FIRTH — Class B No. 2 Norris and No. 3 Crete’s game Wednesday was a low-scoring contest, with each team only having one double-figure scorer.
It was only fitting that it was a timely defensive stop and equally timely free throws that pushed Norris to a 33-31 home victory and the Class B-4 subdistrict title. Each team will now host a district final game Saturday.
Norris’ Brianna Stai blocked a shot at the rim by Crete’s Marin Rasgorshek with 8.9 seconds to play to preserve a 31-29 lead for the Titans. Then Stai drew a foul, walked to the free-throw line and sank two game-sealing foul shots.
Hannah Newton hit a shot at the buzzer for Crete to make the final result a two-point game.
“I thought our defense won the ballgame there,” Norris coach Mark Hagerman said. “We moved into more of a zone defense instead of man-to-man. We forced some turnovers in the third and fourth quarter … I was happy with how girls played on defense.”
Both teams worked at a methodical pace as each featured a zone defense, and Hagerman said Crete’s scheme spread his team out and took away some of their offensive options.
Crete (20-3) took a 9-5 lead after the first quarter, but the Titans (19-2) responded with a 12-2 second quarter and took a six-point lead into halftime. The scoring push included one three-pointer each from Maddy Collier and Kalli Kroeker. Kroeker finished with a game-high 12 points, and Collier was second on the team with eight.
The game stayed tight the rest of the way. Crete found some success from beyond the arc in the third quarter. Newton, Rasgorshek and Brooke Deisley each knocked down a three-pointer, and the Cardinals tied things up going into the fourth.
That all led to the game’s pivotal final seconds.
Stai, a 6-foot senior, didn’t score until the fourth quarter, but the blocked shot and free throws proved to be difference-makers on a night when the Titans shot just 4-of-9 from the line.
It was Norris’ second win of the season over Crete, with the first coming in another tight contest on Jan. 16, which the Titans won 47-43.
“It’s huge for us because those are the way the games are going to be down the stretch,” Hagerman said. “That’s what we told the girls going into subdistricts. Every game from here on out is like your state championship game.”
Newton finished with 11 points for the Cardinals, and Deisley added seven.