany Case were pleased following Pierce's season-opening 25-12, 21-25, 25-21, 25-11 win over Norfolk Catholic here Thursday.

The No. 5 Bluejays, whose defensive average is 33 points a game, extended their tournament winning streak to 10 games and continued their bid for a fourth consecutive C-1 state title with a 48-38 win over No. 9 Chadron.

For three-time defending Class C-1 champion Pierce, one fact holds true. It doesn’t matter how you reach the state tournament ... just get there. The Bluejays (21-4) will head back to state in a quest for their fourth straight title. Three times — including this season — Pierce lost the district final but still reached state as a wild-card.

O’Neill wasn’t looking for a hero, but that didn’t stop Justin Appleby from playing the role. The 6-foot-1 sophomore scored seven points in the final minute as the Eagles overcame a 50-41 fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Pierce 56-54 in the Class C1-4 district final.

Simply stated — the difference in Thursday night’s C1-7 subdistrict final between the Madison and Pierce boys basketball teams was defense. The 21-4 Bluejays forced the Madison shooters out of their comfort zone, away from the 3-point line, and dictated the Dragons’ shot selection--limiting the offense that produced 14 3-pointers while downing Norfolk Catholic on Tuesday to just five and a 28 percent field goal percentage.

The third time was a charm for the Wayne girls basketball team Thursday night. The Blue Devils, with two previous losses to Pierce this season - most recently a 49-40 defeat 12 days ago in the third-place game of the Mid-State Conference Tournament - missed out on a chance to win in regulation, then overcame a four-point deficit in overtime to earn a 39-27 victory in the C1-7 subdistrict final played at Norfolk High School.

O'Neill earned its first berth in the Mid-State Conference tournament final at the free-throw line, while Pierce earned its first appearance in the final since 2012 with defense.

His team down 20-19 with 1 second left in the first half, Pierce's Taggart Bailey had yet to score. But a buzzer-beating 3 not only ignited the Bluejays' leading scorer, it sparked a 10-2 run that helped carry Pierce to a 51-44 win over Norfolk Catholic in the first round of the Mid-State Conference tournament here Thursday.

Class C No. 2 Crofton led 11-0 less than two minutes into Thursday's semifinal against No. 3-rated Pierce. But it was 14 points over the final 3-1/2 minutes of the third quarter which ultimately helped the Warriors fend off the Bluejays 59-41 at the Cox Activities Center on the Northeast Community College campus.

According to Crofton’s junior post-player Monica Arens her coach, Aaron Losing, promotes the concept that, “Defense wins games.” On Thursday evening, in a match-up between C-2’s second-ranked Warriors and C-1’s top-ranked Bluejays, defense did exactly that--with Crofton earning a solid 48-30 win.

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