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."