LINCOLN -- When Exeter-Milligan neutralized Humphrey St. Francis’ star players in the first half, the Flyers turned to their outside shooting to power them.
Second-seeded St. Francis (26-2) knocked down seven first-half 3-pointers and finished with eight for the game, overwhelming the third-seeded Timberwolves (22-7) in a 74-58 victory in the semifinals of the Class D-2 girls state basketball tournament at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
St. Francis advances to play No. 1 Falls City Sacred Heart at 8:30 p.m. in the state title game Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“We’ve been No. 1 and No. 2 all year long, let’s go knock it out,” St. Francis head coach Bryan Reichmuth said.
The Flyers got big games from a couple unlikely sources as Tara Foltz led all scorers with 20 points, knocking down four 3-pointers. Riley Maple, who’s still working her way back from a broken finger, added 11 points, including three treys. Telegram Super Senior Logan Wemhoff finished with 16, 14 in the second half and Allison Weidner added 11 points.
Kate Jansky led Exeter-Milligan with 17 points.
Wemhoff made her presence felt right away, coming up with an early offensive rebound leading to a Tara Foltz 3-pointer to open the scoring.
Foltz added another trey moments later to help the Flyers out to an early 8-4 lead. Neither team wasted much time adjusting to the big stage, running up and down the court in a fast-paced first quarter, which ended with the teams knotted at 17-all.
When Wemhoff picked up her second foul early in the second quarter, Reichmuth had a decision on his hand.
“I really struggled with what to do with her in the first half. I just decided if we kept an 8- or 10- point lead then I’d rest her,” the head coach said.
St. Francis’ outside shooting made the decision easy for him.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Tara Foltz, her third of the game and Allison Weidner gave the Flyers a 23-17 lead.
Riley Maple’s trey made it 30-21 and her second of the quarter gave St. Francis a 35-25.
“They were huge,” Reichmuth said of the 3-pointers. “We actually extended the lead with (Wemhoff) on the bench which is not normal for us. We rely on her for a lot and if she’s not scoring, she’s rebounding so that was important. It really set the stage for the second half.”
The Timberwolves answered with a 3-pointer to make it 35-28 at half.
Foltz and Maple scored 10 points apiece in the first half to lead St. Francis as the Timberwolves held Wemhoff to just two points and Weidner to five.
Foltz continued her hot shooting with her fourth trey of the game sandwiched by a pair of buckets from Weidner gave the Flyers a 42-33 lead in the opening moments of the second half.
Wemhoff finally got going late in the third quarter, scoring seven straight points as the Flyers extended their lead to 58-42 by the end of the period.
“She’s doesn’t like sitting. She was pretty motivated to go,” Reichmuth said.
The 5-foot-11 senior opened the fourth quarter scoring with four more points for St. Francis as Exeter-Milligan tried to make a fourth-quarter charge.
Kate Jansky’s 3-pointer made it 62-52 with 4:47 remaining and the Timberwolves had several possessions to cut the lead to single digits.
An 8-2 run by the Flyers iced the game.
“I think we wore them down a little bit and were able to get some easy buckets that put us over the top,” Reichmuth said.
Now the stage is set for one of just to No. 1 versus No. 2 matchups in the state final, with top-seeded Millard South and No. 2 Omaha Westside in Class A being the other.
“We’re going to have to play better defense than tonight, I don’t want another score-fest. But we’re so excited to be there,” Reichmuth said.