The Newman Grove Lady Jays overcame nerves and Randolph to win the D1-3 District championship Friday, Feb. 25, and earn a trip to Lincoln for the 2011 Nebraska Girls State Championships tournament.
Newman Grove overcame a sluggish start and offensive inconsistency to defeat the Cardinals 59-48 and improve its overall season record to 21-3.
Underdog Randolph pushed the Bluejays throughout and were within six points in the waning minutes. Newman Grove’s April Ramaekers arced in a 3-pointer with just over two minutes remaining and the Jays then sank a string of free throws to seal the district title.
“We haven’t been shooting free throws all that well, but really hit them down the stretch and that helped us put it away,” Newman Grove Coach Ross Nelson acknowledged.
Along with their cool efficiency at the foul line, Nelson credited his team’s success to defensive pressure and rebounding.
“The overall key to the win was keeping them off the boards,” he noted.
The district championship and state tournament berth culminate a season that began with high hopes in Newman Grove. The Jays returned four seniors, five starters and 10 overall letterwinners from a team that finished 12-10 in 2009-10 and that experience helped this year’s squad navigate successfully through the always-tough Cornhusker Conference, as well as the D1-6 sub-district and D1-3 district final.
Newman Grove handed D2 defending state champion Lindsay Holy Family its only loss of the 2010-11 season and the Jays’ only losses were to Howells (twice) and Elkhorn Valley – teams that are in the D1 and D2 state tournament fields, respectively.
Newman Grove, seeded #5, will open the D1 state tournament against #4 seed Pender (19-6) Thursday at Lincoln Southwest (8:45 p.m.). A win would advance the Jays to an 8:45 semi-final contest Friday at Pershing against the West Point C.C. (#1, 22-3)/ Amherst (#8, 19-5) winner.
The D1 championship game will be at 4:30 p.m. Saturday (Devaney Center) and the third-place contest is scheduled for 12 p.m. Saturday at Lincoln East High School.
Newman Grove will be making just its second appearance in the girls state tournament, the first since 1994. Pender has had an even longer state tourney dry spell, its last appearance in 1986.
Nelson is Newman Grove’s season scoring leader, averaging 12.1 per game. Pokorny has scored 10 per contest, followed by Audrey Wondercheck (5.6), Caitlin Bennett (5.5) and Ramaekers (4.8). Leading rebounders for the Jays are Wondercheck (6.2) and Bennett (5.0).
Further Details in Print & Online Editions of Albion News.