Skip to main content

Nebraska high school girls basketball state tournament: Neleigh Gessert’s 29 points lift Millard West over Bellevue West for Class A title

The Wildcats pulled off a three-point win to take their first state title
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

Neleigh Gessert was a spark for Millard West on Saturday night, netting 29 points en route to a 58-55 Class A championship over Bellevue West. 

But it was her final two points that pushed the Wildcats over the hump, solidifying their first state title in school history.

The end of the game was back-and-forth chaos. Bellevue West’s Naomi White cut the Wildcats’ lead to 56-55 with 26 seconds remaining, before Norah Gessert was sent to the charity stripe with 18 ticks remaining. The junior, Neleigh’s twin sister, missed both.

The following Bellevue West possession, Norah Gessert stole the ball and was fouled. Back at the line, she missed another two free throws, leaving the door open for Bellevue West.

Millard West celebrates on the bench after beating Bellevue West on Saturday evening at Pinnacle Bank Arena. (Photo courtesy of Millard West Activities)

Millard West celebrates on the bench after beating Bellevue West on Saturday evening at Pinnacle Bank Arena. (Photo courtesy of Millard West Activities)

Neleigh Gessert, though, hit her pair with 4.2 seconds taking a two-point lead. Bellevue West turned the ball over on a side-court inbound – a somewhat controversial call as to who last touched it, but overturning via replay isn’t an option at the Nebraska high school level.

Millard West finishes the season 27-1, with their only loss coming to nationally ranked Iowa power, Johnston. Bellevue West finishes the year 20-6, and had won 14 straight since losing to the Wildcats 74-62 in mid-january.

Bellevue West's sharpshooting from deep gave them an advantage early. Danielle Coyer, who scored a team-high 18 points, hit three from deep.

With the Thunderbirds leading 29-17, Neleigh Gessert showed why she is ond of the top players in the state and a Division I recruit. She canned three 3s on three straight possessions, cutting Bellevue West’s lead to 31-27 at half.

A Neleigh Gessert 3 with 6:14 remaining in the third quarter gave Millard West a 47-41 lead, its largest of the day.

Following a White jumpshot, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to 47-45, Norah Gessert drilled a trey, and Neleigh Gessert connected from deep the following possession opening Millard West's lead.

Both teams combined for 17 three pointers. It was nip and tuck until the finish, but Millard West Coach Marc Kruger said that Neleigh Gessert’s 9-0 scoring run in less than a minute in the second quarter sparked the energy of the squad.

Down 12, he was confident the tides would turn.

“It wasn’t going the way we wanted, but we tried to stay confident and keep fighting,” Kruger said. “They were hitting all these shots and we were kind of cold to start, so we thought these things would kind of balance out.”

One of the difference makers for the Wildcats was on the glass, where they out-rebounded Bellevue West 41-24.

Neleigh Gessert said she was pleased with how her team responded to adversity.

“We haven’t been down much in games and we talked about how (at some point) it was going to happen,” Gessert said. “We just persevered and we never quit. So that was a big talk; when we get down we have to be ourselves and keep playing."

Bellevue West coach Dane Bacon, though disappointed with the loss, was proud of his team.

“That’s a pretty good team we lost to,” Bacon said. “Neleigh really got going, and obviously she was a focal point … I’m proud of our kids and we gave ourselves a chance.”

On Millard West’s side, Kruger felt his team would do what was needed to win.

“Even when we were down, you could see it in their eyes that we were going to make this happen,” Kruger said.

--Sam Pimper | @SBLiveNeb