SIDNEY – The Sidney Cowgirls turned a six-point halftime advantage into a 14-point lead by the end of the third quarter and cruised from there to a 53-36 win over Fremont-Mills, Thursday, Feb. 13 in a first-round game of the Class 1A Region 7 Tournament.
Sidney led by 10 after the first quarter, but the Knights battled back in the second with a 9-1 run to draw as close as two just past the halfway point of the quarter.
Sidney extended the lead back to six at halftime, and then outscored the Knights 15-7 in the third quarter.
“It was just focusing on us, going out there and getting girls confident,” Sidney head coach Paige Landwehr said on the win, “and those girls showed up and had good games for us. I’m excited for them to have that confidence going into Tuesday.”
Sidney advances to play eighth-ranked Exira/Elk Horn-Kimballton, Tuesday, Feb. 18 in a regional quarterfinal.
Fremont-Mills stayed in striking distance through most of the third quarter. Two Maddy Duncan free throws with 2:29 to go in the third period gave Sidney a double-digit lead as part of a 9-1 run to end the quarter.
“I was proud of the way we played,” Knights head coach Brett Weldon said. “We said before the game we have to let them know that we gave everything we have. In the first half we did, we crashed the boards and attacked with a purpose. If we get a few breaks here and there in the second half, maybe it’s close going into the fourth quarter, but credit to them we wanted to force other people to make shots and those people made shots.”
Sidney’s two leading scorers put up 33 combined points. Maddy Duncan led Sidney with 23 and Chay Ward added 10, but there were others that stepped up offensively. Danica Laumann connected on three 3-pointers, Olivia Larsen scored five points in a span of less than three minutes in the third quarter and Alexis Massey made layups on consecutive trips down the floor in the fourth quarter to build the lead to 16.
“We had some girls step up,” said Landwehr. “We’re tough to guard when other girls are contributing like that.”
The Sidney defense also stepped up, especially in the second half as Fremont-Mills managed just 12 points in the first 14 minutes of the half.
“When we pressure the ball without fouling,” said Landwehr, “we play pretty tough defense.”
“We struggle against man-to-man defense,” added Weldon. “A few years ago everyone played us zone because we couldn’t shoot. This year we can shoot a bit and people have been playing us man, and we just couldn’t turn that corner. We did some good things, but in the second half we couldn’t get anything going consistently.”
The win was the seventh in a row for the Cowgirls to improve to 14-7 on the season. The eighth-ranked 19-1 Spartans, who have won 19 consecutive games, are next.
“They are a great team,” Landwehr said on the Spartans. “It’s about focusing on us though. We’ll watch some film and prepare for them, but our girls need to know that we believe in them and we think they can compete with any team. It’s important for them to know that.”
Kaelynn Driskell led the Knights with 11 points. Teagan Ewalt added seven while Courtney Goodman scored six as the Knights’ season ended with a 9-12 record.
The Knights lose four seniors to graduation who saw time this season, including starters in Goodman, Wright and Kelly Kesterson as well as reserve Elizabeth Bartles.
“They are a great senior class,” said Weldon. “They have stuck with it and battled. They beat Sidney this year, which has been a goal for the last four years and they accomplished that. I wish it would have been this one, but that’s the way it goes.”
Sidney won three of the four meetings with Fremont-Mills this season.