Hasting's St. Cecilia's Tori Thomas, right, looks to shoot around Crofton's Lacey Sprakel (44), left, during the Class C2 championship game of the Nebraska girls state basketball tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday, March 2, 2019.

Last season, Hastings St. Cecilia suffered a five-point loss to eventual Class B state champion Northwest on Jan. 8.

You could say the Hawkettes rebounded just fine from that.

That was the lone blemish on the record for a team that went 26-1 and claimed a Class C-2 state championship.

Flash forward just over one year.

On Tuesday, Northwest again handed previously undefeated St. Cecilia a five-point loss.

The Hawkettes certainly hope the rest of this season follows the script after last year’s game with the Vikings.

“It seemed like we started rolling after that, for sure,” St. Cecilia coach Greg Berndt said. “Hopefully we can do the same thing again this year. Hopefully this is something we can learn from.

“Our goal is our next opponent, whoever it is. We’re not worried about March. We’re on to Minden now. We’ll stash it away and go back and try to do better next time.”

The game against Class B No. 4 Northwest was just the latest challenge for the Hawkettes. On Saturday, they defeated then Class C-1 No. 1 Lincoln Christian 54-45.

“Going undefeated is a pretty unrealistic expectation,” Berndt said. “Our conference is brutal. We’ve got another two pretty tough games this week (against Minden and Kearney Catholic), then we’ve got another two next week (vs. Superior and Aquinas). All but one of them are Division 1 in power points.

“There’s lot more opportunities. We’ve got to stash this away as a learning experience. It’s kind of like out there (on the court). A turnover can’t lead to another turnover. This game can’t lead to another dud. We learn from it, move on and continue to play.”

There is the old sports cliche that teams learn more from their losses than they do their wins.

Whether that is true or not, the loss to Northwest did provide St. Cecilia with some learning experiences.

“We haven’t been in that situation a lot this year,” Berndt said. “We’ve been kind of playing from ahead a lot.

“It’s good for us to be in this situation, honestly. I mean, you’d rather have it here now than hopefully down in Lincoln. And we addressed that. We’ve got to dig in and work together as a group and not worry about No. 1. When we make a mistake, we need to dig in collectively as a group and limit that one mistake so it doesn’t turn into three or four like it did there in the third (quarter against Northwest).”

St. Cecilia looks like the type of team that could again make an extended stay in Lincoln with many key players back from the championship squad.

The Hawkettes showed off their depth by having eight players score in the first half against Northwest.

Senior Tori Thomas tops St. Cecilia with 12.9 points per game while sophomore Bailey Kissinger adds 11.0. Also in the scoring mix are senior Makenna Asher (8.3 ppg), senior Natalie Kissinger (7.8 ppg), junior Katharine Hamburger (5.1 ppg) and senior Chloe McCauley (4.6 ppg).

Stat leaders

This week marks the first edition of the area statistical leaders. The girls leaders will alternate every other Thursday with the boys leaders throughout the rest of the regular season.

Among the leaders:

% Three area players are averaging over 20 points per game — Central City’s Gabby Moser (21.8), St. Paul’s Brooke Poppert (20.7) and St. Edward’s Alyssa Reardon (20.6).

% Elba’s Laura Enriquez averages a double-double per game with 13.0 points and 11.2 rebounds.

% Hanna/Hannah turns out to be the top rebounding first name. Three of the top eight area rebounders share that name — Fullerton’s Hanna Plumbtree (9.2 rpg), Wood River’s Hannah Paulk (8.2) and Burwell’s Hannah Gurney (7.9).

% Many of Brooke Poppert’s points come off of assists from younger sister Olivia, who tops the area with 5.2 assists per game.

% Leading the shooting categories are Cross County’s Erica Stratman (57.9% on 2-pointers), St. Paul’s Paige Lukasiewicz (50.0% on 3-pointers) and Northwest’s Lauren Hauser (84.3% on free throws).

Ratings watch

Three other area teams join Northwest and Hastings St. Cecilia in the latest Omaha World-Herald ratings.

In Class C-1, St. Paul is No. 5 and Broken Bow is No. 6. Grand Island Central Catholic is No. 7 in Class C-2.

Tourney time

The Goldenrod Conference Tournament tips off with first round games on Saturday.

Top-seeded Humphrey St. Francis and second-seeded Palmer host quarterfinal doubleheaders on Monday, with the semifinals and finals being played as usual in St. Paul.

Palmer (10-1) has already doubled its win total from last year, but its one loss was 76-15 to Humphrey St. Francis. The Flyers also own a 70-41 win over third-seeded Fullerton and enter the tournament as the heavy favorite.

Goldenrod Conference Tournament

Saturday, Jan. 18

Riverside vs. St. Edward at Palmer, 6:30 p.m.

Elba at Heartland Lutheran, 3 p.m.

Central Valley vs. Spalding Academy at Nebraska Christian, 2 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 20

At Humphrey St. Francis

Nebraska Christian vs. Burwell, 6 p.m.

Riverside/St. Edward winner vs. Humphrey St. Francis, 7:30 p.m.

At Palmer

Elba/Heartland Lutheran winner vs. Fullerton, 6 p.m.

Central Valley/Spalding Academy winner vs. Palmer, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 23

At St. Paul

Semifinals, 6 and 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 25

At St. Paul

Consolation, 2:30 p.m.

Championship, 6 p.m.

Dale Miller covers girls basketball for the Independent.

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