By: Jon Willis, Millard West, Audio Track

On Thursday, March 5th, the Grand Island Northwest Vikings took on the Sidney Red Raiders in the first round of the girls state basketball tournament. Northwest came into the game with a 21-5 record while Sidney had a 19-6 record. 

Both crowds showed up very well, with a very cool atmosphere. Whenever you get to play at Pinnacle Bank Arena (PBA), it’s a very cool experience for both players and coaches. Pinnacle Bank Arena is one of the best places to play in Nebraska, so of course they relished this opportunity and both teams played very well. 

“In the state basketball tournament, it’s always a great atmosphere,” head coach of Northwest Ross Moerer said. “You got the bands, you’re playing at PBA, so it’s definitely a great atmosphere for our kids to play in.” 

The first quarter was sluggish for both teams. All players seemed to be a little nervous playing in this atmosphere, rightfully so. Senior Whtiney Brown for Northwest and senior Madyson Johnson for Sidney both had 6 points in the first quarter, getting their team going early. The score was 11-9 after the first quarter with senior Lauren Hauser making a buzzer beater layup to put the Vikings up before the first break. 

Sidney really started to take over in the second quarter. Junior Karly Sylvester for Sidney started to get hot in the quarter, getting into the paint with ease, and making buckets seem easy. She ended the first half with 19 points, and got her team to a 22-16 lead going into halftime. Northwest knew that they had started the game tough and would need to get going if they wanted to get back in the game. 

“You could tell in the first half that we had a 2 week layoff,” Moerer said. “It wasn’t our best half of basketball and I’m sure that Sidney could say the same thing.”

Northwest came out in the third quarter swinging. They outscored Sidney 20-7 in the third quarter. The points didn’t all come from one person though, with many players getting going for the Vikings. Junior Shanae Shuttles and Hauser both had 8 points total in the game, and really contributed to the hot start in the third quarter. They also locked down on defense, not letting the Red Raiders get up any good shots. Northwest went into the fourth quarter up 36-29 seeming to have the game in their hands. 

The fourth quarter was extremely tough and physical. Sidney came back and had the game tied at 40 at point, but Brown got going. She ended with 16 points, and had the opportunity to ice the game at 47-44. She missed both free throws though, giving Sidney a chance with 8 seconds left. Sidney drove down the court though, got the ball to senior Mattie Johnson and she put up a three. She would end up missing though, so Northwest won the game 47-44. 

Northwest will play Crete tomorrow, who is ranked number 1 in class B, so that will be a huge game for them, and a tough one to win. It’ll be a good game though, and Northwest is a dangerous team going into the second round. 

You can find a recap of the game by Jon Willis in the Striv Education Podcast.