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NCMS Girls Place 2nd In OTL Tournament

By: Katelynn Scott, Taryn Bergman, & Nicole Hammes

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    It was a very exciting Saturday for the Nemaha Central Middle School girls basketball team on January 30. Saturday was the first game of the Oregon Trail League tournament for the NC girls, and they matched up with their town rivals, the SPPS Trojans. In the regular season, SPPS had beat Nemaha Central by two points in a very exciting game. Nemaha Central worked hard to be prepared for the game, and they were very excited to go out on Saturday, and get not only a win, but get some revenge too.

    The first quarter was phenomenal. The girls executed just about everything they had worked on, and it worked perfectly. Nemaha Central’s defense was some of the best it had been the whole season that day. The pressure from the defense really threw off the Trojans, and it gave tons of opportunities for steals and fast breaks. The Thunder girls worked their hardest, and it really showed. Their offense was also working really well against SPPS’s defense, and the NC girls took every opportunity they had to score. Teamwork from NC sealed the first quarter with NC leading 8-6.

    In the second quarter, the Thunder team continued to play hard and the second quarter went even better than the first had. Nemaha Central's defense was on fire, and the pressure continued to affect the Trojans, as their shots just weren’t falling. Teamwork from the Thunder helped them stay on top. The girls were looking for their own shots but also looking for others to shoot. Assist after assist, and shot after shot, the NC girls stayed on top and by the second quarter, the NC girls had a 10 point lead,16-6.

    In the third quarter, NC’s defense continued to beat down the Trojans, and SPPS was still not able to score much. NC focused more on their offense as well, and that made the third quarter the best scoring quarter of the game for the girls. Continuing to work hard, they kept their lead. All Thunder fans could be heard loud and proud as the girls continued to dominate in their first game of the OTL tournament. By the end of the third quarter, the score was now 26-10.

    The fourth quarter was an incredible seal on NC’s hard-earned victory. Their tough defense kept pushing on until the last second of the game. Their offense slowed down a bit in the last quarter of this intense game, but they stayed ahead. As the clock kept ticking down, second by second, everyone could feel the energy from the NC team. The highly anticipated game was slowly coming to an end, and this time it would end with a victory for the NC girls. When the time had expired, the Thunder fans cheered and yelled. With the 28-14 victory, the Thunder team would be moving on to the semi-final round to take on the Doniphan West girl’s team.

    Mia Schmitz said, "We played really well, and we came out with determination to win. We practiced really hard that week on our defense, as well as everything else we could improve. We did our best, and it was great to finish the game with a victory."

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    In the semifinal round, the Thunder faced off against the Doniphan West Mustangs. The game took place on Monday, January 29. The Thunder girls were anticipating a very exciting game. The D-West Lady Mustangs were looking for the win after a very intense regular season game. The game started and was immediately very aggressive. Both teams were playing a tight man defense. At the end of the first quarter, the Thunder girls were leading 10-4.

    After the first quarter, both teams were playing strong. The Thunder had already switched up their offenses and easily found ways to drive to the basket. The Mustangs stayed strong with their defense, though. They were able to strip the Thunder’s passes and fast break down the court. Both teams added about the same amount of points making the halftime score 18-13, with the Thunder still in control.

    The third quarter started and both teams were still playing their best to win. This was one of the more intense games that both teams had played this season. Both the Thunder and the Mustangs were not going to give up. It was a low scoring quarter for both teams, however, the Thunder maintained the lead and ended the quarter up by 5, 22-17.

    Entering the final quarter forced both teams to continue playing aggressively. The Thunder team knew the Mustangs were desperate to take the lead and that they had to work hard to stay on top. In the final minutes, the Mustangs began fouling. It was time for the Thunder to step up and make their free throws, something they had struggled with a little throughout the season. The Thunder girls did exactly that and scored a great percent of their free throws. The Thunder ended the game extraordinarily with a final score of 30-25.

      Savannah Engelken said, “I thought the game went really well. We played our best and it really paid off. We are ready for the championship game!”

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    In the final of the OTL tournament, the Lady Thunder team got a rematch with the Troy Trojans for the championship. The NC Thunder girls were excited about the rematch, but some players were also recovering from influenza which made it tough to bring their A-game. The game got off to a great start for the Thunder with a couple of quick baskets by Addy Holthaus. However, the Trojans did not let the Thunder get a big lead. They answered back with several baskets of their own. By the end of the first quarter the Thunder was down 6-9.

    In the second quarter, both the Thunder and the Trojans were playing great offense and defense. The Thunder picked up their game a little more than Troy, scoring 11 points, while the Trojans only scored 7 points. As the quarter ended, the Lady Thunder had taken the lead 17-16.

    After halftime, both teams decided that they had to step up their game. Battling to keep the lead, both teams were tied 22-22 with a little over a minute left in the third quarter. The Thunder’s defense started falling apart and the Trojans went on a 5 point scoring streak to get the lead. The score was 22-27 at the end of the third quarter with the Thunder team falling behind.

    In the fourth quarter, the NC girls tried to get back on track. Few points were scored by the Thunder, while the Trojans were on a scoring spree. NC was falling apart and Troy was making everything they shot. Even though the girls wanted the win, they just weren’t on their A-game, and they ended up losing the game, 27-44.

    “Troy is a good team, and we just didn’t play our best. Overall it was a great season,” said Taryn Ganstrom.

    Coach Heather Sullivan said, “The girls were getting good looks at the basket and taking smart shots, but it was one of those games where our shots just wouldn’t fall. I was proud of the team that they kept fighting right to the end.”

    Assistant coach, Laura Sudbeck said, “We had to overcome many obstacles at the beginning of the season and the girls strived for success. Overall, we had a great season with numerous reasons to keep our head held high.”

    Even though the girls didn’t achieve their ultimate goal, they had a great season. In the end, they played well for three quarters but just could not finish the game. The Thunder team improved so much throughout the season and finished with a record of 8-4. Achieving runner-up in the OTL basketball tournament was quite an accomplishment for the team.

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