Thursday's first-round victory for Guardian Angels Central Catholic won't win any beauty pageants, but the defensive effort was a sight to behold.

A gritty defense that finished with 16 steals allowed the No. 1 seed Bluejays to withstand a tough battle from No. 8 Stanton before pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 56-34 victory Thursday afternoon at Lincoln Southwest High School.

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.

The first six minutes belonged to Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family. But the final 26 minutes and, ultimately, the game belonged to Stanton as the Mustangs turned up the defensive pressure for a 48-32 win in the Class C2-5 subdistrict final at the Norfolk Catholic Activities Center on Thursday.

The O’Neill boys, with an inside-outside scoring attack, scored 44 first-half points to take control early in the championship game of Stanton’s Holiday Basketball Tournament Tuesday night. The Eagles then scored 21 more points--including a 19-2 run--in the third quarter to cruise to a 76-50 win over the host Mustangs.

For as back-and-forth as Tuesday's game between preseason Class C No. 3 West Point-Beemer and No. 5 Stanton was, it was probably fitting that it came down to the final possession.

Stanton didn’t let its affinity for starting slow stop it from winning in its first-ever state-tournament appearance. The Mustangs — who trailed in early in all five sets — defeated Crofton 26-24, 20-25, 25-20, 19-25, 15-12 at Lincoln Southwest on Thursday in the first round of the Class C-2 tournament.

It’s not often a freshman steals the show, but Stanton’s Jessie Brandl did just that Tuesday night. Brandl’s 22 kill, 3 ace serve performance sparked the Mustangs to a 20-25, 25-19, 25-17, 25-21 win over Lutheran High Northeast in the Class C2-5 subdistrict championship at Norfolk Catholic.

North Bend Central avenged its loss to Stanton in the East Husker Conference title game this month with a 2-1 win vs. the Mustangs at Logan View’s triangular Tuesday near Hooper.

At times, it seemed Class C No. 6 Pierce had a wall at the net with hitters taller than those for No. 2 Stanton. But the Mustangs kept pounding, and they found enough ways to get around that wall to record a 25-16, 23-25, 25-18 victory over the Bluejays here Tuesday in the midpoint of a triangular.

The Battle Creek offensive line was eager to show it was up to the task of replacing the core of a group that was instrumental in leading the Braves to back-to-back state semifinals.

After finishing as East Husker Conference boys basketball runner-up last year, Bancroft-Rosalie wasn’t leaving Central Community College’s Raider Fieldhouse in Columbus Saturday without winning it all.