SENECA — The Serena girls basketball was enjoying a 20-point lead two minutes into the second half against Fieldcrest and looked to have Saturday afternoon’s championship of the Integrated Seeds Tournament firmly in control.
While the Huskers did eventually claim the title with a 41-35 win, the Knights nearly fought their way all the way back to steal it away.
“We sure didn’t make things easy for ourselves. It was truly a tale of two halves,” said Serena coach Jim Jobst, his team now 4-0. “I thought we started the game a little flat but were able to get things going a little. Then Fieldcrest just owned the third quarter. We just stopped executing on offense, pretty much not doing all the things that got us the lead in the first place.
“It wasn’t our best effort for sure, but we were able to hit our free throws late and held on.”
Serena’s Paisley Twait scored six points in the opening quarter to help the Huskers lead 12-8. She then splashed a 3-pointer and converted a nifty drive in the opening moments of the second quarter, before Makayla McNally scored three straight baskets in the low post.
Meanwhile Fieldcrest (3-1), which was playing without starting forward and all-tournament selection Riley Burton, was stuck in neutral, misfiring on 14 consecutive shots while turning the ball over five times.
I use an analogy or a story about different foods and what happens to them when they go under a pressure situation. Do you turn into soft like a potato, or do you turn hard like a boiled egg. We played and had the mentality like a mushy potato in the first half, but we played and had the mental approach like that boiled egg in the second.”— Nathan Ehrhardt, Fieldcrest girls basketball coach
Then as the halftime buzzer sounded, the Huskers’ Jenna Setchell buried a triple from the top of the key before starting the second half with a short jumper to make it 28-8.
“Yep, we lost Riley to an injury in the second quarter of Thursday’s game,” Fieldcrest coach Nathan Ehrhardt said. “She’s a big part of the things we try and do on both ends of the floor and today was kind of that ‘how are we going to adjust without her on the floor.’ We had to go to different offensive set in the second half.
“I use an analogy or a story about different foods and what happens to them when they go under a pressure situation. Do you turn soft like a potato, or do you turn hard like a boiled egg. We played and had the mentality like a mushy potato in the first half, but we played and had the mental approach like that boiled egg in the second.”
Fieldcrest freshman TeriLynn Timmerman (13 points) then started turning the tide and momentum her team’s way. Timmerman sank a 3, converted a three-point play, and late in the quarter, scored on a scoop shot to close the gap to 33-24 heading to the fourth. All-tourney pick Kaitlin White (11 points) then swished an open triple before a 10-foot jumper and another 3-pointer by Timmerman had the Knights down just 33-32 with five minutes remaining.
“TeriLynn was just huge for us today,” Ehrhardt said. “She plays with so much energy and when she hit her first shot, that three-pointer, there after Serena went up 20 you could just see how it energized all of her teammates. We needed someone to setup in that situation and TeriLynn did that for us.”
From there, however, Serena was able to hold on to the lead by hitting 9-of-11 free throws while Fieldcrest could only muster a layup from Aliah Celis and a free throw by Timmerman.
Serena was led by all-tournament selections Setchell (14 points, 10 rebounds, two assists), McNally (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Twait (12 points, five rebounds, four assists).
“In the first half everything was clicking for us on offense and defense,” McNally said. “Then for whatever reason those same things didn’t come as easy in the second half. Some of that was because (Fieldcrest) came out with a ton of fight to start the third quarter and some of that was we didn’t do as good of job as we should have to match them.
“It’s nice to start off the season with four straight wins and a tournament title, but I think today showed we have a lot to still work on moving forward this season.”