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Late run lifts Lady Irish over Bridgeport in C2-6 District Final

SIDNEY, Neb. - For the first time in five years, the Bridgeport Lady Bulldogs (17-7, 8-0 C2-12) had made their way to a District Final, one step shy of trip to Lincoln and the girls State Basketball Tournament. After a dominating run in the C2-12 Sub-District Tournament with double digits wins over Hemingford and Bayard, the Lady Bulldogs faced a tough challenge Friday evening in the Sidney Middle School gymnasium as the North Platte St. Patrick’s Lady Irish (21-3, 5-0 C2-11) would be their opponent.

With a win, Bridgeport would secure their first trip to the State Tournament since 2010 whereas the Lady Irish had gone to Lincoln five of the last six years. Both teams, on paper, are identical, neither one with a starter listed over 5’7”, balanced scoring, and, most notably, both boasting a ferocious defensive tenacity.

In their 17 wins this season, the Lady Bulldogs average just shy of 20 steals per game and were coming off a 46-turnover performance against Bayard. St. Pat’s had only allowed their opponents to score, on average, 30 points per game. Six times had a team scored over 40 in their 24 games, only once did an opponent make it to 50. Both head coaches, Bryan Schluterbusch for Bridgeport and Nathan Stienike of the Lady Irish, agreed this District Final would come down to who could take care of the ball, and whoever could capitalize on the others mistakes.

In the first quarter, the St. Pat’s defensive pressure bothered the Lady Bulldogs ball handlers as Bridgeport turned the ball over, unofficially, seven times in the first frame. Even with the mistakes, though, the Lady Irish weren’t able to garner a big lead as by the end of the first, they led by just three, 12-9.

The next period was a complete reversal of the first as the Lady Bulldogs began to showcase their own aggressive defense coming away with five turnovers while also putting up 18 points on the board. Junior Grace Dobrinski provided a spark off the bench pouring in six points during the run while fellow junior Brittany Nelson added five as well.

St. Pat’s suddenly found themselves just trying to keep pace with the torrid start of the quarter. Junior Abbi Allberry answered the call and knocked down three shots from behind the arc in the second, but by halftime the Lady Irish trailed 27-26.

Out of the locker room St. Pat’s found their own offensive rhythm as leading scorer Kaleigh Kummer started to find a groove scoring nine in the third quarter while six-foot sophomore Jocylin Sellers came off the bench and began to enforce her will in the post scoring 10. At one point in the frame, Bridgeport trailed by 12, 45-33, but with their season on the line, they refused to go out without a fight.

Nelson scored seven more to begin the slow climb out of the double digit deficit as the Lady Bulldogs outscored St. Pat’s 9-4 in the final minutes of the third. In the fourth, Bridgeport cut the lead to just one, 51-50 with just under six minutes to play, but the Lady Bulldogs were never able to score again as the Lady Irish once again turned up the defensive pressure forcing another four turnovers in the final period and ended the game on an 11-0 run to win, 62-50.

With the hard fought loss, three Bridgeport seniors had their high school basketball careers come to an end, Emily Baxter, Kaitlyn Nein, and Brittney Newkirk. When asked after the game about his senior class, coach Schluterbusch commended all three on how hard they worked during their four years with the program and acknowledged the fact that they leave behind big shoes to fill.

One of those seniors, Baxter, earned player of the game honors in the loss finishing with 11 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and a trio of steals, unofficially. Newkirk scored five while Nein added another four.

Elsewhere for the Lady Bulldogs Nelson led the way with 16 points, Dobrinski totaled eight off the bench, and Kaitlyn Nein’s sister, freshman Sydney, hit two three-point shots for six points.

Certainly the graduation of the three seniors will be a big loss for this squad, but if the roster holds as is for next season, Bridgeport will once again have an experienced group with six seniors, the majority of which received a lot of playing time this season as juniors. With the infusion of some talented underclassmen as well, the Lady Bulldogs may find themselves right back in a District Final this time next year with hopes of ending their State Tournament drought.



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