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In an all-Antelope County matchup, Neligh-Oakdale and Elgin Public/Pope John split games in Elgin on Tuesday night with the home team picking up the girls win and the Warriors leaving with the boys victory.
The girls started out by trading buckets, with a 4-4 score early in the first, but the Lady Wolfpack picked up the pace and went on a run. Their press forced several Warrior turnovers and EPPJ capitalized, finishing out the quarter with a 25-9 lead.
"I thought the girls came out right away and played well," EPPJ Coach Randy Eisenhauer said. "One thing we pushed the last couple days at practice was tempo. We're a team that's going to get out and run. We did trade buckets right away back and forth, and I told the girls, 'Let's go. I want to get out and keep going.' With our defense we're going to go out and put on a lot of pressure. Then our defense is going to lead to our offense, and I thought that it did that first quarter."
The second quarter was a little more even with EPPJ adding 9 more and the Lady Warriors posting 8 points for a 34-17 halftime score.
"At halftime I told the girls I wanted to keep pushing," Eisenhauer said. "We run and that's where we're going to get a lot of buckets. I thought in the third quarter it looked to me like they got a little gassed and our girls kept going. And we got a lot of points from layups and that helps."
The Lady Wolfpack put up 28 more points in the second half for a 62-39 victory.
Leading all scorers was EPPJ senior Kaylee Martinsen with 18 points and 8 rebounds, followed by senior teammate Allyson Wemhoff with 16 points. Rounding out the Wolfpack scoring was Kayce Kallhoff with 13, Kirsten Krebs 9, Grace Rittscher 4 and Lexi Bode 2. Three girls each swiped 8 steals as well—Martinsen, Wemhoff and Kallhoff.
"We stepped up our defense from last week," Martinsen said. "We knew that we needed to stop some girls, go after every ball and just try our best. And we needed to run hard and just keep going and keep pushing, no matter how tired you are. We just had to keep going and it helped us out a lot tonight in our transition."
She said Coach Eisenhauer has told them they just "need to be one game better each time."
"Last week was our first game so we had some jitters, and today we came out and we had a whole bunch of chemistry and just clicked," Martinsen said. "We had so much fun playing tonight."
Eisenhauer said he was pleased with how much improvement his team showed from Friday to Tuesday.
"I thought our girls came out and worked harder on defense for me and it showed," he said. "We've got a big week. We've got Friday and Saturday yet and then we turn around and we've got three games next week again, so it's back to the drawing board again. We need to figure some things out that we need to improve on defensively and offensively and see what happens from there."
The Neligh-Oakdale coaches credited EPPJ with a solid game in the win.
"Elgin was a very good team with pressure and forcing us into turnovers," Coach Tanner Knutson said. "They're going to be a good team throughout the year. They are very well coached."
Christy Knutson agreed and said the game showed them some areas to work on.
"Turnovers and fundamentals are where we will concentrate," she said. "We've been too focused on learning all these new things that we haven't really focused on the little things."
Paige Furstenau and Trinity Kurpgeweit led the way for the Lady Warriors with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Haley Kerkman and Brooke Frey each added 6.
In the boys game, Neligh-Oakdale didn't waste any time getting their offense going as they jumped out to an 8-0 lead before Warrior senior Isiac Kurpgeweit put an exclamation point on it with a slam dunk and a 10-point advantage. Austin Rice scored all 5 of his points in the first quarter and Cole Belitz got warmed up with 4. Beau Murray and Hunter Charf each added a bucketand Kurpgeweit went 2-2 from the free throw line for a couple more. EPPJ's Kyle Schumacher hit a jumper to add the only points to the Wolfpack's scoring column in the first as they trailed 17-2.
Belitz doubled his efforts in the second, putting up 8 points in 8 minutes, while Kurpgeweit added 2 more. For the Wolfpack, Schumacher drained a bucket and went 2-2 from the charity stripe, Colton Wright went 1-2 on free throws and Adam Dreger hit a field goal. The Warriors led 27-9 at the break.
In the third, N-O's Belitz and Charf each added 4 more points, while Murray and Kurpgeweit put in 2. For the Wolfpack, Dreger hit a two and one, R.J. Lierman drained a trey, and Schumacher and Conor Ramold each tallied two points. The Warriors led 39-19 heading into the final quarter of play.
Belitz capped off the game by hitting a field goal and two shots from behind the arc in the fourth. Warrior teammates Charf and Murray added 3 and 2 more, respectively. Ramold went 1-2 from the line and Wright made a field goal to finish out the Wolfpack scoring. In the end, N-O topped EPPJ, 52-22.
Schumacher led the Wolfpack with 8 points and 5 rebounds, followed by Dreger with 5 and Ramold, Lierman and Wright with 3 apiece.
"First off, hats off to Neligh, they had a good game plan," EPPJ Coach Michael Becker said. "They forced us into some early turnovers and got out and ran and made us get up and down the floor and defend the whole floor instead of just half court. I thought our kids did well on the defensive end when we made them play a half court game. We just have to continue to improve on the offensive side to take care of the ball and get some high percentage looks and knock down those shots when we have a chance. We missed some easy ones early on to maybe help us get going in the right direction, and then we got a little discouraged and didn't have a chance to right the ship."
The Warrior team was able to accomplish what they set out to do, according to Belitz and Coach Ethan Larsen.
"I thought the game we played tonight was much more complete and well rounded than our past couple," Belitz said. "We did a much better job of playing together and working off of each other's actions. We did a nice job of getting touches on defense and running the court with each other. We still have plenty to improve, but it was definitely an improvement upon last week."
Belitz led all scorers with 24 points, followed by Charf with 9, Kurpgeweit 8, Murray 6 and Rice 5.
"The game plan coming in was to kind of stick to our strengths," N-O Coach Ethan Larsen said, "We feel like we've got an inside presence and we have the ability to kind of control the tempo in whatever game we play. We tried to do what we do best. And tonight was a night where I think we came out, executed the game plan, and ultimately, even with some changes with the flow of the game, came out with a pretty good win."
The EPPJ teams will travel to Plainview on Friday and to Riverside on Saturday, while Neligh-Oakdale will host Creighton in their first home games of the season.