Norris played host to the Eastern Midlands Conference Tournament, one of the toughest conferences in Class B, on Saturday afternoon, and the Titans took home the title in both the girls and boys divisions.
No. 2 Norris 60, No. 1 Elkhorn North 52
Led by superstar freshman Britt Prince, the Elkhorn North Wolves have been running roughshod over their opponents this season, winning their first 14 games by an average of 2.0 points.
They finally met their match on Saturday, however, as the Lady Titans handed the Wolves their first loss of the season to take home the team’s fourth EMC tournament title and first since 2017.
Prince is leading Class B in scoring, and Norris was well aware of that. Coach Mark Hagerman put 5-foot-4 senior point guard Molly Ramsey on Prince and had her face-guard her all game, and that strategy paid off early on in a big way. Prince took just one shot in the first quarter and didn’t score until midway through the second quarter.
Norris jumped out to a 16-5 lead before Elkhorn North finally got something going. Reilly Palmer scored Elkhorn North’s first 11 points including six straight early in the second quarter with a 3 and a three-point play back-to-back. The Wolves kept chipping away at the deficit the rest of the half. After scoring just two points on a pair of free throws in the first 15 minutes, Prince finally got loose with a floater and then a steal which she took all the way for a three-point play to tie the game at 24-all heading into halftime.
The teams traded blows in the third quarter until the Lady Titans ripped off an 8-0 run to end the period, taking a 39-31 lead into the fourth. Norris pushed that lead to 12 at 48-36 before Elkhorn North mounted a late comeback led by Prince.
The Wolves ripped off an 11-3 run (featuring eight points by Prince and a triple by Palmer) to cut the deficit to four at 51-47 with 1:45 to go. The comeback ended there, however, as the Wolves ran out of gas. Norris stretched the lead back out with a 9-2 run.
After Prince had a tough layup rim out, the Norris student section started chanting “overrated” at her. She came back down and swished a 3 from NBA range on the next possession just before the buzzer.
Prince finished with a game-high 22 points on 7-of-15 from the field, 2-of-4 from deep and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line with eight rebounds, four steals, three assists and two steals. Palmer added 22 points, but the rest of the Wolves combined for just 10 points.
Norris got much better balance on offense as all eight Lady Titans who saw the floor found their way into the scoring column. Senior Brianna Stai, the daughter of former Husker lineman Brenden Stai and a Central Missouri commit, led the way with 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Junior Delaney White scored 11 of her 14 in the second half, shooting 2-of-4 from the field and 10-of-14 from the charity stripe. She also pulled down eight rebounds (four on each end) and dished out three assists. Senior Maddy Collier chipped in 12 points. Norris recorded an assist on 16 of their 20 field goals.
No. 1 Norris 54, No. 3 Elkhorn 44
With a starting frontcourt that stands 6-foot-5, 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6 and more length coming off the bench, Elkhorn’s 1-3-1 defense can be tough for most teams to crack. Norris isn’t most teams, however. The Titans jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished it as they earned their first conference tournament championship since 2007.
The Titans picked the Antlers apart, shooting 7-of-9 from the field including 3-of-4 from deep in the first quarter as they jumped out to an 18-9 lead after one. Izaiah Pankoke-Johnson hit a 3 to open the second quarter, pushing the lead to 12 before Elkhorn countered with an 8-3 stretch.
Norris scored the last five points of the period to take a 29-17 lead into halftime, then maintained that lead throughout the third with a 10-10 quarter.
Elkhorn senior Colton Uhing put the Antlers on his back to open the fourth, putting together a personal 9-2 run to cut the deficit to five at 41-36. Norris responded with a 7-1 run to slam the door shut, however, and cruised from there.
Norris put on an offensive clinic against the zone in the first half, shooting 10-of-15 from the field including 6-of-9 from 3. The 3s dried up in the second half (1-of-5 in the third quarter, no attempts in the fourth), but the Titans had built up enough of a lead to hold on.
Senior point guard Cade Rice led the charge with 16 points 5-of-8 from the field, 3-of-5 from 3 and 3-of-4 from the line with five assists. Nebraska baseball commit CJ Hood finished with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting while senior Brayson Mueller added 10 points (2-of-4 from the field, 5-of-5 from the line) and five boards.
The Titans took down the Antlers 53-36 on Jan. 2 as well, and in the two games combined they recorded assists on 29 of their 35 buckets while shooting 14-of-31 (45.2%) from 3.
Uhing, a Midland commit, led the Antlers with 26 points on 11-of-20 shooting including 3-of-7 from deep. Caden Reynolds added nine points, but Kyler Randazzo, another Nebraska baseball commit, was the only other Antler with more than one bucket, finishing with four points and three offensive boards. Norris did a great job of neutralizing Elkhorn’s post-centered offense, limiting Drew Christo (the third and final Nebraska baseball commit in the game) with just three points on three shot attempts.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.