Lady Tigers fourth at state tourney


CASPER – The first time Niobrara County High School played Greybull was back in the second game of the season at the Coal Miners Classic, and the Lady Tigers were without Courtney Rowley and Riley Shaw, and Taylor Gaukel played just a handful of minutes. Lusk lost that game by nine, but Thursday’s first round of the 2A State Tournament would be a different story.

Despite seven first period turnovers, Gaukel and Julianne Graham helped Lusk off to an 11-6 first quarter lead. As the Lady Buffs shooting woes mounted, the Lady Tigers were getting the breaks as they shot 50 percent in the first half.

The 24-11 halftime lead was a bit surprising to many in attendance, as most 2-3 seed matchups are typically close.

Rowley buried a 3-pointer, followed closely by one from Gaukel and a free throw had the Lady Tigers cruising with a 33-13 lead midway through the third frame.

Suddenly, Greybull caught fire as NCHS assisted their comeback with a series of turnovers, and a 7-0 run closed the gap to 33-20 with one quarter to go.

More turnovers from Lusk got the Lady Buffs within ten with 4:05 still on the clock, and a trio of long-range buckets and, all of a sudden, it was a two-point game with 17 ticks left. Greybull’s shot was off the mark and Ashley Christianson buried both free tosses as the Lady Tigers survived a near-monumental collapse.

The 42-38 win at Casper College propelled NCHS into the semifinals for the first time since 2004.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

NCHS 11 13 9 9 – 42

GREYBULL 6 5 9 18 – 38

TEAM STATS

NCHS 13/37 FG; 2/7 3PT; 14/24 FT; 46 REB; 14 PF; 24 TO

GREYBULL 14/62 FG; 3/13 3PT; 7/10 FT; 34 REB; 20 PF; 12 TO

NCHS PLAYER STATS:

Scoring – Gaukel 11, Graham 10, Rowley 7, Christianson 7, Sturman 3, Shaw 2, Lyons 2. Rebounds- Gaukel 9, Lyons 9, Rowley 6, Graham 6.

Awaiting in Friday’s semifinal was no other than Southeast – the team that had riddled Lusk for three losses this season.

Last week’s 15-point loss was an anomaly, and so it was this time would be much like the first two close contests. Christianson and Gaukel were the offense, combining 15 of the Lady Tigers’ 17 first-half points. Possessions were held closely and turnovers minimal on both sides, but the rebounding battle was turning blue. At halftime, NCHS held a slim 17-15 lead.

Foul trouble hindered both squads while the game moved along, but the Lady Cyclones crept ahead as the third quarter neared its end.

In a game that saw 10 lead changes, the Lady Tigers retook the lead 27-24 with eight minutes to play.

Back-and-forth it went for the rivals that most certainly had to be very tired of each other at this point of the season. The rebounding edge continued to favor Southeast while neither team led by more than three points on the scoreboard.

It just seemed to be slipping away for the Lady Tigers as NCHS set up a final play with three seconds to play, Rowley’s baseline jumper was off the mark for Southeast to hold on for the 36-35 win.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

SEHS 6 9 9 12 – 36

NCHS 10 7 10 8 – 35

TEAM STATS

SEHS 13/43 FG; 0/9 3PT; 10/24 FT; 46 REB; 16 PF; 11 TO

NCHS 14/51 FG; 0/9 3PT; 7/12 FT; 33 REB; 18 PF; 8 TO

NCHS PLAYER STATS:

Scoring – Christianson 12, Gaukel 11, Rowley 4, Graham 4, Shaw 2, Lyons 2. Rebounds- Gaukel 7, Graham 6.

Saturday morning games at state are a painful finality for seniors with championship dreams denied. Yet it didn’t stop two of the SEWAC’s best to put on a show. In one last game, Gaukel and Pine Bluff’s Kammie Ragsdale went bucket for bucket as the teams were knotted at 11 until a late Pine Bluffs score closed the first at 13-11.

The Lady Hornets began to use their size advantage and firmly took control of the paint. A 9-0 run took barely two minutes for Pine Bluffs to get a ten-point lead.

Gaukel’s second trey of the game pulled the Lady Tigers within 31-20 as halftime approached, but a defensive lapse got the Lady Hornets a late basket for the 13-point lead.

Neither team did much scoring out of the break, as the rivals – like the night before – were a pair of teams that most certainly had to be very tired of each other at this point of the season. Kianna Blackburn and Rowley hit back to back treys as the Lady Tigers cut the lead to seven points.

A completely exhausted and bruised Lady Tiger team was unable to complete the comeback as Pine Bluffs closed the game with a 7-0 run to win the third-place trophy 51-37.

Gaukel finished a stellar four years with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Ragsdale closed her career with 21 points and nine rebounds.

The Lady Tigers finished the season 18-11 and their fourth-place finish is the highest in     15 years.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

NCHS 11 9 5 12 – 37

PBHS 13 20 7 11 – 51

TEAM STATS

NCHS 10/46 FG; 4/14 3PT; 13/17 FT; 32 REB; 19 PF; 20 TO

PBHS 19/56 FG; 2/7 3PT; 11/23 FT; 51 REB; 18 PF; 19 TO

NCHS PLAYER STATS:

Scoring – Gaukel 16, Rowley 10, Christianson 4, Blackburn 3, Richardson 2, Lyons 2. Rebounds- Gaukel 8, Rowley 6, Christianson 5.

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