In front of a jubilant and excited crowd, the Papio girls basketball team punched their ticket to the state tournament next week in Lincoln. The Monarchs defeated the Papio South Lady Titans 65-53 to win the A-6 district and move onto the state tournament.
"It feels great," Papio head coach Josh Siske said about advancing to states. "At the beginning of the year these girls set that goal to get to Lincoln and you never know.
"You never know what the year is going to bring, if we stay healthy or if we don’t stay healthy. So to be able to make it and to be able to say we are going, i’m just so happy for our girls."
The Monarchs are led by seniors Lindsey Ingwerson and Olivia Boudreau, who have had their fair share of tournament experience.
"It means a lot," Siske said about taking his seniors back to Lincoln. "And the other one is Erica Broin. Erica has played in all three of them and this will be her third time playing. You see the effort she brings in every night.
"Our kids wanted to play for them to help get them to the state tournament their senior year. It’s cool to see the kids get the success."
It was a slow start for both teams, then Papio bounced out to a 10-4 lead and then a 15-4 lead after a couple more baskets.
This forced a Papio South timeout to let them regroup. They did a good job of refocusing and cut the deficit to eight heading into the second quarter.
In the second quarter, Papio's Lindsey Ingwerson and Papio South's Emily Richards took over for their respective sides.
Ingwerson scored six straight points for the Monarchs and Richards made three straight three-pointers for the Titans. The score was 32-24 heading into the second half and Richards did a good job of keeping the Titans in the game.
The Monarchs pushed the lead to 17 in the third quarter, going up 45-28, but the Titans refused to go away.
Papio South ended the third quarter on a 13-0 run to make the score 45-41 heading into the final quarter. Tate Norblade recorded six of those 13 points.
"Any experience of having to hit adversity and how you deal with adversity," Siske said about that third quarter run. "We talked about that all year long. How are we going to handle adversity? Tonight it hit us in the third quarter and I was proud of how we responded in the fourth quarter."
Siske added that "we could have folded. Papio South did the same thing against Elkhorn.
"They came back and made a run and won the game after being down 11 at the half. Those kids played their butts off and we knew it would be a tough game."
In the fourth quarter, the Monarchs were able to push the lead back to 53-43 and then maintain that lead until the end, winning 65-53.
Ingwerson led the Monarchs with 31 points and nine rebounds. Boudreau added 15 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals. Brooklyn Wrice added 10 points.
For Papio South, Norblade finished with 20 points and five rebounds while Richards added 14 points.
The Monarchs start the state tournament on Thursday, March 5th. Siske knows his team is ready and will look to be a top contender in the tournament.
"We are just trying to get Maggie (Vasa) healthy and take our chance. We just want to go down there and play hard and hope for the best."