Sacred Heart’s state title defense begins Thursday morning

FALLS CITY – For the seventh season in-a-row, the city of Lincoln will be coated in green and white this weekend.

The Falls City Sacred Heart girls basketball team (24-1), ranked #1 in the latest News Channel Nebraska rankings, play Sandhills/Thedford (10-11) in the first round of the Nebraska School Activities Association State Basketball Championships on Thursday. Tip-off at Lincoln North Star High School is scheduled for 9 a.m.

Irish Head Coach Luke Santo says most of their attention will be on Knights 6’2″ junior center Marlee Taylor (13.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG) and 5’5″ senior point guard Hannah Higgins (8.8 PPG, 3.0 SPG).

“We got to take the (Marlee) Taylor girl away. She’s focus number one and then the (Hannah) Higgins girl. We’ve been stressing, ‘we can’t let those two girls beat you.’ We do a pretty good job of that, and the girls are smart and understand the scouting report. We’re going to challenge those other girls. Make their role players prove that they can do things consistently and we’re hoping that they can’t.”

Sandhills/Thedford is playing in their fourth consecutive state tournament (seventh overall). Last year they lost in the first round to Exeter-Milligan, 44-41.

Sacred Heart is making their 22nd appearance. They have won five state titles, including last year and in 2015. The Irish finished third in 2016.

News Channel Nebraska will follow the Irish through the state tournament and fans can listen to each game on B103 (103.1 FM,

NOTE: Our News Channel Nebraska Sports Crew is once again going to be LIVE from the girls and boys state basketball tournaments. We will have highlights from more games than anyone else, along with interviews from coaches and players, and all the results you need to know from Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln each night at 10 p.m.. Watch the show live on News Channel Nebraska or The show will re-air each morning at 8 a.m.

2018 Nebraska School Activities Association State Championship Brackets

D2 First Round: #1 Sacred Heart vs. #8 Sandhills/Thedford

When: 9 a.m. Thursday

Where: Lincoln North Star High School

Radio: 103.1 FM,

C1 First Round: #6 Auburn vs. #3 Lincoln Christian

When: 9 a.m. Thursday

Where: Bob Devaney Sports Center

Radio: 1600 AM, 105.5 FM and

Follow Hunter on Twitter: @TheBurnRadio

Class D2 girls state basketball scouting report

Exeter-Milligan Timberwolves (21-6)

Coach: Jackson Krejci

W-H ranking: 3

Tournament history: Eighth trip to state, second year in a row; state champion in 2004

Top scorers: Kate Jansky, 14.6 ppg; Hannah Beethe, 9.4

Top rebounder: Tara Mueller, 9.2 rpg

Fast fact: The Timberwolves have an opportunity to sweep the Class D-2 volleyball and girls basketball titles.

Falls City Sacred Heart Irish (24-1)

Coach: Luke Santo

W-H ranking: 1

Tournament history: Twenty-second state trip, seventh in a row; five-time champion, including last year

Top scorers: Sara Wertenberger, 11.4 ppg; Lauren Parrish 7.1

Top rebounder: Wertenberger, 7.2 rpg

Fast fact: The only loss suffered by the Irish was against Class D-1 Friend on Feb. 3.

RADIO: Follow the Irish through the state tournament on B103 103.1 FM and

Humphrey St. Francis Flyers (24-2)

Coach: Bryan Reichmuth

W-H ranking: 2

Tournament history: Tenth state trip, first since 2015; three-time champion, most recently 2007

Top scorers: Logan Wemhoff, 17.2 ppg; Allison Weidner, 14.7

Top rebounder: Wemhoff, 9.2

Fast fact: The Flyers haven’t lost since Jan. 11 against Pierce, a Class C-1 state tournament qualifier.

Hyannis Longhorns (20-2)

Coach: Scott Kuhn

W-H ranking: 4

Tournament history: Fourth appearance, first since 2016

Top scorers: Britney Brosius, 14.0 ppg; Jackie Schwanebeck, 11.0

Top rebounder: Mackenzie Anderson, 8.0

Fast fact: The Longhorns are still seeking their first state tourney win.

Red Cloud Warriors (19-5)

Coach: Casey Fangmeyer

W-H ranking: 5

Tournament history: Fourth trip to state, second year in a row

Top scorers: Mary Nibbe, 12.9 ppg; Julia Shipman, 8.0

Top rebounder: Nibbe, 9.4 rpg

Fast fact: Red Cloud reached state with just six players on the roster last year; the Warriors have 11 this season.

Riverside Chargers (14-11)

Coach: Will Wragge

W-H ranking: 6

Tournament history: First trip as co-op of Spalding and Cedar Rapids

Top scorers: McKenna Anderson, 11.4 ppg; Morgan Haschke, 9.1

Top rebounder: Madison Walkowiak, 7.5 rpg

Fast fact: The Chargers upset 20-5 Ewing 54-51 in the district final.

Sandhills/Thedford Knights (10-11)

Coach: Bec Ray

W-H ranking: Unranked

Tournament history: Seventh appearance, fourth year in a row

Top scorers: Marlee Taylor, 12.8 ppg; Hannah Higgins, 9.1

Top rebounder: Taylor, 10.0 rpg

Fast fact: The Knights are the only state tournament team with a losing record.

Wauneta-Palisade Broncos (16-7)

Coach: Matt Cox

W-H ranking: 10

Tournament history: Thirteenth state tourney trip, most recent 2016; 1997 champion

Top scorers: Faith Simpson, 21.5 ppg; Monique Gooden, 7.5

Top rebounder: Simpson, 6.8 rpg

Fast fact: The Broncos qualified as a wild card after losing to Maywood-Hayes Center in subdistricts.

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