Story and photo by Brian McKim
The Sacred Heart Irish girls outscored the Humphrey St. Francis Flyers 20-10 in the final eight minutes at the Pinnacle Bank Arena on Sat. night to capture their third state title in four years 57-51.
The 27-1 top-seeded Irish got on the board first with an offensive board and put back by Lauren Parrish one minute into the game. The 26-3 second-seeded Flyers tied the game and took the lead 4-2 two minutes later. The back and forth first quarter ended with McKenzie Witt going coast to coast for a layup to get SH within one point at 15-14.
SH grabbed the lead early in the second quarter, 17-15 when Abby Fiegener got drove to the hoop and finished off the three-point play with a free throw. The Irish grew their lead to 21-17 when Parrish hit a turn around jumper at the foul line and hit the free throw to complete another three-point play. HSF stormed right back making a three to get within one, but a hoop by Sara Wertenberger made it 23-20 with just under three minutes to play. A basket by Fiegener with 1:50 to go gave the Irish a four-point lead, but the Flyers went on a 6-0 run as well. Take a 27-25 lead at the half.
Parrish had seven points, and two rebounds and Fiegener added seven points and eight boards to lead the attack in the first half. Humphrey got the first hoop of the second half, but Ahren Ebel hit a quick layup at the 7:15 mark to keep pace with the Flyers. Parrish then scored on three straight possessions to give the Irish a 33-31 lead with 4:50 to go in the third quarter. HSF then scored seven consecutive points to go up 40-33 but Parrish hit another shot from 12 feet out, and Fiegener drove to the hoop for a score to make it 40-37 with :35 to play in the third.
A free throw by the Flyers gave them a four-point advantage, 41-37, heading into the final eight minutes of the season. Humphrey got a steal and layup at the 7:30 mark to take a 43-37 lead but the Irish used a 20-8 run over the final seven minutes to take the championship 57-51. Randee Witt started the rally with a three from the right wing with just under seven minutes to play. Wertenberger then got a hoop in the paint to make it 44-42 HSF. A hoop by Parrish and a layup by McKenzie Witt tie the game at 46 with four minutes to go. Humphrey got a hoop with just over three minutes to go to take a 48-46 lead, their last of the game. M. Witt kissed a shot off the glass with 2:51 to go to knot the game at 48 apiece. Wertenberger then got a score on the low block to make it 50-48 Irish. A turnover by the Flyers and two free throws by Parrish made it a four-point game, 52-48 with :31 to go. Two more free throws by Wertenberger seven seconds later made it a six-point lead. M. Witt added a free throw followed by two more by Wertenberger to make it 57-51 for the final score.
“Things didn’t look good at times in the second half, but I’m proud of how the girls stayed with it. They stayed composed and made more plays down the stretch than St. Francis did,” said Coach Santo.
For the third time in four seasons, the Irish and Coach Santo were crowned champs of Class D2 at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln. Parrish finished with a game-high 19 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots to lead the Irish. Wertenberger added 10 points and 11 rebounds. Fiegener finished with nine points and nine rebounds. McKenzie Witt had seven points, and eight rebounds and Randee Witt hit two threes for six points. Ahren Ebel finished with four points, and four assists and Elizabeth Keithley had two points for the Irish. Logan Wemhoff had 15 points, and Allison Weidner added 10 for the Flyers.
Both Sara Wertenberger and Lauren Parrish were named to the Class D2 all-tournament team. Wertenberger finished the tournament with 24 points while Parrish led the Irish with 47 points. SH shot 45 percent from the field for the game while the Flyers hit just 35 percent of their attempts. The Irish outrebounded the Flyers 42-25 but had 17 turnovers to Humphreys eight. The back and forth game featured eight ties and 10 lead changes. The most significant lead of the game was seven points by each team with Humphrey leading for two-thirds of the game.
“Winning a championship is so hard. So many things have to go right. We’re just happy for the girls that all their hard work paid off,” said Coach Luke Santo. “We knew that we had a lot to replace from last year, but we knew we had girls coming back that could play. We just had to develop them and give them game experience. Girls figured out their roles, we got off to a winning start, and our confidence grew from there.” “I think a lot of people didn’t think we could do it, losing those great three seniors last year but we knew that we wanted to prove people wrong, and we did,” said senior Abby Fiegener. “I couldn’t have asked for better teammates to end this year with, and especially ending it with gold medals; it’s an incredible feeling.”
To get to the finals, SH had to survive an overtime scare on Friday night against the Hyannis Longhorns. When asked about the huddle before the game-tying three-pointer by Parrish, Fiegener responded, “Coach pretty much said that this was it. He always talks to us about executing plays, and I mean we had worked on that play every practice for quite some time now so when we finally got the chance to run it in the game, and it worked, we were beyond excited. I don’t think we ever really gave up, I mean we were never down that much, so we knew we could get back in it with a few buckets.”