LINCOLN — Past frustrations were erased for Pleasanton as the Bulldogs finally captured their elusive state championship.
No. 1-rated Pleasanton capped an undefeated season with a 47-38 victory over No. 4 Fremont Bergan on Saturday morning in the Class D1 state tournament championship game at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Bulldogs (28-0) became the first D1 team to finish without a loss since Bancroft-Rosalie in 2008.
It was also the first girls basketball state title for Pleasanton’s girls basketball program and the school’s first girls state title in any sport since winning volleyball in 1976.
More importantly to his year’s team, Pleasanton won a state title after falling in the semifinals each of the past two seasons. Fremont Bergan had also defeated the Bulldogs in the semifinals of the state volleyball tournament the past two years and it made redemption extra sweet for the two-sport crossover players.
“Overcoming (Bergan), getting a win and finishing undefeated just feels great — unbelievable,” Pleasanton junior forward Katelyn Lindner said. “With the (revenge-factor) that we all had coming into the game, it was awesome.”
Lindner finished with 14 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the floor, including a pair of 3-pointers, and had six rebounds and three steals. Natalie Siegel also had 14 points, going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, and Kaci Pierce finished with 11 points for the Bulldogs.
Pleasanton coach Jordan Arensdorf said balanced scoring throughout the tournament was key. The Bulldogs won the title game despite leading scorer Isabelle Paitz and third-leading scorer Cadee Nichols combining for one point against the Knights.
“We have eight to nine girls that on any given night that can go score 15 points,” Arensdorf said. “We’re deep and we’re well-rounded. I think that makes us tough to scout.
“Today, Natalie Siegel and Katelyn Lindner and Kaci really stepped up and took some of the scoring load.”
Trailing 28-27, Pleasanton took the lead on a 3-pointer by Siegel with 57 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Bulldogs later used a 7-0 run, capped by Pierce’s driving basket to go ahead 40-32 with 3:24 to play, and hit 9 of 13 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
Fremont Bergan led 22-20 at halftime, but the Bulldogs hit 7 of 15 shots from the floor in the second half and had just five turnovers after nine in the first 16 minutes.
“We went in at halftime and we thought we could play a lot better,” Arensdorf said. “We needed to keep our composure. We had too many turnovers in the first half and weren’t working the ball inside out, so we were relaxed at halftime and knew we could do better.
“The girls responded in the second half, stuck with the game plan and the girls hit big-time shots.”
Allie DeGroff had a double-double (14 points and 10 rebounds) for defending D1 state champion Fremont Bergan (16-10). Knights’ leading scorer Lauren Baker, who entered the state tournament averaging 14 points per game, was limited to nine points on 4-of-15 shooting from the floor.
“DeGroff is a very good player and Baker is a really good player, but for the most part, I thought our defense was excellent,” Arensdorf said. “Our defense has been really good all season long — we’ve been holding teams to just under 30 points a game — and that showed in the state tournament.”
Fremont Bergan coach Nate Pribnow said 3-point shooting was the difference. Pleasanton finished 6-of-17 from deep, while the Knights were 2-of-13.
“We had a handful of open opportunities from the same spot, but we weren’t able to convert on them,” Pribnow said. “They went on a couple of runs that switched the momentum and we were never really able to cut into those leads after they extended themselves a little bit.”
With just two seniors on its roster (Paige Weisdorfer and Nichols), Pleasanton would figure to be in the mix for a state title again next season. However, Lindner said her two departing teammates won’t easily be replaced.
“They’re the energy of the team,” Lindner said. “Next year, we’re going to miss that. We’re going to need people to step up.
“Just playing with (the seniors) since third grade has really helped our team chemistry.”
Fremont Bergan........9 13 6 10—38
Pleasanton..............9 11 11 16—47
FB: Allie DeGroff 6-6 2-3 14, Hannah Frost 0-0 0-0 0, Lily Bojanski 1-2 0-0 2, Kaia McIntyre 3-11 0-1 6, Lauren Baker 4-15 0-0 9, Jadin Ostrand 1-1 0-2 2, Aleesha Broussard 0-0 0-0 0, Adisyn Mendlik 2-5 0-0 0, Kaitlyn Lmnarik 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-40 2-6 38.
P: Katelyn Lindner 5-5 2-4 14, Kaci Pierce 4-7 2-3 11, Cadee Nichols 0-8 0-1 0, Natalie Siegel 3-6 5-6 14, Isabelle Paitz 0-2 1-2 1, Paige Weisdorfer 0-1 0-0 0, Chelsea Fisher 3-4 0-0 6, Hailey Mollring 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 15-33 11-18 47.