A ball filled with potential: Girls’ basketball upsets Pius to win district final

Meg Gross, Editor-In-Chief

The warm gym at Lincoln Pius X High School is packed to the brim with fans as Bellevue West looks to upset the Thunderbolts for the A-6 district title. The game is tied up at 36, Thunderbirds with possession. 

Not a single West fan isn’t on their feet, and with the sound of a buzzer, Bellevue West is forced to make a play with the 1.5 seconds remaining. Sophomore Ahnica Russell Brown gets off the inbound to sophomore Dani Coyer inside the paint, and in the blink of an eye the shot is up. 

The world froze. 

If Coyer’s shot falls, the Thunderbirds will head to the state tournament for the first time since 2016. If it misses, the game is forced into overtime. A ball filled with potential– the potential to make it all worth it for the Thunderbirds.

Bellevue West stays neck and neck with the Thunderbolts for the entire first eight minutes of game. Senior point guard Taryn Wharton scores the first points of the game with a close range floater; Pius junior Lily Hodge quickly responds from beyond the arc. The next four minutes becomes a battle for the lead. A foul by Coyer sends Pius junior Adison Markowski to the line; she misses both and a last second fling misses to keep the Thunderbirds up 14-11 at the end of the first quarter. 

The second quarter is a turnover battle as both teams struggle to capitalize on possessions. By the end of the half, Pius finds their way around the Bellevue West zone, and gives themselves a tie game at 19 before heading into the locker room. 

Markowski creates a slight momentum shift in favor of Pius with a three from the top of the key with 6:12 in the third quarter. Scoring during the next four minutes of game are entirely composed of free throws until Russell Brown lays one up for the Thunderbirds. At the end of the third quarter, Pius finds the lead 29-24. 

Then, with the change of the quarter, both teams compete in one of their hardest eight minutes of basketball this season. Pius sophomore Sara Iburg gets it started with a layup after Bellevue West turns it over on their second possession. Bellevue West fails to score on a few steals by Wharton and senior Dani Peterson, but finds their rhythm with a drive in floater and wide open layup by Wharton. Russell Brown tips up a ball and after a couple bounces, the shot falls and the Thunderbirds have tied it up at 36.

The next two minutes on the clock would decide the game. Fans on both sides are on their feet for a scoreless, defensive battle. With every flick of a wrist, immediate silence sweeps the gym as some fans watch in hope, others watch in fear. Bellevue West drains down the clock to nine seconds, giving the ball to the Thunderbolts after an overthrown pass by Wharton flies out of bounds. Within having possession for less than two seconds, Pius turns it over when senior Carlee Hagedorn fouls junior Faith Elmore. 7.5 seconds dwindle down as a Pius defender tips a ball on its way out of bounds. 1.5 remains for the Thunderbirds. Russell-Brown gets the ball off the inbound to Coyer. 

She jumps, and scores from under the rim. Coyer’s shot–that ball filled with potential–falls straight in.

Bellevue West upsets Pius to win the A-6 district championship 38-36. Students and cheerleaders storm the court; Thunderbird fans and parents watch in astonishment. The Thunderbirds are given a chance at a state title for the first time in six years. 

Tuesday night, the Thunderbirds prove their potential to play a four quarter game and pull off an upset. Now the team’s focus is fixed on the state tournament, where they will first take on the #1 Millard South Patriots. The two teams will meet for third time this season on Monday, Mar. 7 at 1:30 p.m. at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln.