KEARNEY — Early in January, St. Cecilia’s game plan against Lincoln Christian was executed to near perfection.
The Class C-2 No. 2 Hawkettes let the Crusaders’ Allyson Korte shoot freely, while double-teaming Olivia Hollenbeck in the post and keeping a watchful eye on the other three players on the floor.
In that Jan. 11 game, which St. Cecilia won by nine, Korte missed all eight shots she took and Hollenbeck managed just 10 points. LC’s Makylee Ailes had the team-high of 14 points.
But Saturday’s Centennial Conference tournament championship went much differently.
The C-1 No. 3 Crusaders (15-2) played more aggressively on both sides of the ball, putting St. Cecilia on its heels en route to capturing the tournament title 48-45 at Kearney Catholic High School.
The Hawkettes (18-2) took poor care of the basketball, turning it over 16 times — 10 in the second half.
There was a stretch in the third quarter where St. Cecilia had the ball stolen on three straight possessions.
“Those pick-sixes kind of hurt,” STC head coach Greg Berndt said. “(Lincoln Christian) had really good ball pressure. They were draped all over our guards and for the most part all night, we did a really good job of handling that pressure, but they ran out on a couple others and those were four bigs points.
“A couple of botched possessions in a game like that, that’s going to be the difference.”
There were other differences, too, in the rematch.
Korte, who again was roaming fairly freely while St. Cecilia paid its attention to others, scored 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting.
“Their whole bench and fans were saying ‘Shoot it!’ and for a young girl, you’ve just got to keep shooting,” Lincoln Christian head coach Nick Orduna said. “I know it’s tough when you have nobody on you, but (Korte) made a couple, drove in the lane for a couple and made a free throw. So that was really good for her to step up as a senior and do that.”
Korte was also the primary pickpocket up top in the Crusaders’ defense.
“Ally was so quick up front, and I’m sure Bailey (Kissinger) hadn’t seen a lot of that this year,” Orduna said. “We really wanted her to put a lot of pressure on Bailey to stall their offense a little bit and I think that helped a lot.”
Hollenbeck was more effective than in the last matchup as well. The 6-foot, 4-inch post poured in a game-high 21 points, going 7-for-8 from the floor and 7-for-10 from the free throw line.
Berndt though his team did a good job defending Hollenbeck, but with how the game was officiated — the referees called a physical game — Lincoln Christian benefitted.
“I thought our kids really battled,” Berndt said. “We didn’t back down from her. It was an awfully physical game for sure and it didn’t quite go our way obviously. It’s not a fault to our kids. I thought we showed a lot of heart, and I thought we did exacly what we wanted to do, which was challenge her, challenge them.”
Hollenbeck recorded seven blocks defensively. There was hardly room in the post for St. Cecilia to get a clean shot up, especially in the second half.
Tori Thomas, who finished with 13 points for the Hawkettes, was limited to two points in the second half. She settled for some outside shots she normally does not take.
Makenna Asher almost solely kept the Hawkettes in the game. Thirteen of her team-high 15 points were scored in the second half. Her two 3s were the Hawkettes’ only points of the third quarter, which began with an 7-0 run by Lincoln Christian.
Asher converted three of St. Cecilia’s four made baskets in the fourth, including another 3 that pushed the Hawkettes in front with 2:50 left.
Lincoln Christian answered the shot with an 8-2 run to end the game.
St. Cecilia, which beat the Crusaders for the conference title last year, had a chance to tie with 17.8 seconds remaining. Bailey Kissinger drove through the lane, right at Hollenbeck trying to draw a foul, but there was no whistle.
After a timeout, LC’s Barrett Power sunk 1-of-2 free throws, but STC had no chance of getting a shot up from full court with just 1.7 seconds to do so.
St. Cecilia out-rebounded Lincoln Christian 40-14, and earned multiple second chance scoring opportunities, but the Hawkettes missed many good looks from close proximity.
STC also had a few “pick-sixes” of its own, but the Hawkettes didn’t finish the layup on the other end after stealing the ball away.
“It was just a slug(fest) with a great Hastings team,” Orduna said.
The Hawkettes play crosstown rival Adams Central (11-8) Tuesday.
LC (15-2).....................9 10 16 13 — 48
STC (18-2)..................16 12 6 11 — 45
Lincoln Christian (48)
Barrett Power 0-8 1-3 1, Makylee Ailes 2-6 0-0 4, Allyson Korte 5-11 1-2 12, Alexis Johnson 2-2 2-2 7, Olivia Hollenbeck 7-8 7-10 21, Jenna Wiltfong 1-1 0-0 3, Ashlynn Ailes 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 17-38 11-17 48.
St. Cecilia (45)
Chloe McCauley 0-2 0-0 0, Bailey Kissinger 2-11 2-2 6, Tori Thomas 4-12 5-5 13, Natalie Kissinger 2-3 0-0 6, Makenna Asher 6-10 0-0 15, Katharine Hamburger 1-6 0-0 2, Shaye Butler 1-1 1-2 3. Totals: 16-45 8-9 45.
Three-point goals — LC 3-13 (Power 0-5, M. Ailes 0-1, Korte 1-3, Johnson 1-1, Wiltfong 1-1, A. Ailes 0-1); STC 5-11 (B. Kissinger 0-1, Thomas 0-1, N. Kissinger 2-3, Asher 3-5, Hamburger 0-1).