Season on the line

Millard West advances to distract championship


Photo courtesy of Wildcat Activates

Junior Taylor Hansen scores a layup to help Millard West pull away for Omaha Westside. Hansen was able to consistently find ways to beat Westside from every part of the court. She ended up finishing the game with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals. “Throughout the game, I tried to stay really confident,” Hansen said. “I think our team needed confidence in this game because we all knew that the stakes were high. I knew that we needed to play our best game so that we could continue our season. I also knew that it was important to win so that our Seniors could experience a win for their last home game ever.”

Nathan Delaney, Staff Reporter

On Wednesday, Feb. 22, Millard West took on Omaha Westside in the District A-7 girls’ basketball tournament. Both teams came into this game with confidence and both teams needed a win to get their season alive. Millard West was coming in with the better record and was the host of this game. Meanwhile, Westside was coming in off a 47-40 win over Millard West less than two weeks before this game.

“After losing to Westside last week we all kind of had a chip on our shoulder,” senior Grace Kelley said. “We knew that we didn’t play our best and then we should have beat them. We all came into this game ready to play and get after it.”

Westside won the tip off, but neither team was able to score for the first minute; then, sophomore Neleigh Gessert got the game started with a layup. 

The Wildcats defense started strong with a steal from junior Taylor Hansen, a steal and block by sophomore Norah Gessert, and a block by Neliegh Gessert. These great plays, along with solid team defense, helped the Wildcats hold the Warriors to just two points in the first quarter, giving them a 10-2 lead. 

“While playing in the game, I knew that I had to play my hardest because it could have been my last,” Kelley said. “After getting into foul trouble in the first and second quarters, I had to help my team out even if I was on the bench. I made sure to keep the energy up and keep my team positive.”

Millard West was able to open up the scoring in the second with three Neliegh Gessert three pointers, and some inside scoring by Taylor Hansen. Senior Elaine Wiles would match that energy for Westside, who was able to finish on tough shots inside to finally bring some life to the Westside offense. Millard West was still able to control the game despite this and found themselves up 26-9 at halftime. 

“The halftime talk was about continuing the momentum we had going into halftime,” Hansen said. “We were up by a good amount heading into halftime so we were feeling pretty good. However, we knew that they could come back and make the game closer if we didn’t come out strong. In past games, we have struggled to put teams away and get a comfortable lead. So at halftime that was our goal.”

The third quarter would see point highs by both teams, with a contested three-pointer by senior MaKenna Scholting and a wide-open three-pointer by senior Libby Hoffman leading the way for West. Westside would get some life from junior Sydney Hagen and Wiles, but the rest of the time wasn’t able to keep up and keep Westside in the game, and they found themselves down 44-21 at the start of the 4th quarter.

The fourth quarter would see noticeable minutes by many bench players for both teams. Noticeable freshman Kylee Paben would score six points for Millard West and Westside would also go to the bench by playing three different freshmen. Late in the fourth quarter Millard West would inbound and hold the ball as the last seconds tick off to give Millard West a 60-32 win.

“I was really pleased with the way we guarded and rebounded,” head coach Marc Kroger said. ” I also thought we really made a lot of hustle plays getting on the floor and to loose balls.”

Neleigh Gessert would lead the way for Millard West with 16 points and seven rebounds.

The Wildcats will play Lincoln East on Friday, Feb. 24, in the District A-7 championship game.