LINCOLN – Grand Island Northwest (21-5) grabbed a 12-9 lead after the first quarter, and never let it go after.
That lead was in danger, though in the middle of the third quarter when junior Morgan Maly made a layup, got fouled and made the ensuing free throw to tie the game at 26 with 3:27 left in the third quarter.
The Vikings took momentum back for good, ending the third quarter on a 9-2 run on their way to a 49-43 victory over the Crete Cardinals (21-6) at the Class B girls’ state basketball championship on Saturday afternoon at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Northwest won its first state title since 2014 and its fourth in school history, while Crete is runner-up for the first time since 2007.
The Vikings received another dominant performance from junior all-state point guard Whitney Brown. After she dropped a game-high 19 in a semifinal upset over No. 2 Waverly on Friday, Brown delivered her best performance of the state tournament with 23 points and a game-high five steals against Crete.
Maly, who led Class B this season with 20 points per contest, ended her junior season with a game-high 24 points on 8-for-20 shooting from the floor. She also had a game-high nine rebounds.
While both teams seemed evenly matched on the offensive end, Northwest out-rebounded Crete 29-21, including 11-5 on the offensive glass.
Free throws, for the Cardinals, were the biggest hindrance. While Maly was 7-for-9 at the foul line, the rest of the team was 1-for-5.
While Crete was 8-for-14 on free throws, Northwest was 15-for-19, including 10-for-13 in the final quarter.
Sophomore Shanae Suttles was especially clutch for the Vikings, making all six of her free throw attempts in the second half. She finished with eight points in the game.
Junior Lauren Hauser contributed 10 points for Northwest, and was a perfect 4-for-4 at the charity stripe as well.
Crete, who is still seeking its first girls’ state basketball championship since 1981, will be a serious threat in Class B next year. Coach John Larsen returns 13 of his 14 players next year – everyone except senior Kaytlin Hansmeyer.
“I’m ready to go back to work tomorrow,” Maly said afterward.
NORTHWEST (21-5) 12 10 13 14 – 49
CRETE (21-6) 9 10 9 15 – 43
C: Hannah Newton – 4, Jayda Weyand – 2, Elizabeth Allen – 2, Morgan Maly – 24, Alexis Mach – 5, Elizabeth Eltze – 3, Brooke Diesley – 3
NW: Whitney Brown – 23, Megan Cooper – 4, Lauren Houser – 10, Shanae Suttles – 8, Whitney Jensen – 1
CRETE RADIO HIGHLIGHTS CAN BE HEARD HERE:
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