CASPER – The Niobrara County High School girls’ basketball team embarked on their third straight trip to the state tournament last weekend but were denied a trophy once again.
With the Casper College women hosting the Region IX tournament, all 2A first round games were held at Natrona County High School on Thursday.
The No. 2 seeded Lady Tigers faced Rocky Mountain in the first round and nerves certainly played their part early on for both squads.
Lusk led 6-4 after one period and even deep into the second the teams traded turnovers at an alarming rate.
Courtney Rowley scored a layup and converted the freebie for a 12-7 halftime lead. NCHS eased out to an eight-point lead with just over two minutes left in the third period, but a late 3-pointer from the Lady Grizzlies trimmed the deficit to 24-17.
Thirteen seconds into the final quarter, fans witnessed an unfortunately ugly injury to senior Lucy Ceaglske. A loose ball scramble of three girls resulted in tangled feet and Ceaglske trying to catch her fall near the top of the key.
The fall resulted in a broken right arm and upon seeing the severity, she was quickly in an ambulance to the hospital. After a delay of nearly 20 minutes, the game resumed with both teams a bit rattled. NCHS went on a 6-2 run, pushing it to 11 points, but Rocky Mountain made a comeback attempt. Jozalyn Potter sealed the win with a free throw with 1.2 seconds remaining for the 33-29 victory.
Ceaglske went into surgery just a few hours removed from the injury and her first question was if she could attend the semifinal game. The Lady Tigers visited Lucy after she woke up to find flowers from the Lady Hornets and Lady Cyclones with Lusk’s only senior. Lucy’s family was also with her as the surgery went well. She received two plates in her lower arm, but no damage was done to the wrist, elbow or shoulder.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
NCHS: 13/29 FG; 0/8 3PT; 7/26 FT; 39 REB; 6 AST; 16 TO; 8 STL
RMHS: 8/54 FG; 3/24 3PT; 10/21 FT; 44 REB; 18 PF; 5 AST; 9 TO; 7 STL
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Scoring- Rowley 13, Potter 8, Richardson 5, Kottwitz 4, Shaw 3. Rebounds- Kottwitz 10, Rowley 9, Richardson 9.
Ceaglske arrived at the Casper Events Center to cheers from the crowd with no cast or sling, just a new bionic arm and seat on the team bench.
Unfortunately, the team on the other side was nemesis, Pine Bluffs. Rowley’s trey matched Hyleigh Fornstrom’s in the first minute but that was as close as Lusk would get. The Lady Hornets went on an 18-5 run to quiet the Tiger faithful in a 21-8 lead after one.
A Riley Shaw 3-pointer got NCHS within 10, but it seemed everything the Lady Hornets put up went in the basket. Another run put the Lady Tigers in a 33-16 halftime deficit, behind 48.3% shooting from Pine Bluffs.
The Lady Hornets continued their hot shooting in the second half, just a shade lower at 48.1%. As they extended the lead, NCHS had no more answers for the Lady Hornets size. Four times this season Pine Bluffs defeated Lusk, the final one a humbling 63-27 loss.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
PBHS: 27/56 FG; 5/14 3PT; 4/6 FT; 45 REB; 14 PF; 12 AST; 12 TO; 7 STL
NCHS: 9/46 FG; 3/8 3PT; 6/16 FT; 28 REB; 14 PF; 4 AST; 13 TO; 4 STL
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Scoring- Rowley 11, Shaw 5, Potter 5, Kottwitz 4, Richardson 2. Rebounds- Rowley 7, Richardson 7.
Staring the Lady Tigers down for the third-place trophy was Moorcroft, another team that had beaten the Lady Tigers twice this season.
Anna Richardson got Lusk off to a good start with a layup and free throw, followed by a long distance three. She drilled another and NCHS had a 14-0 led with the period expiring. The Lady Wolves got a couple of late baskets, but the lead was 10 after one. Nerves were tight, and Moorcroft hung around in the 22-14 halftime score.
Shaw and Rowley each hit 3-pointers, but the Lady Wolves were heating up from beyond the arc. They had sliced the lead to five with one final quarter to play. After Potter’s old fashioned three, Lusk led 44-38 just under the four-minute mark.
Moorcroft went on an 11-3 run to steal third place from Lusk in the 49-47 final.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MHS: 19/52 FG; 8/29 3PT; 3/4 FT; 33 REB; 12 PF; 9 AST; 11 TO; 8 STL
NCHS: 18/53 FG; 5/20 3PT; 6/9 FT; 39 REB; 12 PF; 12 AST; 15 TO; 5 STL
NCHS PLAYER STATS: Scoring- Richardson 14, Rowley 12, Potter 9, Shaw 8, Bruch 2, Kottwitz 2. Rebounds- Rowley 12, Richardson 11.