HASTINGS – The Weeping Water girls rained down shot after shot against Hitchcock County in their district title game Friday afternoon.
That helped the Indians reign supreme on the scoreboard when the final buzzer sounded.
Weeping Water earned a trip to the Class D-1 State Tournament by defeating Hitchcock County 85-66. The Indians celebrated in the Adams Central High School gym after writing their names in school history. The group became just the second WWHS girls basketball team to advance to state. Weeping Water’s first state appearance came in the 2011-12 campaign.
“It feels really good,” Weeping Water head coach Joel Haveman said. “There are only eight teams that get to be where we’re at right now, and to get there with this group is really special. We’ve been talking since November about putting in the time and effort to make something special happen, and I think the girls realize now why we’ve put in that time. They’re seeing all of their work come to fruition.”
Weeping Water earned the victory in the District D1-8 Final with the best shooting day in program history. The team smashed its way into the record books with 85 points. The previous top single-game total of 75 points came in the 2008-09 season.
“The girls have put in a lot of time on their shooting,” Haveman said. “There have been a lot of mornings, afternoons and evenings that they’ve spent working on improving their shots. It really paid off for us today.”
“Our offense was on fire today,” Weeping Water sophomore Grace Cave said. “Everyone was shooting really well and we were able to make our free throws too. It was a really good feeling to see it all come together like that.”
Ninth-seeded Hitchcock County (18-5) began the game in a stretch zone to try to stop Weeping Water from driving inside. The eighth-seeded Indians (18-8) solved the defensive puzzle after the first few series. The team threaded passes into the zone’s holes and created a number of kickout opportunities.
“We figured they would try to come out with some sort of defense that would try to catch us off guard,” WWHS senior Brianna Lawson said. “We have two of the best shooters in the state, so we’ve seen it all from box-and-one to triangle-and-two to everything else. We felt if we could come out and get some points right away then we could settle down and play our own game.”
Cave said the team’s passing made a difference in the outcome. That prevented the Falcons from concentrating all of their defensive efforts on only Cave and Peyton Barrett, who combined for 50 points during the day. Lawson, Reagan Aronson, Jamison Twomey, Bailee Nissen and Lexi Ahrens all added to Weeping Water’s scoring barrage.
“Everyone did a good job of making good passes and finding the open shooters,” Cave said. “We knew we’d have to be patient and make the right passes against them, and that led to a lot of open looks for us.”
Hitchcock County posted the game’s first five points but watched the early lead melt away. Weeping Water responded with eight straight points and later tied the game at 15-15 at the end of the first quarter.
Reba Wilson’s assist to Lawson for a 3-pointer early in the second quarter gave the team a 20-18 lead. The Indians expanded the gap to 29-20 over the next four minutes. Twomey and Barrett both canned treys in the stretch and Cave added points on a fast-break layup and two free throws. Barrett’s offensive rebound and putback gave the group a 35-25 halftime edge.
Weeping Water stomped on the scoring accelerator in the third quarter. Treys from Lawson, Twomey and Aronson made the lead 46-34, and the team then generated points on the next four series. Cave’s steal of a Hitchcock County inbounds pass under the basket led to a layup and 55-36 lead.
Nissen’s rebound and putback on the first possession of the fourth quarter gave the team a 60-46 advantage, and baskets from Aronson and Cave kept the gap at 67-50. Weeping Water then iced the victory by going 16-of-21 from the free-throw line in the final 4:42.
The river of points helped the Indians remain ahead of a Hitchcock County team that also put up big numbers. The Falcons scored 41 points in the second half and finished the game 25-of-52 from the field.
“We knew if we played smart and made the right plays then we could keep the lead,” Lawson said. “They’re a good team and we knew they could score a lot of points too, so we wanted to keep running our offense so we could get open shots.”
Kassidy Kisker led Hitchcock County with 21 points. Shaye Porter (17) and Charli Apple (13) also scored in double figures for the Falcons.
Cave helped the Indians with 27 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals. Barrett generated 23 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two assists, and Lawson finished with 12 points, four rebounds, three steals and one assist.
Aronson poured in eight points and six rebounds and Twomey netted seven points. Nissen produced six points and five rebounds and Ahrens chipped in two points. Wilson added two assists and two steals in the victory.
The Class D-1 State Tournament will run Feb. 28-March 2 in Lincoln. First-round games will take place Feb. 28 at Lincoln North Star High School at 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Semifinals will be held March 1 at Bob Devaney Sports Center at 9 and 11 a.m.
The third-place and first-place games will both be March 2. The third-place game in Class D-1 will be at Lincoln Southeast at 1 p.m. The championship game will be at Pinnacle Bank Arena at 11 a.m. Nebraska School Activities Association officials will release complete state brackets this weekend.
Lawson said the district championship moment was even sweeter because of the camaraderie on the roster. She said the Indians were happy to accomplish the state feat together.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing this feels,” Lawson said. “I love being a part of this team. It’s so much fun to be able to be with these girls every day, so to be able to do something like this with them is a great feeling.”
Hitchcock County 15 10 21 20 – 66
Weeping Water 15 20 23 27 – 85
Hitchcock County (66)
Porter 8-13 1-3 17, Scott 1-7 3-6 6, Horinek 3-4 1-2 7, Apple 6-11 0-0 13, Kisker 6-16 9-10 21, Rippen 1-1 0-0 2, Wagner 0-0 0-0 0, Merrill 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-52 14-21 66.
Weeping Water (85)
Lawson 2-6 6-6 12, Wilson 0-1 0-0 0, Cave 8-18 10-13 27, Barrett 7-11 7-11 23, Ahrens 1-1 0-0 2, Nissen 2-3 1-2 6, Twomey 2-7 1-2 7, Aronson 3-10 0-0 8. Totals 25-57 25-34 85.