HUTCHINSON, Kan. (CIK) The Cheney girls are headed back to the state finals for the second time in three years. Friday night in Hutchinson the Lady Cardinals used a strong start to get by Nemaha Central 60-48. Top-seeded Cheney will play No. 6 Royal Valley for the Class 3A title Saturday.
Lady Cardinal sophomore Kylee Scheer opened a big night with back-to-back threes to open the game. Senior Destinee O'Shea added a drive for a quick 8-0 lead just more than two minutes in.
"You hit the first one and it gives you confidence the rest of the game," said Scheer. "It gives the team momentum to hit shots. It worked well for us."
Scheer scored 10 of her game-high 25 points in the opening frame, and senior Layne Needham added five points. Nemaha Central senior Jacy Dalinghaus scored all six Thunder points in the quarter as Cheney pulled ahead 17-6.
The Lady Cardinals continued to excel on both ends of the court into quarter two. Scheer put in five straight and O'Shea hit another trey late in the half to send Cheney into the break with a 30-14 advantage.
"They're a great team," said Cheney coach Rod Scheer. "We had to have that start of 17-6 and 30-14. Thank goodness we just held on because that team never quit."
Nemaha quickly cut into the lead with baskets from Alleigh Kramer and Kirsten Lortscher to open the second half. Cheney answered with threes from Scheer and O'Shea, then Scheer picked up a basket and foul late in the third to bump the gap to 44-22.
That lead proved to be vital down the stretch. O'Shea knocked down another three midway through the fourth to keep Cheney's cushion at 53-36. Kramer put up a fight in the final four minutes. She scored just one point in the first two quarters for Nemaha Central but finished with a team-high 22. That effort helped whittle the gap all the way to 57-46 with 1:09 remaining.
The Cardinal defense ultimately prevailed. Cheney used its speed and athleticism to generate 21 turnovers on the night. "It definitely helps our momentum going into our offense," Kylee said. "We get a couple steals and fast breaks and it really works well for us."
Kramer grabbed eight boards to go with her 22 points. Dalinghaus and Lortscher each scored 10 points for Nemaha Central.
Scheer went eight above her season average to lead all players with 25 points that included a 5-for-9 effort from behind the arc. She also led all players with five steals and four assists. O'Shea and Needham each added 15 points for the Lady Cards, and O'Shea grabbed six rebounds.
Cheney takes a 22-2 record into Saturday's championship game against Royal Valley. The Lady Cards made it to the 2017 title game before losing to then-3A juggernaut Hugoton. Kylee said the team is hoping to ride the momentum from Wednesday and Friday's wins.
"Start from where we left off and just keep it going," she said. "It's our last game for our seniors so we're going to leave it all out there for them."
Coach Scheer knows he will have his hands full against the Panthers, who knocked off Norton 53-44 in the other semifinal. Mary Broxterman scored 26 points in the win.
"(Royal Valley coach Kyle Porter) is one of the best coaches in the state of Kansas," said Coach Scheer. "He does one of the best jobs I've seen in a long time. They're so solid fundamentally. They get good shots and play good defense. It's going to be a battle."