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Inside The Matchups: Championship Saturday



Saturday is the day. Girls basketball state champions will be crowned in Classes A through D-2 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln. Here are brief breakdowns for all six games, starting with the earliest tip-offs.

Class D-1 | 9 a.m
Pleasanton Bulldogs (27-1) vs. Weeping Water Indians (23-5) 

Pleasanton’s senior class is on one heck of a run — it’s a combined 224-19 in both volleyball and basketball during its four years and won the 2020 state basketball and volleyball championships.

If the Bulldogs want to repeat on the basketball court and send its seniors off with another trophy, they’ll need to stop Weeping Water senior Grace Cave, a Nebraska-Omaha basketball commit. Cave came into the tournament averaging 21 points and five rebounds. The dynamic guard scored a game-high 24 points in her team’s 51-50 overtime win over Hartington Cedar Catholic in the semifinals.

Pleasanton is led by four players who average over 10 points in seniors Kaci Pierce, Isabelle Paitz, Katelyn Lindner and junior Chelsea Fisher.

Weeping Water’s Grace Cave pulls up for a jumper in the Class D-1 semifinals. (nebpreps photo / Marcus Scheer)

Class C-1 | 10:45 a.m
North Bend Central Tigers (23-3) vs. Hastings St. Cecilia Hawkettes (24-2) 

North Bend is the defending C-1 state champs. But St. Cecilia has won the past two C-2 titles. This is a powerhouse showdown in the 10:45 a.m. slot.
North Bend junior Sydney Emanuel erupted for 27 points in her team’s semifinal win over Winnebago on Friday morning. St. Cecilia will also be tasked with trying to stop another Emanuel — Kaitlyn — who came into the tournament averaging 16 points and eight rebounds.

St. Cecilia is led by its all-everything junior guard Bailey Kissinger, a Nebraska-Kearney commit, who scored 12 of her team’s 29 points in a low-scoring 29-25 win over Lincoln Lutheran in the semifinals. Don’t sleep on other Hawkettes, though, as senior Katherine Hamburger came into the tournament averaging 10 points and seven rebounds and is capable of giving opponents headaches.

North Bend Central Sydney Emmanuel scored 27 points in the Tigers 60-40 win over Winnebago. (nebpreps photo / Marcus Scheer)

Class B | 2 p.m.
Norris Titans (22-2) vs. Elkhorn North Wolves (20-2)

It’s the seasoned vets of Norris against the team that doesn’t have a single senior on its roster in Elkhorn North, which is also in its first year as a school.

Brianna Stai, a Central Missouri basketball commit, led the Titans to a 43-36 win over York in their semifinal with 16 points. She was a handful for the Dukes’ defense to handle in the post in the fourth quarter, where she scored seven.

It’s not all Stai, though. Norris has multiple players that can be a pain to defend, including seniors Madison Collier, Kalli Kroeker and junior Delaney White.

Freshman sensation Britt Prince leads the young Wolves into the title game. Prince came into the tournament averaging 23 points and seven rebounds, and poured in a game-high 27 points against Scottsbluff on Friday.

Another player that may have a big impact in this contest is Reilly Palmer, a junior forward who scored the first seven points of Elkhorn North’s fourth quarter against Scottsbluff. She finished the win with 19 points and can hurt a defense if it overplays Prince.

Norris’ Brianna Stai connects on a 3-point shot at the third quarter buzzer over York’s Maddie Portwine. (nebpreps photo / Ben Mohorn)

Class D-2 | 3:45 p.m.
Humphrey St. Francis Flyers (24-0) vs. Falls City Sacred Heart Irish (26-2)

After finishing runner-up last year to Wynot, is there a perfect season in store for Husker basketball commit Allison Weidner and St. Francis? Maybe. Falls City Sacred Heart will hope to give the Flyers everything they can handle and more on Saturday.

Leading the Irish into the championship game is junior Erison Vonderschmidt, who came to Lincoln averaging 16 points and seven rebounds. She had 17 points in Sacred Heart’s 41-27 win over Wynot. The Irish might be without one of its top players in Rachel Magdanz, however, who had to leave the game against Wynot with an injury.

Weidner was in a battle with Nebraska-Kearney basketball commit Samantha Moore and Mullen in their semifinal, but St. Francis was the 65-59 winner. Weidner netted 31 points and got a clutch 28 from her teammate, Alissa Kosch.

Humphrey St. Francis standout Allison Wiedner scored 31 points in the semifinals against Mullen. (nebpreps photo / Marcus Scheer)

Class A | 7 p.m.
Lincoln Pius X Thunderbolts (24-0) vs. Fremont (23-3) at 7 p.m.

Pius X — a program that has won 50 of its last 51 games — is looking for back-to-back state championships on Saturday.

And it’s top player, 6-foot-3 Nebraska basketball signee Alexis Markowski, had the impact you’d expect a Division I recruit would have in the Bolts’ semifinal win over a tough Omaha Central. She scored every which way from the post in netting 30 points and 27 rebounds.

Fremont advanced to the school’s first title game after defeating Millard South 70-64 in the highest-scoring Class A semifinal ever. Iowa commit Taylor McCabe led the Tigers with 18 points in the win.

The Tigers will get their third shot at defeating Pius this season. Markowski had 22 and 12 rebounds in the first matchup on Dec. 22. The second game was in the HAC tournament championship, a 79-67 Thunderbolt win and Markowski had 42 points and 22 rebounds.

Expect another high-scoring game in the final and the stars to shine again.

Pius’ center Alexis Markowski tries to score against Omaha Central’s Nyanuar Pal in the Class A semifinals. (nebpreps photo / Marcus Scheer)

Class C-2 | 8:45 p.m.
Crofton Warriors (25-3) vs. Ponca Indians (21-4)

Crofton is what you’d call a powerhouse program. The Warriors have played in 12 state championships and won eight. They’ve been to state in 13 of the last 14 years.

Up to this point, Crofton has played like a powerhouse, too. It beat Bridgeport 66-48 in a semifinal on Wednesday behind 17 points from Ella Wragge and 15 from Lacey Sprakel. Alexis Folkers provided an outside-shooting presence with nine points and a couple 3s.

Ponca was able to get past Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur in a semifinal thanks in large part to the play of sophomore Ashlyn Kingsbury, who scored a game-high 23 points and drilled four 3s. The Warriors better account for another talented sophomore — Samantha Ehlers, who also scored 15 against BRLD.

Ponca’s Ashlyn Kingsbury celebrates a basket in their semifinal win over BRLD. (nebpreps photo / Marcus Scheer)

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