After a disappointing loss in the Class B championship game last season, the Crete girls’ basketball team came into the 2019-20 campaign with one goal – win it all.
“It was our goal from last year,” senior Morgan Maly said. “It’s really special. We
played our hearts out.”
The Cardinals avenged their only loss of the season March 7 in dominating fashion, beating Beatrice 53-26 to raise the team’s first championship trophy since 1981.
“I thought our defense was key,” Coach John Larsen said. “We were able to keep them out of momentum and rhythm.”
After a back-and-forth first quarter, the Cardinals started to pull away in the
second, building a 22-14 lead at halftime.
The second half was all Crete, with CHS holding the Lady Orange to 12 points after intermission.
Maly, who was named the Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year on Friday, led the Cardinals with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
She said she likes to get on a roll when it comes to offense.
“My teammates got me the ball in good positions,” she said. “I just try to let the
game come to me.”
Lexi Mach got open under the basket in the fourth quarter and finished with nine points. Ellie Allen scored eight in her final game as a Crete Cardinal.
Allen, who doesn’t usually score a lot, was happy she made some shots.
“I airballed my first shot in warm-ups,” she said, adding that she decided she’d shoot anyway, airball or not.
Crete’s third senior, Jayda Weyand, scored four points and delivered three assists as the team’s primary ball handler. She said she was ready for Beatrice’s pressure.
“I knew they’d be aggressive,” she said. “We practice that every day.”
Larsen said he wasn’t surprised at the quality of basketball played by the two
teams in the final.
“Both are loaded with three-sport athletes,” he said. “They’re great competitors. It doesn’t surprise me to see their success.”
The tournament started March 5 with a 48-43 over-time win over Norris in the first round. Maly scored 14, including five in the over-time, and Mach 10 for Crete.
Brianna Stai led all scorers with 18 points.
The Cardinals trailed 23-19 at halftime. Overtimes were en vogue March 6, as well. Crete played Grand Island Northwest in a rematch of last year’s state title game and needed three overtimes to pull out a 48-47 win.
The Cardinals led 31-23 at halftime and 40-32 after the third quarter.
The offense sputtered in the fourth, scoring just two points, while Northwest came back with 10 to tie the score at 42-42 at the end of regulation.
Neither team scored in the first two overtimes. Crete finally broke the drought with a Maly bucket at the 1:50 mark in overtime three. Two Weyand free
throws pushed the lead to 46-42 with 55.5 seconds to go.
Whitney Brown of GINW made a three-pointer with 32.2 seconds left to cut the
lead to 46-45. Weyand made two more free throws with 14.5 seconds for a 48-45 lead.
GINW added a basket in the final seconds to make the final 48-47.
Maly finished with 22 points, and Leah Jurgens added 12.
“Four overtimes are tough on an old man,” Larsen said with a grin following the championship game.
The Cardinals finished the season with a 27-1 record.
Maly, Allen and Weyand will graduate in May.