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'I can't explain it:' The light comes on for Ponca offense in victory over No. 4 BRLD
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'I can't explain it:' The light comes on for Ponca offense in victory over No. 4 BRLD

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BRLD vs. Ponca, 3.4

Ponca’s Samantha Ehlers (44) smiles after making a first-half basket against BRLD’s Megan Beutler (12) on Thursday during the Class C-2 state semifinals at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Throughout the season, the Ponca girls basketball team has focused on holding opponents below 10 points in each quarter.

That focus has resulted in some low-scoring games, such as Ponca’s 28-23 win over Cross County in the district final, but the Indians never forgot how to shoot the ball.

Sophomores Ashlyn Kingsbury and Samantha Ehlers led the Indians to a 21-for-51 (41%) shooting performance as No. 8 Ponca defeated No. 4 BRLD 55-37 in the semifinals of the Class C-2 girls state tournament Thursday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

"Our offense for about two weeks there just didn’t show up," Ponca coach Bob Hayes said. "We couldn’t get the ball to go in the basket, and all of (a) sudden down here it shows up. I can’t explain it."

Still, it took a couple of minutes for Ponca (21-4) to settle into the game after BRLD (21-5) took an early 10-2 lead. Ehlers and Kingsbury responded by leading Ponca on a 19-0 run that built up a 30-17 halftime lead.

Kingsbury made four of Ponca’s six three-pointers and led all players with 23 points, while Ehlers turned in a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double. Ehlers also performed admirably on defense against 6-foot-2 BRLD junior Jordan Snyder, who paced the Wolverines with 12 points.

"The better the competition for Sam, the better she plays. She was really up to the task tonight," Hayes said.

In addition to its new-found offensive success, the Indians didn’t abandon their game plan on defense, either. They forced 26 turnovers and limited BRLD to a 14-for-43 (32.5%) shooting performance.

A 15-point fourth-quarter lead meant that Kingsbury, Ehlers and the rest of Ponca’s starters exited to a standing ovation with three minutes remaining. The Indians will spend a day off at home on Friday, but their minds will certainly be upon the challenge they’ll face Saturday in Lincoln.

After falling to Hastings St. Cecilia in last season’s title game, Ponca will play for a C-2 state title for the second year in a row. They’ll have to face No. 1 Crofton, an opponent that the Indians lost to 57-46 on Jan. 5.

"The thing we’ll take from the title game last year is that we got off to a good start but took our foot off the gas," Hayes said. "We learned from that, and if we’re in it Saturday night, I don’t think we’re going to take our foot off the gas."

Reach Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.

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