LINCOLN - The Class B-4 District title consisted of two steps for the York Dukes and head coach Matt Kern stressed to his girls they had to take them one at a time.
On Wednesday night at Lincoln North Star the Dukes took a giant leap in the right direction with a 48-43 win over the Crete Cardinals to earn the right to take on Class B No. 1 Seward for the direct ticket to the state tournament next week.
If Wednesday's step was a giant one, then tonight's game at North Star (weather permitting) with the Seward Lady Jays can only be considered humungous.
The No. 1 Jays defeated the Columbus Discoverers in the first game 51-43.
With 4:26 to play in regulation the Dukes held a 37-36 lead over Crete, but what transpired over the next 47 seconds put York in the driver's seat.
Kern called a timeout and just seconds after the stoppage of play, senior Liz Harlow drained a long 3-point shot from the right wing to give York a 40-36 lead.
Crete turned the ball over on its next possession and the Cardinal defense paid the price at the other end of the floor as junior Veronica Botts was left open on the baseline where she netted a 20-footer for a 43-36 lead with 3:47 to play in the game.
Crete would never get closer than three points the rest of the way as York improved 13-10 on the year.
After the win and still wearing a wide smile, Kern agreed the two 3-point shots were the key plays.
“No question. We talked about it before the game and we talked about how big time players make big plays in big games,” said Kern. “We had a lot of players come up with big plays tonight, but I give a lot of credit to those two girls for hitting two big shots at critical times. V's (Botts) came in transition off a turnover and Harlow's was a last option on a set look.”
In the early going York juniors Erin Malleck and Hannah Riley, who led the team in scoring with 16 and 13 points respectively, led the team as they scored 15 of the team's 22 first-half points.
Off the bench sophomore Dacia Stuhr provided the Dukes a huge boost as she scored six points and played well on defense.
“She (Stuhr) had a huge night and she hit her free throws as well. She's a player we expect to come in and get us rebounds and she gave us a great effort defensively and that was huge,” Kern stated. “We do commit to Erin and Hannah and they are big time scorers, but we also know we have girls that score as well and when those two start attacking that opens other options as well.”
The game was tight all the way through. The seven-point cushion following the two fourth-quarter treys was the biggest cushion either team enjoyed.
York trailed 12-10 at the end of the first quarter and led 22-21 at the break.
The Dukes opened a 36-30 lead through three quarters, but a 6-1 run by the Cardinals set the stage for the final four minutes.
York was 13-27 from the field, 6-13 from the 3-point arc and solid at the free throw line hitting 16-20. The Dukes and Cardinals both finished with eight turnovers.
Crete hit 15-36 shots, just 3-12 from the 3-point circle, and finished 10-12 at the charity stripe.
The Cardinals were led in scoring by Morgan Hill with a game high 18, Bradley added nine and Tayler Doremus chipped in with eight.
York lost to Seward two weeks ago 42-27 at the York City Auditorium and Kern realizes it will take his team's best effort to get the job done tonight.
“We will use the zone defense, we put that in for tonight's game and we will just have to mix it up,” Kern explained. “It's going to be tough and it's going to take an extra special effort at this level and they have that experience of being here. We are playing with a little chip and a little of that underdog mentality. I have no doubt Seward will get our best effort.”
Crete (13-11)..............................12 9 9 13 -- 43
York (13-10)..........................10 12 14 12 -- 48
CHS (43) - A. Edwards 2 (1) 0-0 5, T. Doremus 4 0-0 8, T. Shaw 1 (1) 0-0 3, M. Hill 7 (1) 3-4 18, K. Bradley 1 7-8 9. Totals- 15-36 (3) 10-12 43.
YHS (48)- E. Malleck 3 (1) 9-11 16, H. Riley 4 (2) 3-5 13, V. Botts 2 (1) 0-0 5, D. Stuhr 1 4-4 6, L. Harlow 2 (2) 0-0 6, A. Rosenau 1 0-0 2. Totals- 13-27 (6) 16-20 48.