LINCOLN – Weeping Water athletes captured the hearts of many Cass County fans this season with their energy and effort on the basketball court.
The Indians nearly extended their campaign Thursday afternoon with a similar type of performance.
Second-seeded Pleasanton edged seventh-seeded Weeping Water 62-54 in the Class D-1 State Tournament. The Bulldogs (26-1) grabbed an early nine-point lead and answered every comeback attempt from the Indians. Pleasanton advanced to a semifinal matchup with third-seeded Dundy County-Stratton on Friday morning.
Weeping Water head coach Joel Haveman said Pleasanton’s defense made a big difference in the game’s outcome. The Indians had generated more than 60 points nine times during the season and had posted 85 points against Hitchcock County. The Bulldogs kept WWHS from creating the same type of scoring runs at the state tournament.
“They have a lot of good athletes on their team,” Haveman said. “You can tell they’ve played the game together for a long time. It was hard to find mismatches when you have five athletes guarding you.”
The Bulldogs sprinted out to a 13-4 lead after Isabelle Paitz, Kaci Pierce and Katelyn Lindner scored baskets on four straight possessions. Weeping Water then cut the gap to 13-11 in the final 2:11 of the period. Jamison Twomey drained a 3-pointer, Peyton Barrett sank two free throws and Grace Cave made a driving shot.
The Indians used the free-throw line as their primary offensive weapon in the second quarter. Weeping Water went 10-of-14 from the stripe in the period. Barrett’s 3-pointer with seven seconds to go was the team’s lone field goal of the stanza.
Pleasanton tried to use its height advantage in the paint to snap the 24-24 halftime tie. Senior center Meghan Fisher scored the first basket of the third quarter and Pierce added a pair of short jumpers later in the period. Consecutive 3-pointers from Pierce and Cadee Nichols gave the team its largest lead at 40-28.
Field goals from Twomey, Cave and Brianna Lawson helped Weeping Water slice the gap to 45-37 with eight minutes remaining. Weeping Water knocked the deficit down to 51-46 and 56-51, but Pleasanton answered each challenge with a basket. Nichols sank two of the most critical shots at the 4:28 and 2:35 marks. Her two 3-pointers prevented the Indians from creating a one-possession game.
Pierce guided Pleasanton with 16 points and ten rebounds. Nichols finished with 11 points and Paitz had ten points and six rebounds.
Cave highlighted Weeping Water’s offense in the game with 32 points. She scored 22 of the team’s 30 points in the second half and produced 14 straight points in the fourth quarter. She also collected seven rebounds, three blocks, three assists and one steal.
Barrett ended the game with 13 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Lawson took two charges and posted two points, two steals and one rebound, and Twomey helped the squad with six points and three rebounds.
Reba Wilson had one point, one steal and three rebounds, and Bailee Nissen and Reagan Aronson each hauled in one rebound. Lexi Ahrens added defensive work for Weeping Water in the contest.
Lawson and Ahrens were the team’s two seniors. Haveman said both played important roles for the Indians throughout their four-year careers.
“I can’t say enough about what Lexi and Bri have meant to the program,” Haveman said. “They were tremendous leaders who did everything they could to help this team and help this program. They’re leaving behind a legacy that we can hopefully build off of for years to come.”
Weeping Water finished its season 18-9. The team advanced to the state tournament for the second time in school history. The Indians also finished second in the East Central Nebraska Conference Tournament, claimed the district title and penciled their names on the school’s leaderboard in team and individual categories.
Haveman said he felt the season was a success because of the positive attitudes the Indians showcased in practices, games and team activities.
“This was a great year for us,” Haveman said. “We wanted to take a step in the right direction this season and we did that. I think everyone was hoping that we could have taken a leap in the right direction today, but the season overall was definitely a step in the right direction.
“All of our girls worked hard and helped the team in their roles. I’m proud of every single one of them. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”
Weeping Water 11 13 13 17 – 54
Pleasanton 13 11 21 17 – 62
Weeping Water (54)
Lawson 1-5 0-0 2, Wilson 0-0 1-2 1, Cave 10-21 9-12 32, Barrett 2-14 7-8 13, Ahrens 0-1 0-0 0, Nissen 0-2 0-0 0, Twomey 2-10 0-0 6, Aronson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 15-54 17-22 54.
Nichols 3-7 2-3 11, N. Siegel 2-3 0-1 4, Paitz 4-15 2-3 10, Pierce 6-13 3-6 16, Fisher 4-7 1-2 9, Lindner 4-6 0-0 8, M. Siegel 2-2 0-0 4, Weisdorfer 0-2 0-1 0, Mollring 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-55 8-16 62.