After the final buzzer, the Blair Bears took off toward their home locker room, disappeared inside and let loose all of the screams for joy they'd held in.
The No. 10 girls basketball team in Class B had just knocked off No. 8 Bennington on Saturday, 66-43.
“We beat a rival,” junior guard Mya Larson said. “We won that game. We had fun. We played together, and it was a bounce-back after losing to (Omaha) Gross.”
Two days earlier, the Bears (7-2 overall) had struggled during the second half against the No. 7 Cougars, but on Saturday they dominated the final 16 minutes. Coach Matt Aschoff's team broke a 20-20 halftime tie and rolled the Badgers (4-5) with 46 second-half points.
“I think that's one of the best halves we've had,” Larson said. “I think we just played together and had fun.”
Blair's hot streak may have started before the break with its 8-2 run to end the first half. Bennington had knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to build a 18-12 second-quarter lead, but the Bears had an answer out of an Aschoff timeout with just 2:14 left before intermission.
Junior Makayla Baughman knocked down a jump shot and finished a drive to pull BHS within 18-16 before Leah Chance's layup evened the score. Maggie Valasek free throws gave the Bears 20 points before the Badgers tied it back up going into the break.
The Bears' guests scored the first four points of the second half, too, but their momentum didn't last. Senior Ella Ross hit a 3-pointer and BHS took off, scoring 16 of the next 19 points.
From there, Blair led by at least six points throughout the rest of the rivalry game. It knocked down 22 of its 28 foul shots to keep Bennington at bay.
“We have people that stay after every day and shoot free throws,” Larson noted, perhaps explaining her Bears' success rate. She was 7-for-8 from the line, while Ross was perfect on her own eight attempts.
Larson finished with a team-high 19 points in Blair's seventh win of the season, while Ross had 13 and Valasek notched 12. Baughman added 11, too.
2nd half struggles cost Bears
Blair led Omaha Gross 24-18 at halftime, but couldn't hang with the host Cougars during Thursday's 50-39 loss — just the Bears' second of the season.
Class B No. 7 Gross, meanwhile, improved to 6-2 with a 32-15 second half. Rachel Culhane led all scorers with 18 points in the win.
Larson scored a team-high 13 points, but had just two after intermission. Ross added 10 and Baughman notched nine.