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02/27/2014 - GIRLS A-4 BASKETBALL: Rockets Claim Third Straight Trip To State

By Jeff Motz

Lincoln Northeast overcame a slow start and finished strong from the free throw line.  

The Rockets were 11-of-11 from the charity stripe in the final period and held on for a 51-43 victory over Papillion-LaVista on Thursday to claim the A-4 District championship at the Ed Johnson Gym.

It's the third straight year Northeast has earned a trip to state and claimed a district title.

"We've had high expectations all year," Northeast Coach Steve Bartek said.  "This is a special year, playing at Pinnacle Bank (Arena).  They've had their sights set on that and to accomplish a goal is very special."

The free throws came at a pivotal time, when the Rockets (21-4) had a 42-39 lead with 1:41 left in the game.  Tantashea Giger hit two free throws, then Morgan Ewing sank a pair of charity tosses for a 46-39 lead.

Giger and Ewing combined to hit seven more free throws to seal the win. 

"They were clutch", said Bartek.

Northeast found themselves down 7-0 in the first three minutes of the game, when Papillion-LaVista got a basket and a pair of free throws from Priscilla O'Dowd and a three-pointer from Alli Katal.  

Ewing, who finished with 14 points, drew a foul and hit two free throws for Northeast with five minutes left in the first quarter.  Maddie Willett sank a three-pointer to push the Monarchs ahead to 10-2, but the Rockets ended the quarter on a 7-0 run of their own through the combined scoring of Ewing and veteran 6-3 center Toni Tupper, who came off the bench to score 14 points.

Tupper, a Creighton volleyball recruit, had been nursing a sprained right ankle she suffered last Friday night in Northeast's 64-42 win over Norfolk.

"She's been out a week," Bartek said.  "Pregame warm ups was the first time she's put pressure on it.  She told me she could go and she really came through for us tonight."

Northeast trailed 19-17 late in the first half and took command off a three-pointer from Dana Johnson and led 20-19 at halftime.

Bartek says the focus now for Northeast to play hard and as a team.

"We'll take tomorrow off and start working on South Sioux City on Saturday."

Giger added 10 points for the Rockets, while O'Dowd had a game high 16 points to lead the Monarchs, who finish the year at 15-9. 

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