Wahoo Neumann’s Aspen Jansa (24) drives to the basket against Scotus Central Catolic’s Courtney Kosch (25) during the championship game of the Class C-1 girls state basketball tournament Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

FRANCIS GARDLER, Lincoln Journal Star

COLUMBUS -- A million things raced through Grace Odbert’s head as she lay on her back with her family and medical personnel standing around her.

The Scotus Central Catholic senior went down trying to defend Creighton basketball recruit Chloe Dworak on a fast break during the district title game on Feb. 23.

Officials sent both the Shamrocks and Lincoln Christian to their respective locker rooms to tend to Odbert, who was wheeled out 

of the gym nearly a half hour later with an air cast on her leg after dislocating her right knee.

“I was kind of thinking about everything,” Odbert said. “It was an awesome game and everybody played so well. I knew that I left everything out on the court that night, so I don’t have any regrets with how I played.”

Odbert watched a stream of the game's conclusion on her mom’s cell phone during the ambulance ride to the hospital. She got to see her team win in overtime and lock up a berth in the state tournament.

An MRI showed that the senior completely tore her ACL, had partial tears to her MCL and meniscus and sprained her PCL. Her season was done, but the Shamrocks were not.

“It was really hard to watch everyone play and not get to be out there with them, but at the same time, it taught me how to be a different kind of leader for my team, which sometimes they needed,” Odbert said. “It taught me a different perspective of the game.”

She talked to Bailey Lehr during halftime of the Class C-1 state title game as Scotus was looking at a 7-point deficit. Lehr had seven points and seven rebounds, including the game-tying 3-pointer to force overtime, in the second half to help the Shamrocks win their first state title in 14 years.

Odbert gave encouraging words to junior Courtney Kosch, who had played in exactly half of the Shamrocks’ games prior to the state tournament and was the primary replacement for Odbert.

“I’ve always seen a little bit of myself in how she plays and I told her take open shots when she can get them because she’s a great shooter which is something she adds to the team that I don’t really. That’s not my strength,” Odbert said. “I just told her to go out there and not play scared."

Kosch was up to the challenge.

“I knew then that I had to step it up,” Kosch said. “The seniors all worked so hard so I really wanted to step it up for them and play my best.”

The junior came into the state tournament with four points, eight rebounds and three assists on the season, but came up with some big-time plays after getting over some pre-tournament jitters.

“The first game was super scary and I was really overwhelmed because I’ve obviously never played like that,” Kosch said. “The next games it got easier.”

In the semifinal against Mitchell, Kosch scored five points in the first quarter, more than doubling her season total. Her 3-pointer in the closing seconds gave the Shamrocks a 16-3 lead against the top-ranked Tigers. In the state title game against Wahoo Neumann, Kosch had a team-high three assists and grabbed a couple of rebounds while helping hold the Cavaliers’ Aspen Jansa to a 4-for-18 shooting performance.

Odbert believed in her all along.

“I knew she was capable of doing what she did for the team this weekend,” she said.

Kosch relied on Odbert and the other seniors to help her during the tournament.

“It happened really fast. It was a tough situation, but the seniors really calmed us all down and helped us get through it,” she said.

Now Kosch hopes to repay the favor to the younger players on next season’s team when she will be one of the senior leaders.

“I feel like the tournament and all the pressure will help us calm down everyone else and bring us all together,” Kosch said. “I think we’ll do well still.”

As for Odbert, the injury, ensuing surgery and months of rehab were totally worth it for the payoff of a state title.

“If hurting my knee meant that we would win all over again, I’d do it all over again,” Odbert said. “That’s something so special for the team. We’re not going to be able to experience that the way we did experience it ever again.”


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