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Pierce girls comfortable on the road less traveled — the wild-card route

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Jaci Brahmer

Jaci Brahmer is the leading scorer for Pierce, which has overcome the loss of 6-foot-2 Rachelle Tucker to have a shot at a fourth straight C-1 title.

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.

“A lot of that goes back to our conference,” coach Darren Sindelar said. “You really have to bring it every night.”

The Bluejays play in the rugged Mid-State Conference, which includes Class C-2 powers West Point Guardian Angels Central Catholic and Crofton. Those two teams have combined for 12 state championships.

“For us, the goal is to just somehow get to state,” Sindelar said. “How we get there isn’t important.”

Pierce won its opening 17 games before losing to Crofton. The Bluejays lost again to Crofton and later to Central Catholic and Wayne, dropping four of their last eight games.

“We know that our schedule toughens up late in the season,” Sindelar said. “But we think that kind of schedule definitely gets us ready for state.”

Pierce lost in overtime to Mid-State member Wayne — a team it had beaten twice earlier in the season — 39-37 in the district final. But once again, the Bluejays’ strong schedule helped them rack up enough wild-card points to make the state tourney.

“Once we get to state, everybody’s record is 0-0,” Sindelar said. “And I’ve always considered that first game huge because a win guarantees that you’ll be playing two more.”

The Bluejays haven’t had to bother with Saturday’s consolation game the past three years because they’ve been busy playing for the championship. Their victories in the final have come against Kearney Catholic in 2013 (51-34), Minden in 2014 (69-60) and Kearney Catholic last year (38-35).

Pierce is led by senior forward Jaci Brahmer, who is averaging 11 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Senior guard Shelby Bretschneider isn’t far behind, averaging 10 points and 8.1 rebounds.

Their performance has helped overcome the graduation loss of 6-foot-2 forward Rachelle Tucker, who averaged almost 19 points and 10 rebounds last season. She is now playing for Wyoming.

Sindelar said Pierce’s ability to reach state the previous three years will help with tourney preparations this year.

“I think it’s a big advantage when you know what to expect,” he said. “It helps you get ready for the whole experience.”

No. 5 seed Pierce will open the tournament with a 9 a.m. game Thursday against No. 4 seed Chadron at the Devaney Center.

“The hard work of our kids is the reason we’ve been able to get back to state,” Sindelar said. “Success breeds success, and hopefully we can keep it going.”

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