The HAC Tournament concluded on Thursday with the girls and boys championship games at Lincoln Southeast.
After coming up short against Lincoln Pius X in the HAC Final in each of the last two seasons, the Fremont girls finally got over the hump and knocked off the Thunderbolts in round three.
On the boys side, Pius had won three HAC titles in a row, but Lincoln Northeast broke that stranglehold on the conference bragging rights.
GIRLS: No. 4 Fremont 59, No. 3 Lincoln Pius X 47
The Thunderbolts fell victim to a very simple fact of math: three is greater than two.
Pius had the edge in the paint, but Fremont outscored the Bolts by 27 points from the 3-point line en route to a double-digit victory. The Tigers made more 3s in the first half than the Thunderbolts attempted in the whole game.
Fremont hit five triples in the first quarter and closed the period strong to take a 21-10 lead, and they maintained that advantage throughout the game. The Tigers forced eight Pius turnovers in the first quarter and didn’t turn it over at all on their end.
“That was a little bit more uncharacteristic because they usually do take really good care of the ball,” Fremont coach Kelly Flynn said. “They got a couple of travel calls there which helped us, especially when we were hitting. We really wanted to get that lead early because we knew that they run that deliberate offense and take some time off the clock.”
Pius scored the first five points of the second quarter to pull within six, but Fremont answered with a 7-0 run to push it back to double digits.
Fremont led 34-21 at halftime and pushed it to as much as 17 before Adison Markowski, the daughter of former Husker Andy Markowski and sister of current Husker Alexis Markowski, orchestrated a 6-0 run with two buckets and an assist to put some pressure on the Tigers.
However, Fremont got the ball last. Iowa commit Taylor McCabe cut down the lane and a teammate tried to feed her, and as she caught the ball two defenders collided and fell down. Instead of shooting where she caught it or attacking the basket, she dribbled back to the 3-point line and hit a step-back at the buzzer to give Fremont a 48-34 lead.
The Tigers shot 10-of-19 from deep in the first three quarters while Pius was 2-of-6.
Fremont cooled off in the fourth, and a five-point burst in the span of about 20 seconds cut the deficit down to eight at 55-47 with 2:08 to play, but the Thunderbolts didn’t score again after that.
McCabe led all scorers with 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting (4-of-9 from 3) and 2-of-2 from the free-throw line, and she chipped in four assists and four rebounds. Sophomore McKenna Murphy added 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting (2-of-5 from deep) and 2-of-4 from the foul line with four rebounds. Sarah Shepard chipped in 11 points.
Markowski dealt with foul trouble in the first half and scored just four points, but she got going in the second half to finish with 19 on 7-of-13 from the field (including one of Pius’ two 3-pointers) and 4-of-6 from the line.
“Taylor, I think, was guarding her and playing really good defense on her,” Flynn said. “Markowski is a good player and she found ways to get open a few times, especially down the stretch there. They are going to win a lot of games and I’m glad to get a championship here because the last couple years they got us.”
In addition to avenging losses in the previous two HAC Tournament championship games, the Tigers also got the Thunderbolts back for beating them in the season-opener, a 68-64 win for Pius in double-overtime.
No. 3 Lincoln Pius X: 10-11-13-13 — 47
No. 4 Fremont: 21-13-14-11 — 59
LPX: Adison Markowski 19, Sara Iburg 9, Makenna Lesiak 6, Lily Hodge 5, Charlee Hagedorn 2, Madelyn Navrkal 2, Keeleigh Knobbe 2, Aly Woita 2
F: Taylor McCabe 20, McKenna Murphy 12, Sarah Shepard 11, Bella Keaton 8, Macy Bryant 5, Emmalee Sheppard 3
BOYS: No. 4 Lincoln Northeast 51, No. 3 Lincoln Pius X 48
Lincoln Northeast used a strong defensive effort and a big spark off the bench from senior G Gatnoor to dethrone the three-time reigning champions and improve to 9-0 on the season.
Gatnoor, a transfer from Lincoln High, put up a game-high 19 points on 7-of-9 from the field, 3-of-3 from deep and 2-of-2 from the foul line to lead the Rockets to victory.
“G started with us as a freshman at Northeast,” Northeast coach Monte Ritchie said. “His family moved over by Lincoln High, so he went over there. His brothers graduated and then he decided he wanted to come back and be a Rocket again, and we are so glad that he did make that decision, because we don’t win that game without him, and we don’t win a few of the games without him. Credit to him, he’s worked his butt off and put himself in a good position by working hard.”
The game was close throughout the first half with multiple lead changes, but the Rockets took a 28-25 edge into halftime and then opened the second half with a 10-3 run to build a 38-28 advantage.
Pius kept battling and scored the last five points of the quarter with a pair of free throws from North Dakota State commit Sam Hastreiter and a 3-pointer from Jared Bohrer (assisted by Hastreiter).
Northeast junior Jalen Lang opened the fourth quarter with a layup, and then 11 straight empty possessions followed between the two teams as both sides locked in on defense. Gatnoor finally ended the scoring drought with a 3-pointer to put the Rockets back up by 10.
The Thunderbolts didn’t quit, however, and kept chipping away at the lead the rest of the game. Pius forced a turnover and Bohrer made it count with a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to three at 47-44 with 1:02 to play.
Pius put Gatnoor at the line for the bonus and he hit both, then the Rockets forced a Pius turnover and got the ball ahead to Gatnoor for the breakaway layup. Pius made one last push with a layup from Christiansen and then a steal and layup from Jack Hastreiter to make it a three-point game again.
An empty trip to the foul line for the Rockets with 3.9 left gave Pius one last chance. The Bolts pushed the ball ahead and Christiansen banked in a 3 at the buzzer that would have tied it, but the ball was clearly still in his hands at the buzzer and the officials waved it off.
Gatnoor was the only Rocket in double figures, but the team overall shot 51% from the field including 7-of-17 from deep.
Northeast held Pius to just under 38% from the field by packing it in and making life in the paint difficult. The Bolts actually shot better from 3-point range than they did inside the arc. South Dakota State commit Jack Hastreiter led the team with 13 points while his brother Sam added 10 points and seven boards.
“Defense has kind of been our calling card to this point in the season,” Ritchie said. “Typically, offense is a little slower to come around. We’re still early in the season and we’re still trying to figure some things out offensively. We’re doing just enough offensively, but defensively, we know we’re going to be in in games if we can guard and to this point we’ve guarded well.”
No. 3 Lincoln Pius X: 12-13-12-11 — 48
No. 4 Lincoln Northeast: 9-19-14- 9 — 51
LPX: Jack Hastreiter 13, Sam Hastreiter 10, Brady Christiansen 9, Jared Bohrer 8, Tommy Dworak 6, Jackson Kessler 2
LNE: G Gatnoor 19, Christian Winn 9, Porter Bazil 7, Jalen Lang 6, Zander Beard 6, Carlos Valdez 2, Adonis Jones 2
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.