LINCOLN -- The Pleasanton girls smashed the semifinal ceiling Friday afternoon.
Sparked by a 10-point fourth quarter by senior Cadee Nichols, the Bulldogs rallied for a 50-46 victory over Chambers-Wheeler Central in the Class D1 state tournament semifinals at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln.
It was Pleasanton’s first state semifinal victory in volleyball or basketball in five tries.
What awaits today (Saturday) in the finals at 9 a.m. is the Bulldogs’ nemesis, Archbishop Bergan. The Knights have blocked Pleasanton’s state championship hopes in volleyball the past two years and the defending basketball champion.
“It’s a good feeling to have a (chance at) redemption on them,” said Nichols, a 5-foot-3 point guard who stepped to the forefront when Pleasanton’s semifinal barrier cast a dark shadow over the Bulldogs
Pleasanton’s leading scorer for the season, Isabelle Paitz, sat out more than six minutes of the third quarter after picking up her fourth foul. Katy Lindner, who already had nine points, joined her on the bench with four fouls with more than two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
And CWC entered the last period with a five-point lead.
“We found a way. We made our run, and it was enough,” Pleasanton coach Jordan Arensdorf said.
Nichols, still slowed by an ankle injury from earlier in the week, lit the fuse with a 3-pointer two minutes into the fourth quarter. Another three just over a minute later put the Bulldogs ahead.
“She’s a big-time player,” Arensdorf said. “She’s playing on a bum ankle and I can see that when she’s out there, but she’s grinding through it. She hits big-time shots when we needed them. … She came up big for us.”
She had one curtain call left to answer.
By the time the Renegades scored their first basket of the fourth quarter, with 1:41 left, Pleasanton had a six-point lead. But the Bulldogs went ice cold from the free-throw line, missing six of 11 in the last 100 seconds.“
“We’re a great free-throw shooting team, we really are,” Arensdorf said. “Semifinal game, on a big state, we were a little nervous.”
Nichols wasn’t. She made two free throws with 9.1 seconds left to give Pleasanton the breathing room it needed.
“We’ve been in that locker room way too many times after losing this game. … So to finally get over that hump was huge and exciting,” Arensdorf said.
Nichols finished with 18 points as did teammate Kaci Pierce. Lindner finished with 10.
CWC’s Taylor Peter led all scorers with 22 points.
Pleasanton 50, CWC 46
Score by Quarters
Pleasanton (27-0) 12 17 7 16 -- 50
CWC (26-2) 13 12 14 7 -- 46
PLEASANTON -- Cadee Nichols 18, Kaci Pierce 18, Katy Lindner 10, Isabelle Paitz 2, Paige Wisdorfer 1, Hailey Mollring 1.
CHAMERS/WHEELER CENTRAL -- Taylor Peter 22, Michelle Koenig 11, Ryann Haburchak 6, Rachel Dierks 4, Grace Pokorny 3.