By Tommy Rezac
LINCOLN – Both Crete and Elkhorn South’s defenses came to play on Friday.
The offense? That would come later. At least for Crete it did.
Trailing 11-6 at halftime and 16-13 after the third quarter, the Cardinals (22-5) opened the fourth on a 12-0 run and came alive with 25 points in the last eight minutes, resulting in a 38-26 takedown of Elkhorn South (13-14) in the Class B semifinals at the girls’ state basketball tournament in Lincoln.
Crete, who was runner-up in their last state tournament berth in 2007, will attempt to take home its first state title since 1981 on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Storm, fresh off of a 51-37 win over No. 1 Sidney on Thursday, inhibited Crete’s ability to get near the rim for the entire first half.
The Cardinals had seven turnovers in the first half and two points from Morgan Maly, Lexi Mach and Ellie Allen – that was all the scoring in the first two quarters.
Crete’s turnaround started, not surprisingly, when Maly found her groove. She scored seven points in the third quarter, including a game-tying three to make the score 11-11.
Crete tied it again, 16-16 early in the fourth, thanks to an ‘and-one’ from sophomore forward Lexi Mach. The Cardinals took the lead on the following possession thanks to a 10-foot jumper by Maly.
Crete went up 18-16, and never looked back.
Maly, who scored 10 of Crete’s 25 fourth quarter points, finished with a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds.
“We just weren’t moving (in the first half),” Maly said. “I knew in the second half, I needed to spark my team, and then I found open shots. My teammates did as well.”
Sophomore guard Hannah Newton chipped in eight points, while Mach finished with five.
For Elkhorn South, sophomore guard Lily Ziemkiewicz led her team with nine points – all from three-pointers. Sophomore forward and Husker volleyball commit Rylee Gray had five points and two blocked shots. Senior Siera Costello also scored five.
The Storm also got in foul trouble down the stretch, which helped Crete pad its lead. After being whistled on no fouls in the first half, Elkhorn South had a dozen infractions in the second.
That allowed Crete to shoot 20 free throws. The Cardinals converted 15 of those. Elkhorn South, meanwhile, was just 3-of-4 at the foul line as a team.
Crete’s state championship game will be carried live on Ol’ Red 99.5 with coverage beginning around 1:40.
CRETE (21-5) 2 4 7 25 – 38
ELKHORN SOUTH (13-14) 8 3 5 10 – 26
C: Hannah Newton-8, Jayda Weyand-4, Elizabeth Allen-2, Morgan Maly-19, Alexis Mach-5
ES: Lily Ziemkiewicz-9, Katherine Raymond-3, Siera Costello-5, Reese Baltzell-2, Leah Wamsley-2, Rylee Gray-5
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