Belle Paitz

Pleasanton’s Isabelle Paitz (6) and her teammates will take on Central Valley in the first round of the state tournament Thursday at Lincoln Southeast.

KEARNEY — The Pleasanton girls got a taste of state tournament action last year. Now they hope to take a big bite out of the state championship.

“We got some valuable experience, obviously. We got confidence we can go down there and compete against anybody,” Pleasanton coach Shane Nordby said.

He added that the Bulldogs’ state basketball tournament experience will help, too, as the girls became accustomed to playing in bigger arenas and venues.

“These girls learn quick and they don’t back down from anything,” he said.

The Bulldogs (30-1) are the top seed in the Class D1 state tournament field and will face Central Valley (24-7) at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Lincoln Southeast.

Central Valley is not a complete stranger. Pleasanton defeated the Cougars in last year’s district final.

“We started from there, looked at some game film and looked at things they might do or might not do and focused on those things,” Nordby said.

This year’s Central Valley team is solid and well-balanced, Nordby said. The Cougars have five players with 100 kills or more, led by Ashlyn Wright with 249.

Pleasanton has four players with more than 100 kills, led by junior Katy Lindner with 338. Isabelle Paitz and Kaci Pierce follow with 221 and 202, respectively.

“I think we’re going into state playing the most complete game we’ve played this season. ... We’re excited about the way we’re playing right now,” Nordby said.

One flaw in the Bulldogs’ game this year has been slow starts, Nordby said, but that wasn’t the case in the district final against Sutherland where the Bulldogs dominated play from start to finish.

“They’re focused right now. This is something we’ve worked for all season, something we’ve prepared for all season,” he said.

Among their common opponents, Pleasanton has beaten Overton and Arcadia/Loup City, teams responsible for two of Central Valley’s losses.

If Pleasanton would win Thursday, they would advance to play the Overton-Archbishop Bergan winner. Bergan, the defending state champion, defeated Pleasanton in the semifinals last year.

“We’re going to take it one day at a time. ... We’ve prepared for whatever might come,” Nordby said. “We’re going to go out and give it our best. Hopefully it’s enough.”

buck.mahoney@kearneyhub.com

@HubSports_Buck

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