The Elkhorn Valley girls basketball team is Lincoln-bound for the first time since 2012, after defeating Lawrence/Nelson, 49-41, Friday to win the Class D1-7 district championship at Central City.
“We knew coming into the game we were going to have to play our best and defense was going to be key, then our offense would come,” EV senior Hannah Ollendick said. “I think that happened tonight. We had good defense and we all shot well. It was a good win for us and we’re all excited about going down to state.”
It was all the Lady Falcons in the first eight minutes of play, as EV led 20-6 after the first quarter. The Big Green took advantage of the Lady Raiders miscues, turning nine L/N turnovers into 12 points.
“It was pretty big for us,” commented EV senior Amber Miller on gaining the early momentum. “We talked about it before the game with coach (Brendan Dittmer) that we need to come out strong and give it our all. This has been a goal for a while. We said we were going to press them, see how much we can do and keep going. We have so many fans and supporters, and once we got some buckets they started going crazy. That was probably the most fun part.”
The Lady Raiders made their run in the second, cutting the deficit to 11 at the break.
Defense reigned in the third quarter, as both teams scored 6 points each and combined for eight turnovers in the third.
The Lady Raiders made their move in the fourth with a 10-3 run to cut EV’s lead to 4 with under two minutes to play.
“In the fourth quarter, when they came back, you get nervous,” EV junior Olivia Nall said. “But you just keep your composure and you get to the huddles where everyone is patting each other on the back, and they’re saying, ‘You got this and you can do this.’ When it came down to the last minute, we got a boost of confidence that we were going to win this game.”
Leading 42-37 with 1:24 remaining in the contest, freshman Carney Black stepped up to the free throw line for two crucial free throws. The Lady Falcons rookie calmly drained both freebies, as EV ended the contest on an 8-4 run to punch its ticket to Lincoln.
“Coach Dittmer always tells us to just think dribble, dribble, swish; or whatever routine we do and that’s what I did,” Black recalled of her free throw shots. “I thought I had to clear my mind, think about nothing and leave everybody out off it. That’s what I gotta do and I made both of them.”
Ollendick had a big part in fending off the Lady Raider rally. The senior Lady Falcon netted 10 of EV’s 19 second-half points.
“If I score in the first half a little bit, I get going in the second half,” Ollendick remarked. “I just have to keep my confidence and it will come.”
The defense was huge in the win, as the Lady Falcons turned 21 L/N turnovers into 18 points.
“Our defense and press really made them work,” EV senior Sierra Rystrom noted. “They had to figure out what to do and they had a lot of turnovers, which helped us in our transition game. We frustrated them a lot, which made them turn over the ball. That led to our offense and our defense was playing hard. That’s what got us here today.”
All three seniors scored at least 9 points, led by Ollendick’s 19 points, eight rebounds, three assists and seven steals. Miller tallied 11 points, two assists and three steals, Rystrom recorded 9 points, five boards and four steals, Black netted 6 points, Nall had 2 points, three rebounds and three helpers and Kaylee Bacon added 2 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“It has to start on defense with our press and transitions into points,” Rystrom continued. “Hannah (Ollendick) had some really good layups and she finished well. Carney (Black) hit some free throws when we needed them and Amber (Miller) hit 3-pointers when we needed them. Our transition game helped us win this game.”
Elkhorn Valley (23-4) begins tournament play Thursday in the Class D1 state tourney.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Miller concluded on ending her career at state. “I remember when I was little, I was in the Omaha World Herald for being a supporter of our team that won the state championship (in 2010). Then I got to be a student manager when they placed at state (EV placed fourth in 2012). Now being able to be on the court and play down there is awesome. Our team has worked hard this year and we couldn’t end the season in a better way.”
As Cameron Wilkinson and Brock Kester took their place on the Class D 113-pound medal stand Saturday night, the two Neligh-Oakdale wrestlers shared a quick glance and slight smile.
They didn’t talk about what was happening, but their presence said it all. Neligh-Oakdale had just made state wrestling history.
Although the Warriors didn’t want to make a big deal out of the feat, the two state medalists made Nebraska wrestling history on Saturday at CHI Health Center as the first two wrestlers from the same school to earn medals at the same weight.
“Oh, yeah. I was thinking about it,” admitted Kester, who stood on the podium receiving the fifth-place medal. “It was really cool to be able to do that. I think it says something about the program. We’re making a mark.”
Wilkinson agreed, “It was pretty cool. This was the first time anyone had done this, so to do that well the first year is quite an accomplishment.”
Wilkinson, who claimed state runner-up honors this year after placing fourth in 2017, was all smiles as he talked about sharing the podium with the underclassman. The senior and sophomore never faced one another at state.
“We are teammates first,” Wilkinson said. “We’re like brothers. Every since he came in as a freshman, I knew he could be a four-time state placer. I actually thought I could be the first to do that in school history, but I didn’t. He has the opportunity to do it, so I’ve pushed him ever since he came in. So far, he’s on track.”
Kester, who wrestled at 106 last year, earned a fifth place medal at state as a freshman.
This season marked the first year schools were allowed to enter two wrestlers in one weight class. However, in doing so, the school had to designate which wrestlers would be utilized for team points. Also, no more than 14 total wrestlers could be entered into district competition.
Neligh-Oakdale qualified two sets of wrestlers in two of the same weight classes this year. Senior Jayden Arehart and junior Kaleb Pofahl both qualified for state at 170 as well. Elkhorn Valley also had utilized the new rule at 160 with Josh McFarland and Mitchell Petersen.
Both Amherst (Class D 170) and Southwest (Class D 285) also qualified two with the rule. But no other school was able to medal two wrestlers in the same weight.
Neligh-Oakdale coach Gary Davis said a key to that success is having two great wrestlers training one another, battling it out on the mat daily. To be the best, they wrestled the best in the state each day in practice.
“Steel sharpens steel,” Davis said. “That’s a perfect example. Those two made each other better. For the last month, they trained together, warmed up together. If it was going to happen, those two were a perfect fit.”
Davis referenced a situation several years ago with another school where a state medalist was unable to wrestle at the varsity level all season because he was beat out by a teammate.
“This was a perfect example of letting that kid have a chance to compete,” he said. “To have two teammates who were that close and worked that hard be able to realize their dream together, that’s as cool as it gets. It was a great week, and that really topped it off.”
Kester spent much of the season wrestling at 120 but felt 113 was a better weight for him. Wilkinson said Kester actually planned to wrestle at 106 at districts, but after the season was going, he asked Wilkinson if he minded if they both wrestle at 113.
“I told him, ‘Do whatever you need to do to be as successful as you can,’” Wilkinson said. “By the time he was able to go 113, he was doing really well. I knew there was a chance to do well at districts, so to go one and two, I felt like we had a good chance.”
Wilkinson won the district title over Kester in one of the most unusual bouts in district history. After shaking hands, the official smiled and moved out of their way just as the teammates dropped to an arm wrestling match. Wilkinson then flipped over the top of Kester for a quick pin.
After both grapplers advanced to the district final, they met in the locker room and decided to have fun in the final.
“He said, ‘It’s your senior year, so we might as well make some fun out of it,’” Wilkinson said of his talk with Kester. “We did the arm wrestling deal and made everyone laugh. It was worth it.”
Davis later admitted he was worried about the two wrestlers meeting on the mats in Omaha, but the longtime coach said he never dictates how the match will go.
“I leave it in their hands,” he said. “The district final was interesting. All they said was, ‘Hey coach, can we have some fun with this?’ I told them two things — make sure you can wrestle next week and let the official know. But I can tell you, I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Davis can’t help but get a little misty-eyed when talking about Wilkinson and Kester. While making state history is nice, it’s their work ethic and leadership that make him the most proud.
“If it was going to happen to anybody, it couldn’t have happened to two better wrestlers in the aspect of their work ethic. When Brock came up, Cam took him under his wing a little bit. It was neat they were able to do it,” Davis said. “It proves what kind of teammates those two are and how close this group is. They are a close group and work their tails off. That’s the only way that happens — through their work ethic.”
A sluggish defensive start in the first quarter cost the Elgin Public/Pope John boys basketball team, as the Wolfpack lost to Stuart, 56-32, in the semifinals of the subdistrict tournament Tuesday.
The Broncos opened the game on a 32-15 run to claim the early momentum and pull away early.
Senior Kyle Schumacher led the way with 16 points. Colton Wright netted 8 points, senior RJ Lierman poured in 6 points and Conor Ramold added 2 points and three assists.
EPPJ ends its season with a 3-17 record.
The Elkhorn Valley boys basketball team gave the No. 1 seed Hartington-Newcastle squad everything it could handle, but ultimately fell to the Wildcats, 43-41, Tuesday in the subdistrict semifinals.
Trailing 30-15 at the break, the Falcons went on a 25-11 run in the second half to cut the deficit to 1, but never completed the comeback and bowed out of the tournament with the loss.
Carter Rautenberg led the way with 15 points and eight rebounds. Bryson Anderson tallied 12 points and two steals, Braedyn Ollendick recorded 9 points and nine rebounds, Brandon Evans contributed 3 points, Trevin Hanson added 2 points and senior Julio Sierra grabbed three rebounds.
Elkhorn Valley ends its year with a 9-14 record.
A final surge by the Boyd County boys basketball team proved to be the difference in its 46-38 victory over Clearwater/Orchard Tuesday in the semifinals of the Subdistrict D1-6 tournament at Creighton.
“We knew going in this was going to be a war and it turned exactly into that,” stated OC mentor Jim Schutt. “We’ve seen them twice already and beat them the first time, then they beat us last time. Some shots and different things happened. Hats off to Boyd County for a nice game. Through it all, I’m super proud of my kids.”
After OC opened the game on an 8-0 run, the Spartans answered with an 11-2 run to claim a 1-point lead at the end of the opening quarter.
The two squads continued to battle for momentum in the second, as the lead was exchanged on four different occasions before Cory Lechtenberg’s layup game BC an 18-17 advantage at the break.
A pair of buckets by Ryan Wilhelm and Jacob Long knotted the contest at 21, before the Spartans went on 4-0 run.
A Gage Clifton 3-pointer and Blake Hoke layup regained the lead for the Cyclones, as the green and black Lee 28-27 heading into the final stanza.
A big fourth quarter by Evan Reiman helped the Spartans rally in the fourth. Reiman scored 11 of BC's 19 points in the quarter to guide the black and white to Thursday's subdistrict finals.
Wilhelm paced the Cyclones with 15 points and nine rebounds. Long recorded 8 points and four steals, Blake Hoke tallied 8 points and five rebounds, two assists and two steals, Chris Kester had 3 points, two assists and two steals, Gage Clifton netted 3 points and Anthony Umphress added 2 points.
Clearwater/Orchard ends its season with a 15-10 record. Seniors Tristan Ahlers, Ryan Wilhelm, Blake Hoke, Jacob Long and Chris Kester helped guide the Cyclones to runner-up finish in the Niobrara Valley Conference tournament and a Cyclone Holiday tournament title this season.
“We accomplished a lot of things,” Schutt concluded. “We got a lot to be proud of and this program is in good shape. Those guys from day one came to work every day. As freshman they played on JV and won a lot of games there. Sophomore year they were thrown into the mix right away and were kind of kicked around. When you’re young, it’s tough to play against seniors. But the last two years, my guys have been in every game against really good competition. I’m supper proud and it’s a good bunch that I’ll never forget.”
It was a battle between the Warriors and the Braves in the C2-8 subdistrict game on a snowy Tuesday night in O'Neill.
After they had split games earlier this season, Battle Creek edged out Neligh-Oakdale in the postseason tilt, 57-48, to advance to the subdistrict final against Ainsworth on Thursday night.
"It was hard-fought game, really from the start," N-O Coach Ethan Larsen said. "I thought we started very well and our defense was pretty good."
Austin Rice put the first points on the board when he went 2-2 at the line. Beau Murray followed that up with a bucket to give the Warriors an early 4-0 lead. BC answered with one, but an Isiac Kurpgeweit putback and Hunter Charf bunny extended N-O's lead to 8-2. After the Braves added two more, Murray drove the baseline for a layup and Charf followed his shot for a putback, giving the Warriors their biggest advantage, 12-4. However, a BC trey closed the gap to 12-7 at the end of the first.
Less than one minute into the second, Cole Belitz started off the scoring with a triple to put the Warriors back up by 8. Battle Creek went on an 11-0 run to take their first lead of the game midway through the quarter. Rice netted two field goals and Belitz drained a jumper before the buzzer to knot it up at the break, 22-all.
The Braves went on a 4-0 run to kick off the third quarter, but Kurpgeweit answered with a jumper. After BC added a bucket, Kurpgeweit hit a bunny to stay within two. At the midway point, there were multiple lead changes as the see-saw scoring began. Charf drilled a triple to give the Warriors a 29-28 lead, but the Braves quickly scored a field goal to regain the lead. Rice drove in for a layup for a 31-30 Warrior advantage. As soon as BC hit a bucket, Charf poured in another trey to take back the lead, 34-32. The Braves went on a 5-0 run, but then Julien Hearn connected from beyond the arc to tie it up, 37-37. With just a few ticks left in the third, Battle Creek struck again to take a 39-37 lead into the final quarter of play.
A 5-0 run by the Braves to start the fourth forced the Warriors into catch up mode. A Kurpgeweit jumper and Murray trey kept the Warriors within five halfway through the quarter. Three minutes later, N-O found themselves down by 12 before a Rice triple cut the lead to 9. As time wound down, the Warriors were forced to foul. After BC extended their lead to 12 on free throw shots, Rice hit one last trey for a 57-48 final score.
"I'm really proud of the boys and their effort tonight," Larsen said. "It's just one of those deals where it just wasn't in the cards for us. Credit Battle Creek for a hard-fought game, and a lot of credit goes to our guys to fight just as hard the entire fourth quarter."
Rice paced Neligh-Oakdale with 14 points and 2 blocks, followed by Charf with 10 counters, Kurpgeweit with 8 points and 9 boards, Murray 7 points, Belitz with 6 points and 10 assists and Hearn 3.
Neligh-Oakdale ended its season with an 18-7 record.
"I told the guys, 'Don't let the last one define what you were able to accomplish over the course of the season, 18-7 is nothing to hang your heads about,'" the coach said. "This senior class had a lot of accomplishments. They were able to finish as conference champions twice, state runner up and finish their senior season with 18 wins. I'm pretty proud of that. So hopefully they take that with them and make sure to look back on their overall body of work and don't let the last one define their basketball career."
In front of a packed gym of students, teachers, administrators, coaches, parents and community members at Clearwater, the Clearwater/Orchard wrestling team was recognized as for their spectacular season.
The "Cupcakes and Celebration" ceremony commemorated the OC state qualifiers and seniors. As people entered the gym, cupcakes were handed out to help the wrestlers commemorate the end of the grueling wrestling season.
A short video was played with pictures from this past weekend's state tournament, followed by comments from coaches and seniors.
The event ended with an eating contest.
Check out all of our pictures from the event and you can watch the event on ACN's Facebook page.
A solid team effort guided the Elgin Public/Pope John boys basketball team to a 47-35 victory over Ewing in the opening round of the Subdistrict D2-5 tournament Monday at West Holt.
“It was a good team effort,” stated EPPJ senior Kyle Schumacher. “Everyone contributed in their own way. We all did our job and no one tried to do too much. We tried to shut them down on defense, work on offense and try not to force anything. That got everyone involved in their own ways.”
The Tigers got off to a hot start, taking a 6-0 lead in the first three minutes of play, and led 11-5 after the first quarter.
“We came out with really good energy and played under control,” commented Ewing coach Brett Kaczor. “We found away to get inside and hit a couple of outside shots to open up the lane for us to help us out. You wish that you could have sustained that for four quarters. You get the exact start you want, get a nice lead and seem like you have momentum. Then you hit a brick wall and we tried to dig ourselves out of a big hole."
EPPJ responded in the second with a 16-4 run to claim a 21-15 lead at the break.
“We came out a little slow,” spoke EPPJ junior Conor Ramold. “We wanted to crank up the intensity a little bit. We made sure we boxed out and forced them into one shot. We did alright.”
After Ryan Brummel's free throw cut the deficit to 5 to start the third, the Wolfpack used a 7-0 run to take a 28-16 advantage.
“It was pretty important,” noted EPPJ junior Adam Dreger on the Wolfpack’s third-quarter start. “It really gave us that step ahead to get the W.”
Ewing rallied in the fourth and drew as close as 6 following Dalton Rotherham's 3-pointer, but EPPJ pulled away for the victory.
“We kept digging back and clawing into the game,” Kaczor said. “It seemed like at every point we could have broke that thing open and tie it up or take the lead; we missed free throw, had a bad turnover or let them leak out for an easy layup. All of sudden you go from being down 6, to down 10 or 12 again. We spent all that energy working our way back into the game, then you’re back down to 12. It really wears on a kid, but our guys kept fighting. I can’t complain.”
Joey Wright led the Tigers with 9 points. Brummels and Wyatt Wagner each recorded 7 points, Rotherham accumulated 5 points, Xavier Hobbs contributed 3 points, while Connor Napier and Dominique Hobbs each pitched in 2 points.
All five EPPJ starters scored at least 5 points in the win. Schumacher paced the Wolfpack with 13 points, four assists and eight rebounds. Ramold tallied 11 points and four assists, Dreger netted 10 points, Colton Wright had 8 points and eight boards and RJ Lierman added 5 points.
“Everyone showed up, we rebounded like coach wanted us to and we scored when we needed to,” Wright remarked.
Ewing ends its season with a 2-20 record as seniors Joey Wright and Ryan Brummels played their final game for the Tigers.
“They mean more to this program than they could probably imagine,” Kaczor stated. “We told them in the locker room the wins and losses don’t matter. The stepping stone they put forth for our guys, especially for them because they had to play a lot since they were freshmen. They really matured and they took the roles of being leaders well. Hopefully our guys take that going forward and go off their leadership. Hopefully better things are to come.”
Elgin Public/Pope John (3-17) advances to the semifinals of the subdistrict tournament to face No. 1 seed Stuart Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at West Holt.
“We know Stuart is a tough team,” Lierman concluded. “We have to come out strong like we did in the third quarter. We have to play our hearts out. Win or go home.”
A big run by the Osmond boys basketball team cost Elkhorn Valley in the Falcons’ 68-35 loss on Friday.
The Tigers took early control of the game with a 26-3 run to open the contest.
Braedyn Ollendick paced EV with 19 points and six rebounds. Derek Hahne netted 7 points, Julio Sierra accounted for 3 points, two blocks and four rebounds, while Brandon Evans, Bryson Anderson and Trevin Hanson each added 2 points.
The Clearwater/Orchard boys basketball team’s rally attempt was not enough, as the Cyclones fell to Boyd County, 52-46, Friday.
Knotted at 11 after the first, the Spartans used a 29-18 run in the next two quarters to take a 40-29 advantage.
OC outscored BC, 17-12, in the fourth, but the comeback fell short.
Ryan Wilhelm recorded a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Blake Hoke tallied 15 points, four boards and four steals, Chris Kester had 6 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals and Gage Clifton pitched in 3 points and five boards.
Clearwater/Orchard (15-9) faces Boyd County in the opening round of the subdistrict tournament Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Creighton.
The Elgin Public/Pope John boys basketball team dropped its regular season finale to O’Neill St. Mary’s, 76-39, Friday.
Leading 15-8 after the first, The Cardinals used a 51-20 run in the second and third quarters to pull away.
Senior Kyle Schumacher led the Wolfpack with 25 points and three assists. Colton Wright tallied 6 points and eight rebounds, Conor Ramold recorded 3 points and five assists, RJ Lierman had 3 points and three helpers and Hunter Reestman added 2 points.
Neligh-Oakdale senior Cameron Wilkinson saw his stellar wrestling career come to an end Saturday evening in the Class D state championship contest.
In the 113-pound championship bout, Archbishop Bergan freshman Caden Arps cruised to a 6-1 decision over Wilkinson.
Arps scored an early takedown in the first, then rode out Wilkinson in the second to claim the early momentum.
An Arps reversal and Wilkinson escape, made the score 4-1 in the third. The freshman sealed the state championship with a third-period takedown.
Wilkinson ends his phenomenal wrestling career with more than 150 wins and a second-place finish this season. The senior Warrior also finished fourth at 106 in 2017.
Looking to avenge his only loss of the season, Elkhorn Valley senior Josh McFarland looked to be on his way to doing that Saturday afternoon when his opponent turned the tables and earned the pin the 160-pound state championship.
Facing Seth Simants of Stapleton, McFarland was hoping to avenge the early December loss at Osceola when Simants pulled off a stunning 14-4 major decision over McFarland, who moved up two weight classes this season.
On Saturday afternoon, Simants earned the pin in 3:35.
McFarland won the 145-pound state championship in 2018. Simants moved up three weight classes after finishing fourth last year at 138.
Elkhorn Valley senior Christian Yaw made his first, and only, trip to Omaha for the Class D state wrestling tournament count.
Yaw made the most of his opportunity by placing fourth at 285 pounds.
After falling in Friday’s semifinals, The senior Falcon opened Saturday with a second-period fall over Chris Sciortino of Garden County.
Yaw then fell to Arcadia/Loup City heavyweight Jakob Jerabek, who lost his first match of the season in Friday’s semis, due to an injury default.
After suffering two back-to-back close matches, Clearwater/Orchard senior Donaven Nolze was able to end his career with a win and placed fifth in the Class D 220-pound state tournament Saturday.
“When I lost that semifinal’s match, I knew it was going to be a battle back because it was in my head,” Nolze stated. “It feels great to know I ended my wrestling career on a high note.”
Nolze dropped into the consolation bracket after falling to Archbishop Bergan’s Peyton Cone, 6-2, in the semifinals. The senior Cyclone then opened Saturday with a 3-1 loss to Clayton Hassett of Mullen in the consolation semis.
Nolze was able to end his career on a high note with a 12-5 decision over O’Neill St. Mary’s Cole Rosenkrans.
“I have to give it all to the coaches,” Nolze commented. “Every time I lost they told me ‘Don’t give up and find it in yourself.’ I really did find it in myself in that final match.”
Neligh-Oakdale sophomore Brock Kester once again will bring home a medal after placing at the Class D state wrestling tournament Saturday.
"It feels good, but I wish I could have finished a little higher," Kester stated.
Kester opened the day with a 7-2 loss to Teven Marshall of Mullen in the 113-pound consolation semifinals.
Kester, who placed fifth at 106 last year, bounced back to defeat Thayer Central's Brenner Mclaughlin, 6-2, in the fifth-place match.
"I got up (early) and got a few takedowns on him," Kester recalled. "I just sat back and did my thing."
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