MURDOCK – Elmwood-Murdock used solid defense to keep Falls City Sacred Heart from scanning many scoring tickets in the first half Friday night.
The defending Class D-2 state champions were able to board a winning flight with their work against E-M after the break.
Falls City Sacred Heart left Elmwood-Murdock’s gym with a 44-27 triumph. The Irish pulled away from the Knights in the final ten minutes. The team posted two baskets near the end of the third quarter and outscored E-M 17-9 in the fourth period.
Elmwood-Murdock head coach Justin Moline said the Knights competed with energy against one of the top programs in Nebraska. Falls City Sacred Heart won Class D-2 titles in 2015, 2017 and 2018 and has played in the last seven state tournaments.
“The girls played hard tonight,” Moline said. “We knew coming in that we would have to play well against a quality opponent, and we gave them a really good battle during the first half. Once we got down there was a little more pressure on us to make shots, and they did a nice job of keeping us from getting in an offensive rhythm.”
Elmwood-Murdock (1-7) rallied within 8-7 after Sydney Anderson’s 3-pointer and Jayden Halferty’s free throw near the end of the first quarter. The team then used long-distance shooting to pull ahead 15-12. Anderson and Sydney Kunz drained back-to-back treys three minutes before the break.
Falls City Sacred Heart (8-1) pulled ahead 19-15 at halftime and opened the third quarter with lockdown defense. The Irish held Elmwood-Murdock to three points in the period and gave up just two offensive rebounds. The team used the defensive stretch to create a 27-18 lead with eight minutes to go.
Baskets from Justesen and Kunz brought E-M within 31-23 with 6:10 to play, but the Irish were able to preserve the victory after that. Danielle Bippes scored eight points in the next four minutes to help the team build a double-digit lead. Erison Vonderschmidt created the final 44-27 margin with a basket with 1:45 left.
Both teams collected defensive highlights during the evening. Elmwood-Murdock held FCSH to its lowest-scoring total of the season. The Irish had posted more than 55 points in six of their previous eight games and had surpassed the 60-point mark twice.
Falls City Sacred Heart held an opponent to 30 or fewer points for the seventh time this year. Nebraska City Lourdes was the lone team to break that pattern during a 50-45 victory in early December.
Moline said it was essential for E-M players to remain in positive moods about their scoring abilities.
“We have to keep our confidence level up,” Moline said. “That’s really important. We’ll be taking a lot of shots in practice after the break, and I think the girls will be able to get in a lot of good work. Hopefully we can carry that momentum from practice into our games.”
Anderson generated ten points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal for the Knights. Justesen produced six points, five rebounds and one steal, and Kunz ended the evening with six points, one steal and one rebound.
Brenna Schmidt blocked three shots and Halferty tallied three points, two rebounds and one assist. Paetyn Florell collected five rebounds and one steal, Kylee Synovec made two steals and two rebounds and Lexi Bacon had two points and three boards.
Katelyn Vogler finished the game with one rebound and one steal. Norina Higuchi made one steal and Nicole Wenzel and Bailey Frahm both provided defensive work.
Falls City Sacred Heart 8 11 8 17 – 44
Elmwood-Murdock 7 8 3 9 – 27
Anderson 3-7 2-2 10, Kunz 2-9 0-0 6, Justesen 2-6 2-6 6, Halferty 1-6 1-2 3, Schmidt 0-2 0-0 0, Florell 0-3 0-1 0, Synovec 0-2 0-0 0, Frahm 0-2 0-0 0, Vogler 0-3 0-0 0, Wenzel 0-1 0-0 0, Bacon 1-2 0-0 2, Higuchi 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 9-43 5-11 27.