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The Lady Falcons soared to a 53-44 win over Boyd County for third place in the Niobrara Valley Conference girls tournament in Niobrara on Saturday afternoon.
The victory earned Coach Brendan Dittmer and his Elkhorn Valley team their best conference finish to date.
"This is the first time that coach has been this far in this conference, so that was pretty important for both us and him, so that meant a lot to us too," Senior Hannah Ollendick said.
She said her team's ability to bounce back after the tough loss to CWC in the semifinal was crucial.
"We just wanted to show everybody that we can still come back and win the next one," Ollendick said. "It may not have been first, but it was still a place."
Coach Dittmer said he told his girls to "just come out and play with mettle."
"It was just kind of our motto coming into this game," he said. "It's easy to pout after you lose a tough game in the semifinals and maybe not come out as hard, but I knew Boyd County would not do that. I knew we needed to match their intensity and want to win this game, so I'm really proud of them for playing with mettle."
The coach said Saturday's win was especially important to his seniors—Ollendick, Sierra Rystrom and Amber Miller.
"They fought really hard for this for three years," he said. "We were awful close and now they got to that fourth day. And to come out with a third-place victory, it's a good example of their character."
Boyd County started off the game with a three-point shot in the first minute of play, but Olivia Nall fired back with one of her own to knot it up at 3-all. Nall was fouled on her next trip down the court and went 1-2 at the line. Triples from Rystrom and Miller gave EV a 10-8 lead at the end of the first.
At first, Boyd County's tenacious full-court press gave EV a few problems, but the team settled in and was able to get their offense rolling.
"We got more calm and better with the ball," Ollendick said. "We were smart with our attacks and our shots ,so that helped too."
The Lady Falcons got their offense running in the second and drew some fouls along the way.
Ollendick went 2-2 at the line and Miller was 3-6 at the charity stripe. Miller drove in for two, Kaylee Bacon hit a bunny, Ollendick swiped a steal for a layup and Nall hit her second triple of the game. EV took a 24-13 lead into the break.
Coach Dittmer said getting the halftime lead was really important.
"I kind of joked, because the last time we played them we had a 20-point lead going into half, and we held on for a 6-point win," he said. "I kind of challenged them a bit at halftime because we only had a 10-point lead. I told them we don't have 20 points to work with here, so we need to come out with a little bit more intensity and energy, and I thought they did."
After the break, Nall hit a jumper to extend their lead and then Ollendick poured in 11 points of her own with two field goals, a trey and four free throws. The Lady Falcons held onto a 37-29 lead heading into the final quarter. EV kept up the intensity in the fourth with Nall going 3-4 at the line, a Bacon jumper and free throw, a Rystrom field goal and freebie, an Ollendick jumper and two free throws and three free throws from Miller.
Ollendick led Elkhorn Valley with 19 points, followed by Nall with 12, Miller 11, Rystrom 6 and Bacon 5.
The 18-3 Lady Falcons will take the court again on Monday night when they host Creighton.