AP NEWS

Seward girls hold off Norris

February 19, 2019

SEWARD — Seward’s Camryn Opfer chose the perfect time to hit a rare three-pointer, a shot that proved to be the game-winner over Norris in Saturday’s 47-46 Class B-3 girls basketball district final.

Norris’ Brianna Stai had just made two free throws to give her team a 46-44 lead with 1:33 remaining when Opfer got the ball at the top of the key. The 6-foot senior, who mostly plays in the post, took a dribble backwards behind the arc and sank the shot.

“She hasn’t been shooting threes hardly at all,” Seward coach Tom Tvrdy said. “I don’t know if she’s made one this year. But she was gonna shoot that one.”

When Tvrdy called out the offensive set, Opfer was ready.

“I’ve ran that (play) so many times in practice, and I knew I was going to take advantage of the moment,” Opfer said. “I knew right when I let it go it was in.”

Norris got three more offensive possessions, but couldn’t convert on any of them before the buzzer sounded, and the Bluejays celebrated their third straight state tournament berth and third win over the Titans this year.

Norris (11-12) put on a strong showing Saturday considering Seward beat the Titans 47-26 on Feb. 12 in subdistrict play. But nobody was taking the Titans lightly after they knocked off top-ranked Crete on Monday. And Norris played like a top-tier team most of the afternoon, as it methodically attacked Seward’s zone defense and led by eight points at halftime.

Then, the Bluejays found their footing, tying the game heading into the fourth quarter.

“The pressure was on our girls, down to a Norris team, who just beat the number one team two games ago by 11 and are really good,” Tvrdy said. “I told the girls, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger comeback under adverse conditions than they did just now.”

“As an underdog in this situation, you can come in loose,” the coach added, pointing out that the pressure was on his team in a win-or-go-home situation after a great regular season.

Opfer and Kayla Luebbe had 14 points to lead Seward (20-4). Stai led Norris with 25 points as the Titans shot just 5-of-22 from the three-point line. Four of those came in two separate back-to-back sequences.

“It surely was not a lack of effort whatsoever,” Norris coach Mark Hagerman said. “That’s what I love about this team. Every day they bring it. You can’t ask anything else from them.”