GRAND ISLAND — The title of Lincoln Christian’s press-break offense embodied exactly what the No. 5 Crusaders needed to pull out a 41-36 win over Broken Bow in Friday’s Class C1-5 girls district final.
“'Poise' is actually the name of our press break,” Lincoln Christian coach Nick Orduna said after his team clinched its fifth straight state tournament berth.
Christian showed plenty of it to hold off the Indians (20-6). They endured Broken Bow’s full-court attack and took care of the ball for the final four minutes of the game to protect a five-point lead.
“They were sitting back in their 2-3, so we thought we could stretch that and then dribble-drive,” Orduna said. “We probably pulled out too early. Four minutes is quite a bit, but they stayed in it quite a bit."
Broken Bow hit three three-pointers in the opening quarter and played effective zone defense to limit Christian’s Olivia Hollenbeck, a 6-foot-4 junior who had a game-high 13 points.
Christian extended its lead to as much as nine points in the second half after hitting some perimeter shots. Orduna said the plan in practice all week was to get some other players going if Hollenbeck received double-teams.
Sophomore Halle Hueser came off the bench to hit a trio of three-pointers, and a defensive switch took care of the Indians’ offense.
“We did a good job of getting in the paint and obviously we hit some shots,” Broken Bow coach Kelly Cooksley said. “But they switched in the second half to switching our ball screen, and we couldn’t get as much penetration and we couldn’t free up our shooters as much.”
Christian created separation in the third quarter with a 14-8 spurt and was able to keep Broken Bow at an arm’s length the rest of the way.
The Crusaders missed all three free throws they took in the fourth quarter and missed some easy baskets, but Broken Bow struggled to get quality looks down the stretch.
Christian (17-8) is no stranger to the state tournament, but many of their players were not key contributors in the past. Orduna said close games like Friday’s may help to get his team ready.
It was an unprecedented season for Broken Bow, which finished 12-12 last year. The Indians returns most of their roster for next year.
“I don’t think anybody in the entire state of Nebraska even picked us to be in this game, let alone be within a couple possessions,” Cooksley said. “It’s been a great year. I think we tied our school record for wins. And the great thing about it is we have everybody who played tonight back.”