LINCOLN – Scotus Central Catholic’s starters were subbed out, posing for pictures on the bench.
The reserves were putting the finishing touches on a 49-32 upset victory over fourth-seeded Wahoo (23-4) on Thursday in the first round of the Class C-1 girls state basketball tournament for the Shamrocks’ first win at the state since 2004.
“The locker room, the kids we have, they just rally around each other and find ways to win games,” Scotus head coach Jarrod Ridder said.
The Shamrocks (20-5) put together their best game of the season and completely outclassed the Warriors, whose first three losses of the season came by a combined 12 points.
Almost from the opening tip, Scotus played their game, their way.
“We controlled the tempo,” Ridder said. “They like to get out run and play fast and we did a great job controlling the pace of this game.”
The Shamrocks took care of the ball and forced the Warriors into contested jump shots.
“Our girls played really well defensively. Everything they got, they had to earn,” Ridder said. “If they get out and run, that really helps them and we never turned the ball over and gave them chances for easy runouts.”
Marika Spencer provided her usual spark off the bench with seven first-quarter points to get the Shamrocks out to an 11-5 lead after the opening quarter.
“We started out and made some shots right away and they missed some and we were like this is our game. We just took it from there.” said junior Bailey Lehr, who scored the Shamrocks’ other four points in the first quarter.
Scotus scored the first five points of the second quarter to increase its lead to 16-5, holding Wahoo scoreless for about nine minutes spanning the end of the first and start of the second periods.
A brief 5-0 spurt by the Warriors cut the Shamrocks’ lead to 16-10, but Maggie Feehan answered with back-to-back drives to the hoop and Scotus took a 20-12 lead into the break.
“We said all week, it’s about composure,” Ridder said. “They’re going to get after you and be on you. You know they’re going to make some shots, you just have to handle it. We didn’t let it rattle us.”
Scotus got everything it wanted offensively, using Wahoo’s aggressiveness against it.
“If they’re going to pressure us, there are gaps there to be had and opportunities to get to the lane,” Ridder said.
The Shamrocks missed a couple shots at the rim to start the second half and didn’t score for the first three minutes of the third quarter. That was the opening for Wahoo to get back in the game, but the Shamrocks’ defense never slipped, only giving up two points in that span.
Just like she did in the first half, Spencer, who finished with 13 points, got Scotus back in rhythm with back-to-back baskets, giving the Shamrocks a 24-14 lead.
Scotus continued to attack the lane whether on drives to the hoop or by feeding the post. The Shamrocks were unafraid to attack Wahoo center Kyla Swanson who stands 6-foot-3.
“Well it helps with who we practice against,” said Lehr, referring to reserve Amber Buhman, who is over 6-feet tall herself.
Grace Wickham finally knocked down an outside shot for the Shamrocks, giving them a 35-20 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Scotus made 11 of 17 free throws in the final quarter to keep Wahoo at a distance, never letting the Warriors get back with 10 points.
Taryn Scheef led Wahoo with 12 points.
Lehr finished with a game-high 15 points, making 11 of 12 free throw attempts, including 9 of 10 in the fourth quarter.
Maggie Feehan added 13 points for Scotus, which advances to play No. 1 Mitchell (27-0) in the semifinals Friday at 10:45 a.m. at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
With eight consecutive wins, half of them against ranked teams, the Shamrocks aren’t intimidated by the Tigers and their undefeated record.
“It’s going to be a fun challenge for us. It’d be awesome to be the one loss for them,” said Lehr.
Ridder is just focused on making sure the Shamrocks continue to play their game.
“We’ve just got to come out and control what we can control and let the chips fall as they may,” he said.