They knew it was coming. The strategy O’Neill St. Mary’s would employ in the first round of the 2017 Nebraska Girls State Tournament was certainly no secret.
However, despite knowing St. Mary’s pressure was coming and having prepared for it, the Spalding Academy Shamrocks still wilted under the mid-game charge of the Class D2 #2 seeded Cardinals in a 59-41 loss at Lincoln Southwest High School.
Spalding Academy, making the first state tourney appearance in program history, did not get off to a terrible start in the contest, trailing St. Mary’s 18-13 after one quarter of play.
But, when the Cardinal blitz hit, it was like a blur, as St. Mary’s reeled off a 24-3 run over the second and third quarters.
Leading 27-19, the Cards scored the final nine points of the first half, then opened the second half with another six straight. After Academy sophomore Kelly Kleffner ended that 15-0 stretch with a three-point field goal, St. Mary’s rattled off another nine straight points to put the Shamrocks in a 51-22 hole.
“We just turned the ball over,” Academy Coach Dori Gills commented to reporters following the game. “We had 12 turnovers in the first half, and I’m going to say it led to 24 points. We knew that press was going to come. We just didn’t handle it.”
Academy continued to battle, outscoring the Cardinals 17-8 in the final period, but the big third period hole was simply too deep to climb out of.
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