LINCOLN – Falls City Sacred Heart spent all season ranked No. 1 in Class D-2. The Irish weren’t going to be denied their second straight state championship.
Sacred Heart (27-1) used a 22-8 run in the second half to turn a seven-point deficit into a seven-point advantage.
The Irish knocked down 7-of-8 free throws in the final 32 seconds to hang on for a 57-51 victory over second-seeded Humphrey St. Francis (26-3) Saturday in the state championship game of the Class D-2 girls state basketball tournament.
“It was a great game to watch, a great game to coach and that’s what it’s supposed to be. You dream about winning easy, but you knew that wasn’t going to be the case,” St. Francis head coach Bryan Reichmuth said. “Credit to Falls City Sacred Heart. They’re a fantastic team. They’ve got great bigs, great guards. It’s a tough matchup. We got outplayed in the end.”
It wasn’t the storybook ending Telegram Super Senior Logan Wemhoff was hoping for, but she’s still proud of the way her team played this season.
“It’s been a dream since I was a freshman to come down here,” she said. “It felt good to be back. It may not have turned out the way we wanted, but it’s still good.”
Lauren Parrish scored a game-high 19 points while Sara Wertenberger added 10 points and 11 rebounds for Sacred Heart.
Wemhoff led St. Francis with 15 points. Star freshman Allison Weidner stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and six steals. Bridget McPhillips and Tara Foltz both added nine points for the Flyers.
Wemhoff and Weidner clicked almost instantly on the court and their 1-2 punch was a nightmare for opponents the entire season.
“Allison is an amazing basketball player,” Wemhoff said. “I wouldn’t trade her for the world. She sees the court so well. She’s a really good friend of mine”
After being held to just two first-half points in Friday’s semifinal against Exeter-Milligan, Wemhoff wasted no time getting going offensively in the championship game.
The 5-foot-11 senior knocked down a 3-pointer and scored five points in the opening minutes to take a 7-4 lead early on.
The Irish kept pace with its offensive rebounding, creating extra opportunities for themselves and pulling ahead 8-7. For the game, Sacred Heart out-rebounded St. Francis 42-25.
Wemhoff finished with nine points in the opening eight minutes as the Flyers led 15-14.
Two quick fouls in the first minute of the second quarter put the senior on the bench.
The Irish took a 21-17 lead on a marathon possession that featured two offensive rebounds by Sacred Heart and five called fouls on St. Francis. Parrish finally finished the possession with a traditional 3-point play.
Tara Foltz answered with a trey on the other end off an offensive rebound.
Wemhoff and Weidner put the Flyers back ahead late in the first half. Wemhoff came up short on a 3-pointer but followed her shot and scored on a putback. Weidner then came up with back-to-back steals. The freshman finished the first one herself, then dished to Foltz for an easy lay in, giving St. Francis a 27-25 lead at the break.
Wemhoff, who played the final five minutes of the first half with two fouls, led the Flyers with 11 points in the first half. Foltz continued her strong state tournament with nine first-half points while Weidner displayed her superb passing abilities with five points and five assists.
Parrish scored the first six points of the second half for Sacred Heart as the Irish jumped ahead 33-31. McPhillips answered with seven straight points for the Flyers, who retook a 40-33 lead on a 9-0 run midway through the third quarter and led 41-37 going to the fourth quarter.
“We score in bunches and it felt really good. I thought we got control of it,” Reichmuth said.
Yet another steal and layup from Weidner opened the fourth quarter scoring, but Sacred Heart answered with a 3-pointer and later tied the game at 46-all midway through the fourth quarter.
Wertenberger’s bucket put the Irish ahead to stay 50-48. Five free throws in a row capped the 22-8 run.
“When (Randee Witt) is in there, she’s a great shooter and we really have to fly out which exposes us in the middle. Those two bigs inside are tough and they capitalized on our adjustments,” Reichmuth said.
Witt knocked down 2 of her 4 3-point attempts in the game.
St. Francis returns a lot of his team, but Reichmuth knows they’ll miss the three seniors – Wemhoff, McPhillips and Riley Maple --next season
“We lose three great seniors. Logan has been a starter since her sophomore year, you just don’t replace that,” he said.
The head coach will rest easy knowing Weidner back to lead the team next season and we’ll do whatever it takes to get her to the next level as a player.
“I don’t know what her ceiling is,” he said. “I believe in Allison to no end. We’re going to keep notching her level up. I’m going to do everything I can to help her. She’s very driven. Without Logan, Allison’s going to get all the attention. Her road up is going to get more difficult. But if you can get somebody like that back as your base for a couple, three more years, that’s pretty good on a coach’s heart.”