OAKLAND, Neb. — In the battle of unbeaten teams Friday night, Oakland-Craig prevailed.
The host Knights, ranked No. 1 in Class C-2, held on for a 40-39 victory over C-1 No. 1 North Bend. Oakland-Craig moved to 16-0 while the Tigers fell to 15-1.
"For the most part we stayed pretty composed," Oakland-Craig coach Joe Anderson said. "But things got kind of frantic in that fourth quarter."
Frantic is right.
The Knights opened a seven-point lead in the final period but had to withstand one more charge by North Bend, which just missed hitting a go-ahead shot in the closing seconds.
Three baskets by Chaney Nelson — younger sister of graduated all-stater Dacey Nelson — helped Oakland-Craig open that late lead. But the Tigers fought back with the help of a sister act of their own: The three Emanuels.
Kaitlyn Emanuel sank a pair of baskets and sister Lauren added another as North Bend moved within a point with two minutes left. Two free throws by Syd Guzinski put Oakland-Craig ahead by three but the Tigers again pulled within a point with 20 seconds left on a free throw by Megan Ortmeier.
North Bend had one final chance with 10 seconds left after the Knights missed two free throws. Sydney Emanuel got off a shot in the lane but it refused to drop, giving Oakland-Craig the victory.
"We changed up some of our matchups on that last play," Anderson said. "We forced them into a pretty tough shot but I was just happy it didn’t fall."
Kennedy Benne led Oakland-Craig with 12 points while Nelson added eight.
Anderson said it’s taken a balanced scoring effort this season to offset the graduation of Dacey Nelson, who led the state in scoring last year.
"This team has jelled really well," the coach said. "Kennedy has taken over a lot of our scoring but tonight it was just a real defensive battle at both ends of the court."
The Emanuel sisters — senior Lauren, sophomore Sydney and freshman Kaitlyn — accounted for 30 of North Bend’s 39 points. They also hauled in 22 rebounds.
But in the end, the Tigers came up one point short.
"It’s pretty rare to see two 15-0 teams at this point in the season," Anderson said. "You could tell both wanted to stay perfect because neither one was going to quit."
North Bend (15-1)..........10 6 9 14—39
Oakland-Craig (16-0).....10 12 5 13—40
NB: Ally Pojar 2, Kaitlyn Emanuel 13, Megan Ortmeier 3, Lauren Emanuel 10, Cierra Kluthe 4, Sydney Emanuel 7.
OC: Chaney Nelson 8, Kennedy Benne 12, Syd Guzinski 5, Edie Anderson 2, Sadie Nelson 4, Makenna Pearson 7, Jeannina Blahak 2.