LINCOLN — When Fillmore Central is looking for a big game, coach Shad Eberhardt knows it’s a luxury to point the finger at any one of his starters and even look down his bench.
In Thursday’s opening round C-2 state tournament game against Nebraska City Lourdes, it was junior Halle Theis who doubled up her season average with 15 in the Panthers’ 53-41 win at Lincoln Southwest.
Theis, who averages 7.4 points per game this year, helped Fillmore Central (22-4) break down Lourdes’ 2-3 zone from the high post and create shots for her teammates as the Panthers’ advanced to Friday’s 3:45 p.m. semifinal against Crofton.
“We talked all week that she was kind of one of our keys,” Eberhardt said of Theis.
“Everybody on this team, the top six, have all scored 15 in a game before. It’s nice that on any given night that anybody can go off and contribute for us.”
Junior Erin Schmidt scored a team-high 16 points for Fillmore Central, which never trailed but had to hold off a third quarter run after the Lady Knights trimmed a nine-point deficit to three.
Lourdes sophomore Brianna Fulton, who led the Lady Knights with 15 points, scored back-to-back baskets to cut Fillmore Central’s lead to 32-29 midway through the third, but it would get no closer. Halle and Lexi Theis each scored two more buckets in the third, and Schmidt added a jumper after an offensive rebound in a 10-3 Panthers run.
“They just stayed with it. This team doesn’t get too rattled, which is nice,” Eberhardt said. “They’ve been in a lot of big games, a lot of close games, so they’re kind of used to the pressure and they rose up today.”
Making their first state tournament appearance since 2013, the Panthers’ defense held its own against the Lourdes front line of 6-foot-3 sophomore Gina McGowen and 6-foot junior Elaina Madison. Besides Fulton, the Lady Knights’ other four starters struggled to find their rhythm, shooting a combined 4 for 36 from the floor.
“Going in we knew it would be a little bit troublesome with their height,” Eberhardt said, “but I think we did a pretty good job defensively of not giving them too much around the paint and offensively of attacking even though sometimes we got blocked.”
No. 4 Fillmore Central (22-4)…………….12 18 12 11 — 53
No. 8 Nebraska City Lourdes (20-6)……….9 14 9 9 — 41
FC: Erin Schmidt 16, Halle Theis 15, Lexi Theis 8, Jacque Schelkopf 8, Macy Scott 6
NCL: Brianna Fulton 15, Gina McGowen 8, Libby Baumert 5, Macey Allgood 4, Elaina Madison 4, Ivye Meyer 3