With a trip to the Class A state tournament on the line, Papillion-La Vista held off a late rally from Kearney to clinch its second straight state berth.
The Top 10 No. 3 Monarchs hit their free throws late to pull out a 57-49 win over the Bearcats in the District A-3 final.
Kearney got two 3-pointers from Ryan Cervantes and Jacob Weis to start the fourth quarter, igniting an 11-4 run and cutting the Papio lead to 46-41 with just over three minutes remaining.
The veteran Monarch team never lost its poise, despite seeing a 14-point lead cut to five.
“We've been in close games all year and have eight seniors on the team,” Papillion-La Vista coach Jason Ryan said. “I'm proud of our guys for how they responded down the stretch. We made our free throws and got a couple of big stops when they could have cut it to a one-possession game.'
Papillion made 7 of its last 8 free throws, including four by senior Nate Maloley, to clinch the win, never letting Kearney closer than five points.
After playing to a tie in the first quarter, Papio pumped up the pace to grab a 12-point lead going into the final quarter.
“Our tempo was much better,” Ryan said. “We started to get out and run more and our ball movement was much better.
But the Bearcats kept scrapping and wouldn't let the Monarchs run away with it.
Maloley led the Monarchs with 17 points, eight in the fourth quarter. Three other Monarchs scored in double figures, with Spencer Lewis netting 13 and Tyler Dougherty and Brett Dougherty adding 10 apiece.
Kearney (14-12) ................. 12 9 7 21—49
Papillion-La Vista (22-3) ................. 12 16 12 17—57
K: Damien Austen 10, Ben Clark 12, Jacob Weis 14, Brady Johnson 4, Ryan Cervantes 9.
PLV: Nate Maloley 17, Tyler Dougherty 10, Spencer Lewis 13, Matt Sefranek 7, Brett Dougherty 10.