Several Crofton girls and boys basketball players were named to the Mid-State Conference team after stellar seasons.
Senior Josie Sanger, junior Alexis Arens and sophomore Lacey Sprakel earned first-team honors on the girls squad, while sophomore Kaley Einrem earned honorable mentions honors.
For the boys, seniors Connor Dahl and Brad Tomasek were named to the honorable mention team.
After a stellar cross country career and looking to end his track and field career on a high note, Crofton senior Tanner Arens made his official decision to continue his cross country and track and field careers in college.
Arens’ family and Morningside head cross country and track and field coach David Nash were in attendance Tuesday as the senior Warrior signed his letter of intent to run at Morningside next fall.
“I love to run,” Arens stated. “Running in college and at a collegiate level is a perk and a bonus on top of it.”
Arens plans on participating in cross country during the fall, indoor track in the winter and outdoor track in the spring. Multiple sports are nothing new to Arens though.
“You know what to expect because you know you don’t get an extended break in between seasons,” Arens noted. “You keep going and you don’t get burned out as easily.”
A big reason for Arens’ selection was Morningside’s new agriculture program and its solid cross county program.
“They have a really strong coaching and cross country team at Morningside,” Arens added. “That was a big thing for me. Another thing is I wanted to go into ag and they’re starting a new ag program and ag business there.”
A four-time state qualifier and state medalist in cross country and a two-time qualifier in the 1,600 in track, Arens hopes to gain a priceless experience at Morningside running for the Mustangs.
“To have that experience and have fun are a big thing for me,” Arens concluded.
It was another strong season for Knox County athletes as several individuals and teams made a strong push to end their season.
Two seniors and a sophomore stood out above the rest in their respective sports and were named the captains for the 2018-19 all area team.
Crofton sophomore Lacey Sprakel had a big year for the girls basketball on their way to a Class C2 state runner-up finish.
“I can’t be successful without my teammates,” Sprakel stated. “They’re always there for me to give positivity, to help out and to help me do what I do. I’m there for them to help them do what they do too.”
Crofton’s balanced attack, helped guide the Lady Warriors to the title game. One of the few constants for the Crofton scoring was Sprakel, who led the team with 16 points and eight rebounds per game.
“Coach (Aaron) Losing always says I’m the leading scorer and I can get it down there and do what I can do,” Sprakel added. “With how the other girls work, if I’m not having a good game down in the post they are out there and know they have to take the lead and get some scorers. They know that and they did a very good job of doing that. That’s what helped them out and I knew I had to do what was best for my team to succeed. We got to the state championship this year and it was amazing. We all worked together and we were all very good.”
Sticking with the hardwood, A longtime Wausa point guard was selected as a captain for the boys basketball all area team.
Viking senior Tyson Kaiser has been a solid contributor for Wausa since his rookie season.
“From the beginning of my freshman year, I never had that great of leaders as a freshman,” Kaiser recalled. “I knew I had to start somewhere and start strong. The only way to do that was start my freshman year. Being a starter all four years has impacted me a lot. I’ve been able to grow tremendously. In my senior group, we’ve had three boys who have been starting since freshman year. It’s been a long journey, but it’s been pretty fun.”
Along with being the Vikings’ top scorer, Kaiser was also the top distributor and ball handler for the purple and gold.
“Distributing the ball is almost more fun that scoring the ball,” Kaiser commented. “Getting points for your teammates is awesome. It helped out a lot to have great scorers on my team. My two other senors (Ghatlin Hegge and Drew Munter) I’ve been playing with them ever since I got here in second grade. We have super good chemistry together and we know what each other are going to do. I trust them and whatever shot they take. I know they can make it. Any possible way I got them the ball, I knew they could score.”
The all area wrestling team captain is Creighton senior Bryce Zimmerer. Zimmerer has had an amazing past couple of months athletically. The senior Bulldog was a member of the state qualifying legion team for Creighton this past summer and helped lead the football squad to a perfect 13-0 record and Creighton’s first state championship.
“We made it to state in baseball and we’re gunning for this year to have a better finish,” Zimmerer noted. “In football we all worked really hard and came out on top. We had a few guys get hurt in the end, but we still got it done. I had a good year.”
Zimmerer then followed up his state title in football with a runner-up finish at the Class D state wrestling tournament.
“I had to put in a lot of work to get where I am and it definitely paid off for me,” Zimmerer continued. “Working hard has been what has helped me the most. I stayed after practice working and came in the mornings to lift. The past few months, I’ve been blessed with good teammates too. That’s helped a lot.”
What is more impressive than Zimmerer’s performances on the diamond, the gridiron and the mat, is the fact the 170 pounder is coming off a serious knee injury he suffered just last year.
“The ACL injury was pretty tough, but I came in the morning and did my squats; that helped me battle through that,” Zimmerer concluded. “I had a good doctor that got me the right workouts and stuff to help heal my hamstring and ACL. Following his instructions helped me to heal properly. It feels normal now.”
With plenty of talent in the county, it is no wonder so many athletes ended up on the all-area team.
With the help of coaches and staff, we narrowed down a field to 15 girls and boys basketball players that stood above the rest all year long. The state qualifiers for wrestling automatically earned a spot on the list.
Congratulations to all the honorees on both the All-Area teams and the honorable mention list. Your hard work did not go unnoticed.
Although only two Knox County grapplers qualified for state, both of them had stellar seasons.
Bryce Zimmerer, Sr., Creighton: A year removed from a serious injury, Zimmerer was back on the mats and had a phenomenal season. Zimmerer ended his career with a runner-up finish at the state wrestling tournament and surpassed more than 100 career wins
Cody Hanvey, Jr., Creighton: Hanvey got his first taste of what state wrestling is all about after qualifying for the state tournament this past season. Hanvey hopes to add a medal at next year’s state tournament and continue to pile up wins.
On the top 15 list for girls basketball, Knox County placed nine standouts on the team for 2018-19.
Lacey Sprakel, So., Crofton: Sprakel was an absolute force and a double-double machine on the offensive end for the Lady Warriors. Sprakel recorded seven doubles-doubles this year, while averaging 16 points and eight rebounds a night. Sprakel averaged 19 points and eight rebounds in the Lady Warriors’ three state tournament games, and earned a spot on the all-tournament squad.
Josie Sanger, Sr., Crofton: Sanger was ‘Miss Everything’ for the Lady Warriors this season. In her final season, Sanger averaged 7 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals per game.
Alexis Arens, Jr., Crofton: Arens was a key contributor for the Lady Warriors this past year. The junior was one of the top defenders on a team that gave up just 40 points per game. Offensively, Arens averaged 9 points and six boards per contest.
Kaley Einrem, So., Crofton: Einrem’s strong play down the stretch helped the Lady Warriors earn runner-up finish at the state tournament. In the final three games of the season, Einrem averaged 10 points at the state tournament. For the season, the sophomore guard contributed 8 points, three assists, three rebounds and three steals per game.
Hannah Sheridan, Jr., Santee: Sheridan was one of the top scorers in the area after a strong junior campaign. Sheridan averaged almost 30 points per game. In her final game of the season, the junior Lady Warrior surpassed 1,000 career points and will look to add to that total next season.
Ashtyn Fritz, Sr., Creighton: Fritz saved her best for last as she ended her hoops career as one of the top players in the area. The senior guard led the team in assists with 49, was second in points per game with 10.2 and rebounds with 136. Fritz’s stellar play earned her a spot on the Lewis & Clark Conference team.
Maycee Zimmerer, Fr., Creighton: One of the top underclassmen in the area, Zimmerer showed that the future for Creighton girls basketball is bright. The freshman led the squad in points per game with 14.2 and rebounds with 161. Zimmerer was named to the Lewis & Clark Conference team as well in her rookie campaign.
Morgan Kleinschmit, So., Wausa: In just her second season of high school basketball, Kleinschmit took a big step forward this season. The sophomore earned all-Lewis and Clark Conference honors after averaging 9 points and six rebounds per game.
Chaney Konopasek, Fr., Niobrara/Verdigre: Perhaps one of the top rookies in the area, Konopasek has the Lady Cougars believing there is a bright future ahead. The freshman guard averaged 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and five steals per game.
Seven area cagers were placed on the all-area team after stellar performances on the hardwood.
Tyson Kaiser, Sr., Wausa: In his final season for the purple and gold, Kaiser helped guide the Vikings to a strong season. The senior guard led the squad in points (14) and assists (2.1) our game. Kaiser also averaged three rebounds and two steals a contest.
Drew Munter, Sr., Wausa: The man in the middle for the Vikings, Munter was the top post player for the team this season. Munter contributed 10 points and six rebounds per night.
Braden Eisenhauer, Jr., Bloomfield: It was Eisenhauer’s stellar play that helped guide the Bees to the subdistrict finals. Eisenhauer, who was an all-Lewis and Clark selection, averaged 15 points, five rebounds, three steals and four assists per game.
Conner Hammer, Jr., Creighton: Unlike his size, Hammer had a big year for the the Bulldogs on the hardwood. Hammer scored just under 10 points per game, while collecting a team-best 66 assists and 38 deflected passes.
Camden Eisenhauer, Jr., Niobrara/Verdigre: The Cougars’ top offensive threat, Eisenhauer had a solid season this year for N/V. The junior captain led the blue and white with 218 points (11.7 per game), 89 rebounds (3.7 per game) 42 steals and 22 assists.
Connor Dahl, Sr., Crofton: Dahl wrapped up his hoops career with a strong year. The senior Warrior averaged 9.5 points and six boards per game, while shooting and impressive 52 percent from the field.
Romeo White, Fr., Santee: White continued his stellar rookie season for the Warriors. After a successful year on the gridiron, White helped pace Santee with 20 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals per contest.
Complete All-Area Lists
The full all-area list, including athletes from Antelope and Knox counties, is below.
Bryce Zimmerer, Sr., Creighton
Cody Hanvey, Jr., Creighton
Josh McFarland, Sr., Elkhorn Valley
Christian Yaw, Sr., Elkhorn Valley
Brock Schaecher, Sr., Elkhorn Valley
Prestin Vondra, Sr., Elkhorn Valley
Mitchell Petersen, Sr., Elkhorn Valley
Hunter Bennett, So., Elkhorn Valley
Adam Miller, So., Elkhorn Valley
Andrew Herley, Sr., Neligh-Oakdale
Cameron Wilkinson, Sr., Neligh-Oakdale
Jayden Arehart, Sr., Neligh-Oakdale
Kaleb Pofahl, Jr., Neligh-Oakdale
Brock Kester, So., Neligh-Oakdale
Dawson Kaup, So., Neligh-Oakdale
Colton Klabenes, So., Neligh-Oakdale
Clay Thiele, Sr., Clearwater/Orchard
Donaven Nolze, Sr., Clearwater/Orchard
Codey Snider, Sr., Clearwater/Orchard
Tommie Peed, Sr., Clearwater/Orchard
Lacey Sprakel, So., Crofton
Josie Sanger, Sr., Crofton
Alexis Arens, Jr., Crofton
Kaley Einrem, So., Crofton
Morgan Kleinschmit, So., Wausa
Ashtyn Fritz, Sr., Creighton
Maycee Zimmerer, Fr., Creighton
Chaney Konopasek, Fr., Niobrara/Verdigre
Hannah Sheridan, Jr., Santee
Amber Miller, Sr., Elkhorn Valley
Hannah Ollendick, Sr., Elkhorn Valley
Sierra Rystrom, Sr., Elkhorn Valley
Allyson Wemhoff, Sr., Elgin Public/Pope John
Paige Furstenau, So., Neligh-Oakdale
Katie Stearns, Sr., Clearwater/Orchard
Tyson Kaiser, Sr., Wausa
Drew Munter, Sr., Wausa
Romeo White, Fr., Santee
Connor Dahl, Sr., Crofton
Camden Eisenhauer, Jr., Niobrara/Verdigre
Braden Eisenhauer, Jr., Bloomfield
Conner Hammer, Jr., Creighton
Blake Hoke, Sr., Clearwater/Orchard
Ryan Wilhelm, Sr., Clearwater/Orchard
Jacob Long, Sr., Clearwater/Orchard
Cole Belitz, Sr., Neligh-Oakdale
Austin Rice, Sr., Neligh-Oakdale
Braedyn Ollendick, So., Elkhorn Valley
Isiac Kurpgeweit, Sr., Neligh-Oakdale
Kyle Schumacher, Sr., Elgin Public/Pope John
Honorable Mention, girls basketball
Crofton - Danielle Steffen, Aubree Potts, Ryah Ostermeyer, Alexis Folkers
Bloomfield - Michaela Johnson, Alexandra Eisenhauer
Wausa - Paige Nissen, Clara Schindler
N/V - Megan Cook
Creighton - Jessica Stevens
EPPJ - Grace Rittscher, Kirsten Krebs, Kayce Kallhoff
Elkhorn Valley - Olivia Nall
N-O - Trinity Kurpgeweit
Honorable Mention, boys basketball
Creighton - Brayden Zimmerer, Clay Curtis, Carson Lilly
Bloomfield - Trenton Holz
Wausa - Ghatlin Hegge, Ethan Baue
N/V - Ken Justo, Rane Vesely
Crofton - Brad Tomasek
Santee - Yamni Archambeau, Antonio Hoffman, Michael Hoffman
OC - Chris Kester, Gage Clifton
EPPJ - Conor Ramold
Elkhorn Valley - Julio Sierra, Brandon Evans, Carter Rautenberg
Creighton senior Bryce Zimmerer has at least one more football game left before he hangs up the cleats.
Zimmerer was picked to play for the North team in the Nebraska Shrine Bowl.
The senior Bulldog helped lead Creighton to its first-ever state championship this past season and a perfect 13-0 record.
In the Class D1 state title game, Zimmerer ran the ball 54 times for 320 yards and two touchdowns.
The Shrine Bowl of Nebraska is the state’s most prestigious high school all-star sports event. The non-profit produces annual events and related activities to raise funds and awareness to benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Shriners Hospitals for Children is a healthcare system of 22 hospitals dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing pediatric specialty care, innovative research, and outstanding teaching programs for medical professionals. Children up to the age of 18 are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of the patients’ ability to pay.
The 61st Annual Nebraska Shrine Bowl will be played Saturday, June 1, in Kearney, at Ron and Carol Cope Stadium on the campus of the University of Nebraska—Kearney.
With the winter season officially over, several top athletes will begin collecting hardware for their stellar play from this past season.
Several athletes from Knox County earned all-Niobrara Valley Conference accolades.
For boys basketball, Niobrara/Verdigre’s Camden Eisenhauer eared second team honors and Rane Vesely was named to the honorable mention squad.
On the girls side, Lady Cougar freshman Chaney Konopasek and senior Megan Cook were selected to the second team, while Santee junior Hannah Sheridan earned honorable mention honors.
Several Knox County cagers were named to the Lewis & Clark all-conference team for their stellar play on the hardwood this year.
In the West Division, 15 athletes earned all-conference honors.
Creighton senior Ashtyn Fritz and freshman Maycee Zimmerer, Wausa sophomore Morgan Kleinschmit and Bloomfield freshman Alexandra Eisenhauer earned all-conference honors. Wausa’s Esther Nelson and Paige Nissen, Creighton’s Jessica Stevens and Bloomfield’s Michaela Johnson were named to the honorable mention team.
On the boys side, Wausa seniors Tyson Kaiser and Drew Munter and Bloomfield junior Braden Eisenhauer were named to the all-conference team, while Bloomfield’s Trenton Holz and Adam Johnson, Creighton’s Connor Hammer and Wausa’s Ghatlin Hegge earned honorable mention honors.
Despite a sizable second-half deficit, the Crofton girls basketball team refused to go away and rallied to give themselves a shot of capturing its ninth state title. But Hastings St. Cecilia held on for a 63-45 victory in the Class C2 state championship contest Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“We fought our tails off,” stated Crofton mentor Aaron Losing. “They just stretched us out defensively and they made nine 3s. It was an uphill battle facing that team. Give St. Cecilia credit, they’re a great team. I got a great team that I coached. Today just wasn’t our day.”
The Lady Warriors were unable to cash in off of Hawkette miscues in the opening quarter, and trailed 18-14 after the first. Crofton caused seven St. Cecilia turnovers in the first eight minutes of play, but scored just 3 points off those turnovers.
Despite their turnover woes, the Hawkettes shot lights out from the field in the first half to claim a 37-23 advantage at the break. St. Cecilia went 14 of 23 from the field, for 61 percent, and 5 of 7 from behind the arc, for 71 percent.
“They just shot the ball outstandingly,” Losing noted. “If they would have shot a more human 35, or 40 percent, from 3-point land; we would have been right in that game. When you shoot that well from the 3-point line, you’re going to win most of your games. They were outstanding and hard to guard.”
The Lady Warriors began their rally attempt in the third quarter. After falling behind 41-29, Crofton used a 7-0 run, capped by an Aubree Potts jumper to cut the deficit to 5.
Midway through the fourth, Lacey Sprakel scored 6 consecutive points to draw within 4.
But the Hawkettes ended the game on a 14-0 run to capture their first state title since 2011.
“We did a good job in the second half of executing on offense,” Losing commented. “We were scoring baskets, playing tough man-to-man defense and cut it down to 4 in the fourth quarter. But after they banked in the 3 to go up 7, things snowballed from there.”
Sprakel led the way with 15 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Josie Sanger recorded 11 points, two assists and three steals, Alexis Arens tallied 9 points and five boards, Ryah Ostermeyer and Danielle Steffen each netted 3 points, while Kaley Einrem and Potts each added 2 points.
Crofton ends its season with a 23-4 record. Seniors Aubree Potts, Danielle Steffen and Josie Sanger continued the Lady Warriors strong tradition of basketball in the Cornhusker state.
“I’m so pumped we got to this point this year,” Losing concluded. “I was talking to coach Bridget Schumacher, who played for us, yesterday and I think in my 15 years here every girl has got to play in at least one state championship game. Josie got to play when she was a freshman. Danielle and Aubree were on the team, but didn’t get to play. We have continued to play really well down here at state and that’s really pleasing as a coach to give the girls for over 15 years the opportunity to play in these games. Win or lose, they are amazing memories for kids. I’m real happy for these seniors. and all the girls, that got to play in this game. Hopefully the underclassmen will try to get back here and win next year or down the road.”
After trading buckets with Fillmore Central in the first quarter, the Crofton girls got to work and cruised to a convincing 63-44 semifinal win to advance to the state championship.
They will play top-seeded Hastings St. Cecilia at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday in the Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“We had amazing defense, amazing teamwork,” Crofton senior Josie Sanger said. “We were telling each other that no one is going to be perfect tonight and no one was perfect. We had our ups and downs, but everyone was so encouraging, so supportive. Everyone picked each other up. It was just an amazing game.”
The #2 Lady Warriors opened the game with an 11-1 lead over the #3 Panthers, but Fillmore Central put together a 7-0 run to get back in it. In fact, with 2:30 left to play, FC went up 15-13 to take their first—and as it turns out, only—lead of the game. Lacey Sprakel answered with a field goal, a putback and a jumper in the lane to give the Lady Warriors a 19-15 advantage at the end of the first.
Crofton didn’t let FC get any closer as they continued to widen the gap in the second, taking a 38-28 halftime lead. The Lady Warriors extended their lead even further in the second half, leading by as much as 22 late in the game.
“We’re pretty darn sound on the defensive end of the court,” Crofton coach Aaron Losing said. “Today we shot the ball extremely well. We’re playing at the top of our game right now. It’s fun to watch.”
The coach said he wasn’t sure what accounted for his team’s sharp shooting.
“I’ve got my lucky shirt on,” he joked was the reason. “We plan around the superstition stuff. We’ve got to get the right outfits on and it worked today.”
In all seriousness, Losing said he thinks playing on a larger stage can heighten a player’s focus.
“When those first couple shots go through the hoop, everybody gets excited and everybody kind of feeds off the adrenaline,” he said. “At the state tournament, there are way bigger swings in emotion and way bigger lens. That emotion just leads to some laser focus that kids don’t always have playing in front of 300 people in their own high school gym throughout the year. Kids just get in zones and play at a higher level down here.”
Sprakel led the way for the Lady Warriors with 28, followed by Kaley Einrem with 12, Danielle Steffen 8, Alexis Arens 5, Ryah Ostermeyer and Elyssa Tramp 3 apiece and Josie Sanger 2.
Crofton has faced Hastings St. Cecilia on multiple trips to the state tournament, including 2013, 2014 and 2015 when the Lady Warriors defeated them for the state title.
“We’ve spent a lot of years against them in the finals or semifinals...every year it’s two really, really high level teams,” Losing said.
He said Crofton will need to prepare well and play tough defense.
“St. Cecilia is good all around, but their guard play is out of this world,” Losing said. “They do have options on the inside, but their ball handlers and their shooters are kind of what make them go. They’ve got some posts that can step outside and hit outside shots too. It will be a challenge to guard them.”
He said all he can do is prepare the girls—the rest is up to them.
“When the game starts, let them go out there and play their hardest,” Losing said. “And we’ve done that for two days.”
Sanger said her team is up for the challenge.
“The first game we were very, very nervous, but now that we got the first and second win, we know we can do it,” she said. “We got to come out tomorrow we definitely feel confident we can be on top as long as we play together as a team. If we stick together, I have a feeling that’s what we’re going to do.”
The #2 Crofton girls cruised to a 19-point victory over #7 Blue Hill to advance in the Class C2 state basketball tournament in Lincoln on Thursday night.
Crofton's 55-36 victory advances them to the semifinal game against Fillmore Central on Friday. They will tip off at 3:45 p.m. in the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
"I was really pleased and impressed with what we did on the defensive end of the court," Warrior coach Aaron Losing said. "We caused them a lot of problems. We used a lot of defense to turn it into offense, especially there in the first half. We fueled some fast break baskets with some steals and layups. We played really hard tonight. We played good basketball."
The Lady Warriors started out trailing the Bobcats, but were able to tie it up midway through the first. After that, Crofton scored 12 unanswered points and never looked back. They held a 21-9 advantage after one quarter of play. The Lady Warriors continued to extend their lead in the second and took a 34-17 advantage into the break.
Crofton had a tough third quarter, but was still able to hold on to a commanding lead, 41-28.
"I would say the third quarter was a struggle for us, but I would also say that we held our ground and played tough defense," Losing said. "We made it somewhat difficult for them as well. It wasn't a thing of beauty in the second half, but we had to make plays late in the third quarter and into the fourth. We stepped up and made those plays when we had to."
The Lady Warriors outscored Blue Hill 14-8 in the final quarter to pick up the decisive win.
Kaley Einrem led Crofton with 16, followed by Josie Sanger with 15, Lacey Sprakel 13, Alexis Arens 5, Danielle Steffen 3, Aubree Potts 2 and Kyah Ostermeyer 1.
Losing said Crofton's dominating offensive rebounding led to their success in the first half.
"Lacey (Sprakel) has had a knack for crashing the offensive glass all year. She was able to do that," he said. "Our guards are quick and tough and physical. They crashed the boards, especially in the first half. And Lacey is a really good offensive rebounder and she scores a lot of points off of it."
After missing out on the 2018 state tourney, Sprakel said her team is using last year's disappointment as motivation.
"We brought a lot of energy," she said. "Last year we didn't make it. We knew how that felt and it did not feel good. This year, we know we can take it farther. We are using it as a lot of motivation."
Losing said most of his team is "a bunch of new kids" since their last state tournament appearance in 2017. He said Sanger was injured and Steffen and Potts didn't get much time on the court.
"Most of these kids were sitting in the stands in elementary and junior high watching when we were going through our really, really good years," Losing said. "And then they came into high school very, very motivated. There were some bumps in the road last year. We are still growing into the team we can become. We definitely are motivated. You can see that in the way that we play."
After missing out on last year’s Class C2 girls state basketball tournament, the Crofton Lady Warriors qualified for the state tourney after defeating Twin River, 48-25, last weekend in the C2-2 district championship game.
Crofton (21-3) opens the Class C2 state tournament tonight against Blue Hill (21-4) at 7 p.m. at Lincoln Southwest.
“Blue Hill is a team that is playing really good right now,” stated Crofton coach Aaron Losing. “They have two really nice post players. Their last game out, they looked real good against Clarkson/Leigh (a 41-25 win in the C2-8 district finals). Clarkson/Leigh plays a little bit similar style to us. They were real successful against that. We’ll have to be prepared to guard some talented inside players and guards on the outside. It will be a tough matchup for us.”
Last season, the Lady Warriors missed out on the state tourney for the first time since 2010.
“It played a role,” Losing added . “Most of these girls had a similar role on last year’s team. We only had one senior who played a lot of minutes last year. Most of these girls got a lot of time last year and have similar roles this year. We were very motivated in the offseason to put in the work, be ready to go this year and continue to improve so we could get to this point. Our three seniors (Aubree Potts, Danielle Steffen and Josie Sanger) have done a great job of leading the group, and all the girls have bought in to the things we needed to improve at and the things we needed to get better at. We had a good year.”
Crofton has been stellar all season, as they are currently riding an 11-game win streak.
The Mid-State Conference champions have used a balanced scoring attack to get them to the final tournament of the season. In 24 games, five different players have been the leading scorer for the Lady Warriors.
“That was one area we needed to improve on in the offseason,” Losing commented. “Lacey (Sprakel) is our leading scorer, but she had to have knee surgery last spring. She wasn’t able to play basketball all summer long with us. That may have been a blessing in disguise and it helped some of the other girls step up as offensive players. It has led to us having different people step up on different nights. I’ve seen a lot of different girls lead us in scoring this year, and girls off the bench that have had real good offensive contributions throughout the year.”
The true key to Crofton’s successful season has been its stifling defense. The maroon and white have held opponents under 38 points per game on average, and only two teams have scored more than 50 points on the Lady Warriors.
“That’s one of the big improvements we made this year,” Losing noted. “Last year we were a very inconsistent defensive team. We spent a lot of time last year reacting to what the offenses were doing. This year we are much more in control of the game defensively. We’ve been able to force a lot of turnovers with our defense and use our defense into pressuring the other team into mistakes. That’s helped us on the offensive end as well.”
The expectations have been high all season and the longtime hoops mentor knows what it takes to leave Lincoln with some hardware.
“The main point you have to get across to the kids is you don’t worry about the big picture,” Losing concluded. “You have to worry about the first game and take it one game at a time. You have to really focus on opponent No. 1. Hopefully we can play a good game and move on to Friday. You don’t want to look ahead, you want to prepare for that first opponent. You have to play a good game because if you don’t play good games down there you don’t move on.”