Knights, Indians battle in ECNC semifinals

Knights, Indians battle in ECNC semifinals

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LINCOLN – Elmwood-Murdock and Weeping Water painted defensive masterpieces Friday night in a high-intensity matchup in the league tournament semifinals.

Top-seeded Weeping Water edged fourth-seeded Elmwood-Murdock 37-27 in the East Central Nebraska Conference Tournament. The game featured noteworthy defensive efforts from both teams at Southeast Community College-Lincoln. Elmwood-Murdock held Weeping Water’s explosive offense to its lowest point total of the year, and the Indians became just the third team to keep E-M under the 30-point mark.

“Our defense really came through for us,” Weeping Water head coach Joel Haveman said. “We had to find other ways of getting the job done tonight, and that meant we had to rely on our defense. Elmwood-Murdock did a really good job of guarding us and we weren’t able to get into our normal shooting rhythm. We told the girls that meant it would have to come down to defense, and they responded well to that.”

“I was proud of the girls for the way they played defensively,” Elmwood-Murdock head coach Paul Dwyer said. “We were really solid against a team that can score points in a hurry. We gave up a couple of offensive rebounds here and there, but I’ll take our effort any day. I thought the girls played really well against them.”

Athletes from both schools entered the game with confident attitudes. Dwyer said the Knights (10-9) were eager to embrace the opportunity of playing state-ranked Weeping Water. Haveman said the Indians (20-1) were unfazed by any pressure of trying to reach the league tournament title game for the second straight year.

“These girls are always willing to accept a challenge,” Dwyer said. “It’s one of the reasons I really like to coach them. They knew that they were going to face one of the best teams in the state and they were excited about having that chance. I thought they did a really good job of staying focused and playing hard the whole game.”

“We have a lot of veterans on this team and they kept everyone loose the whole day,” Haveman said. “I don’t think they felt pressure in the sense of trying to meet expectations or anything like that.

“It’s always special having a chance to play for a spot in the conference tournament championship game, and they were looking forward to it. They knew it would be a fun game and a fun atmosphere, and they were excited about playing a really good team like Elmwood-Murdock.”

Weeping Water had posted more than 60 points 11 times earlier this year, but the Knights prevented WWHS from copying that feat. Brenna Schmidt and Lexi Bacon both blocked shots in the first quarter and E-M gave up just two offensive rebounds. Grace Cave’s baseline jumper gave the Indians a narrow 10-8 lead after eight minutes of action.

A driving shot from Bacon and two free throws by Jayden Halferty were E-M’s only points of the second quarter, but the Knights stayed within 17-12 at the break. The team limited Weeping Water to seven points in the period and grabbed five defensive boards. Paetyn Florell, Halferty and Schmidt helped E-M eliminate second-chance points by Weeping Water.

Weeping Water made the most of its opportunities in the third quarter. Bailee Nissen and Peyton Barrett scored on four straight trips to stretch the team’s lead to 28-16. A free throw from Sydney Anderson and basket by Schmidt brought E-M within 32-25 with 4:39 to play, but Weeping Water was able to preserve the victory. WWHS held the Knights to two points in the final stretch to win.

Barrett finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, five steals and five pass deflections for the Indians. Cave drew one charge and collected 17 points, seven steals, six rebounds and eight pass deflections, and Nissen chipped in two points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal.

Reagan Aronson tallied one rebound and one pass deflection, and Jamison Twomey ended the night with one assist and one steal. Karley Ridge had one rebound and one assist and Reba Wilson helped the team with her defense.

Schmidt guided Elmwood-Murdock with 14 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and one steal. Bacon posted six points, four rebounds and one block, and Anderson ended the game with three points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal.

Florell hauled in six rebounds and added two points and one block, and Halferty pitched in two points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal and two pass deflections. Bailey Frahm posted three rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block, and Katelyn Vogler and Kylee Rieflin each saw court time for the team.

Elmwood-Murdock      8 4   8 7 – 27

Weeping Water         10 7 13 7 – 37

Elmwood-Murdock (27)

Anderson 1-9 1-2 3, Bacon 3-5 0-0 6, Florell 1-2 0-0 2, Halferty 0-2 2-2 2, Schmidt 7-11 0-0 14, Frahm 0-4 0-0 0, Vogler 0-1 0-0 0, Rieflin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 12-34 3-4 27.

Weeping Water (37)

Aronson 0-1 0-0 0, Wilson 0-1 0-1 0, Cave 8-20 0-3 17, Barrett 4-11 9-12 18, Nissen 1-7 0-0 2, Ridge 0-0 0-0 0, Twomey 0-5 0-0 0. Totals 13-43 9-16 37.

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