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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.”