LINCOLN – Freeman hid the answer to its defensive riddle from Weeping Water for the first three quarters Thursday night.
The Indians solved that puzzle in memorable fashion in the final eight minutes of the game.
Weeping Water scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to rally past the Falcons 45-39. WWHS won the East Central Nebraska Conference Tournament semifinal with its persistence on offense. The Indians posted points on 10 of their 15 trips in the final period to claim the victory.
Weeping Water head coach Joel Haveman said the Indians were aware of Freeman’s defensive abilities entering the game. The Falcons held 11 previous opponents under the 30-point mark this season. Sixth-seeded Freeman was also coming off a 43-41 upset of third-seeded Yutan in the quarterfinals.
“We knew Freeman was going to play good defense,” Haveman said. “They’ve been holding a lot of other teams well below their scoring averages, so we knew coming in that this was going to be a tough test. We knew we were going to have to play well to win.”
Freeman (13-8) limited second-seeded Weeping Water (16-4) to nine points in the first quarter and seven in the second period. The team also manufactured offense from its work on the glass. Ashley Oltman’s putback and ensuing free throw gave FHS a 19-14 lead, and Macy Holland’s follow-up basket with 1:10 to go made the halftime score 21-16.
Haveman said the coaching staff spent a large portion of the break rebuilding the team’s confidence. They told the Indians they had the talent to decipher Freeman’s defense in the second half.
“We walked in the locker room and it looked like we had already lost,” Haveman said. “Our offense is pretty explosive when we get rolling, and we were only down five at halftime, which is only two possessions. I told the girls that we could make up those two possessions in 30 seconds with the type of offense we have.
“A lot of halftime was just reminding them that we were very much in this thing. I told them that they were good players and that they had the ability to come back. They responded really well in the second half.”
Brianna Lawson opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to pull the Indians within 21-19. Free throws from Grace Cave and Peyton Barrett in the remaining part of the period kept Freeman’s lead at 29-23.
Weeping Water opened the scoring floodgates after that. Cave and Barrett chopped the deficit to 29-28 in the first two minutes of the fourth period, and Cave’s pullup 3-pointer two minutes later tied things at 33-33.
Lawson then made a steal on Freeman’s next possession and tossed a quick outlet pass to Cave. She flew down the court and sank a layup while getting fouled. She drained the free throw to give the Indians a 36-33 advantage.
Weeping Water stretched the gap to 44-35 with 31 seconds to play. The Falcons made two late baskets but were unable to come closer than six points.
Cave finished the contest with 34 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Lawson generated five points, six steals and four rebounds and Lexi Ahrens tallied two steals and one rebound. Barrett collected six points, two assists, three rebounds and one block.
Bailee Nissen made one assist for the Indians. Jamison Twomey and Reagan Aronson each added defensive work for the squad.
Freeman 12 9 8 10 – 39
Weeping Water 9 7 7 22 – 45
R. Hartwig 2-3 0-0 4, B. Hartwig 0-6 2-6 2, Dorn 2-8 4-7 8, Oltman 5-11 1-1 11, Holland 4-8 4-4 12, Anderson 1-5 0-0 2, Ideus 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-41 11-18 39.
Weeping Water (45)
Lawson 2-4 0-2 5, Wilson 0-0 0-1 0, Barrett 1-10 4-6 6, Cave 11-23 8-10 34, Ahrens 0-0 0-2 0, Nissen 0-1 0-0 0, Twomey 0-4 0-0 0, Aronson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-40 12-21 45.