Whitney Brown drove Class B No. 4-rated Northwest to a big bounceback win on Tuesday — both literally and figuratively.
Brown scored 18 of her 26 points in the second half, many of them resulting from drives to the basket, to help the Vikings down Class C-2 No. 1 and all-class No. 9 Hastings St. Cecilia 55-50.
Brown was scoreless in the first quarter and missed her first six shots but finished 7-for-13 from the floor after that and was also 9-for-12 from the free-throw line.
“I think I got more confidence,” Brown said. “The first quarter I was struggling and the York game I was missing a lot of free throws and layups. So that was still in my mind. I kind of had to push it back.
“My teammates helped me every time out off the bench. One of the girls on our bench, Ellie Apfel, she’s always in my ear telling me ‘you got this’ and really building me up.”
Brown also had two of her three made 3-pointers after halftime to help Northwest (11-3) rebound from Saturday’s loss to York after trailing the Hawkettes (12-1) by as many as six points in the first half.
“Whitney’s the kind of player, the great player that she is, she’ll find ways to score,” Northwest coach Russ Moerer said. “She’ll adjust her game. She saw that they were playing a little more help taking away some of the drives. She stepped out and hit a couple of threes, so great players do that — they adjust.”
The Nebraska walk-on scored the Vikings’ first 10 points of the second half, and they never trailed again after a 6-0 run to close out the third quarter.
“(Brown) got to the free-throw line a lot and that’s where she got most of her points,” St. Cecilia coach Greg Berndt said. “I can’t fault who we had on her. I thought they played hard. I thought we did a good job of containing her for the most part.
“She got some stuff at the rim. She’s a good player. She found a way to get to the free-throw line.”
St. Cecilia’s only two losses in its past 40 games have come against Northwest.
Berndt said little differences turned the tide after halftime along with the Vikings getting 17 free throw attempts (making 12).
“We didn’t quite execute and we didn’t quite make as many shots,” he said. “I thought we still had decent looks, but I don’t know if we played as well together as a group in the second half offensively as we did in that first half.”
Moerer said Northwest’s defense played well, and it had to to be able to top the Hawkettes.
“It took an above-average defensive effort,” he said. “Hastings St. Cecilia is so fundamentally sound, and they’re one of the best defensive teams every year in the state. And we play pretty good defense too.
“Tonight you saw that on display. Both teams defended really well.”
Moerer was also pleased on the offensive end, where the Vikings got 11 points from Claire Caspersen.
“I think the difference for us is we’re finally understanding our spacing in our man offense,” he said. “Tonight we were significantly better than we’ve been lately.”
It was an important, feel-good win for the Vikings, especially coming off a loss.
“I think it was just a big game for us especially since playing them last year was a tough game for us,” Brown said. “They’re always tough competition, so to come back and win this one is a great feeling.
“We really had to play together. When we played York, we weren’t playing together as a team and we were struggling with the little things. After a while, the little things are going to make a big difference, so to fix those things tonight really helped us.”
And the win came as Northwest nears the end of its busiest stretch of the season.
“In the middle of this seven games in 14 days, to be able to reload on short rest and come back against a great team like St. Cecilia, it’s a huge win — absolutely huge win for or confidence,” Moerer said.
“In the middle of this stretch, to be able to rise up again in back-to-back games against top five, top 10 competition, that’s tough to do. So this is going to serve us well once we get into subs and districts.”
Northwest 55, Hastings SC 50
HASTINGS ST. CECILIA (12-1)
Chloe McCooley 2-2 0-1 4, Bailey Kissinger 4-6 1-3 9, Tori Thomas 5-8 2-2 12, Natalie Kissinger 2-5 0-0 6, Makenna Asher 2-10 5-6 10, Katharine Hamburger 2-6 1-2 5, Shaye Butler 0-0 2-2 2, Erin Sheehy 0-0 0-0 0, Addie Kirkegaard 1-1 0-2 2, Libby Landgren 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-38 11-18 50.
Whitney Brown 7-19 9-12 26, Claire Caspersen 5-8 1-3 11, Lauren Hauser 3-4 3-4 9, Shanae Suttles 1-1 5-6 7, Skylee Nelson 0-1 0-0 0, Adriana Esquivel 1-4 0-0 2, Alexis Julesgard 0-0 0-0 0, Bailey Adams 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-37 18-25 55.
Hastings SC 14 13 8 15—50
Northwest 9 16 12 18—55
3-point field goals—HSC 3-13 (N. Kssinger 2-5, Asher 1-5, Hamburger 0-3), NW 3-10 (Brown 3-8, Nelson 0-1, Esqivel 0-2). Fouled out—B. Kissinger. Rebounds—HSC 26 (Butler 6), NW 23 (Brown, Hauser 5). Assists—HSC 6 (McCauley 2), NW 5 (Nelson 3). Turnovers—HSC 11, NW 7. Total fouls—HSC 18, NW 13. Technicals—none.
Northwest 51, Hastings SC 48
Now at full strength, Northwest survived a 3-pointer at the buzzer to continue its winning ways with a 51-48 victory over Hastings St. Cecilia on Tuesday.
Brayden Schropp’s 3-pointer from the corner just missed, and the Vikings (8-5) clinched their sixth victory in their past seven games.
“I thought we trusted stuff,” Northwest coach Chip Bahe said. “For us, it didn’t turn into running any specials. It came down to executing a little bit.”
Colby Hayes scored to put Northwest up for good 47-46. Sean Juengst then converted a 1-and-1 with 1:04 to go.
Gus Driscoll drove in to score with 11 seconds remaining to pull St. Cecilia (7-6) back within 49-48.
Parker Janky hit a pair of free throws with 9.2 seconds left to push the lead back to three, and Schropp got his shot off on an inbounds play after the Vikings deflected a pass out of bounds with 2.4 seconds to go,
“We pushed them out a little farther from the arc on the last couple threes,” Bahe said. “Of course, the one at the buzzer was a near miss. It was right at it.
“But I thought we pushed them out on the arc in their offense the last three, four minutes of the game. And I’m proud of our guys for that. This is exactly how I thought the game would go.”
Hayes led the Vikings with 13 points. Jed Walford added 12 points in his home debut.
The junior guard played his third varsity contest with Northwest after being ineligible the first part of the season after transferring from Grand Island Senior High.
“He’s a very unselfish player and adds another layer of players to our depth,” Bahe said. “We didn’t use that word in December. It’s kind of fun to use that word.
“We’re getting healthier and we’re getting contributions from a lot of guys. That’s a good remedy and leads to good basketball.”
Sophomores Paul Fago (20 points) and John Starr (17) led the young Bluehawks in the loss. St. Cecilia started four sophomores and one senior.
Northwest 51, Hastings SC 48
HASTINGS ST. CECILIA (7-6)
John Starr 5-11 2-2 17, Paul Fago 6-10 6-7 20, Gus Driscoll 3-6 0-0 7, Garrett Parr 0-0 0-0 0, Brayden Schropp 1-5 2-2 4, Alex Burns 0-0 0-0 0, Noah Daly 0-0 0-0 0, Anthony Sabatka 0-0 0-0 0, Cooper Butler 0-0 0-0 0, Caden Kricac 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-32 10-11 48.
Parker Janky 3-5 2-2 9, Colby Hayes 5-13 0-0 13, Tyler Hageman 1-2 2-2 4, Alex Brandt 2-6 0-0 5, Sean Juengst 2-3 3-4 8, Jed Walford 6-10 0-0 12, Sam Hartman 0-1 0-2 0, Jacob Kosmicki 0-0 0-0 0, Riley Anderson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-40 7-10 51.
Hastings SC 14 8 15 11—48
Northwest 16 9 10 16—51
3-point field goals—HSC 8-16 (Starr 5-11, Fago 2-2, Driscoll 1-2, Schropp 0-2), NW 7-21 (Janky 1-2, Hayes 3-9, Brandt 2-5, Juengst 1-2, Walford 0-2, Hartman 0-1). Fouled out—none. Rebounds—HSC 22 (Parr 9), NW 19 (Hageman 8). Assists—HSC 8 (Driscoll, Schropp 2), NW 8 (Hayes, Juengst 3). Turnovers—HSC 13, NW 6. Total fouls—HSC 11, NW 14. Technicals—none.