LINCOLN — Walthill rode a wave of momentum to the state title game.
Trailing 36-33 at halftime, the No. 4 Blujays outscored No. 1 Bruning-Davenport/Shickley 14-4 in the third quarter and pulled away down the stretch for a 67-57 victory in Friday morning’s Class D-1 state semifinal at the Devaney Center.
Making its first appearance at state since 1990, Walthill is headed for the finals for the first time since finishing as the state runner-up in 1976 in Class C. The Blujays (22-3) will face No. 2 Nebraska City Lourdes (24-5) in a 9 a.m. Saturday tip at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“I told them, ‘Just enjoy it,’” Walthill coach Ryan Stansberry said when asked his message to his team. “It’s a special run. Have fun and they’ll do fine.”
A big third quarter sparked Walthill on Friday. The Blujays connected on four 3-pointers in the final 3:38 of the third, including treys by Orion Lamotte and Jayden Sheridan in the last 18 seconds, to lead 47-40 heading into the fourth.
“That was super important,” Stansberry said. “Anytime you can close out a quarter with one shot, it’s huge, but two 3s is fantastic. We told them at the end of that third quarter that they had to carry that momentum going into the fourth quarter.”
Sheridan finished with a game-high 20 points. Lamotte scored 19 off the bench and Kobe Smith had 16 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots for the Blujays.
Lamotte provided Walthill with instant offense. The 5-foot-9 senior guard, who was 4 of 8 from outside the arc, hit two third-quarter 3s and had a trey to go with 5-of-6 shooting from the foul line in the fourth quarter.
“He’s like a microwave,” Stansberry said of Lamotte. “He gets hot really quickly.”
Lamotte said that from the second he gets on the floor, he views it as his time to shine.
“I always practiced for this moment,” Lamotte said. “I always play hard, try to play good defense and today I pulled through.
“Everything felt pretty good today. Playing in the third and fourth quarters, especially — that was a blast.”
Kale Kleinschmidt, Riley Tegtmeier and Ben Elznic scored 11 points apiece to lead BDS (25-4). The Eagles, who shot 36.2 percent (21 of 58) from the floor, committed 10 of their 14 turnovers in the second and third quarters.
“They’re very scrappy, very aggressive (and) very handsy,” BDS coach Fred Kluck said of Walthill’s defense. “They cause all kinds of problems with their press and they’re a good team. They shot the ball well.”
Now, the Blujays are one victory from bringing home a state title for their supportive community, which was again represented by a large and enthusiastic fan base in the semifinals.
“You see all the support we get, and I think that (shows) how much it means,” Stansberry said. “They show up early, and I can’t express in words enough how that feels.”
BDS (25-4)..............15 21 4 17—57
Walthill (22-3).......20 13 14 20—67
BDS: Kale Kleinschmidt 11, Riley Tegtmeier 11, Cody Garland 9, Holden Stengel 2, Sam Christensen 5, Ben Elznic 11, Caden Norder 5, Kendall Dickson 3.
W: Jayden Sheridan 20, Grayden Hallowell 3, Orion Lamotte 19, Kobe Smith 16, DeAndre Webster 7, Tyler Lovejoy 2.
Officials: Bojanski, Mlnarik, Wolsleger.
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