Exira/Elk Horn-Kimballton's inside duo of Sophia Peppers and Kealey Nelson was simply too much for state tournament rookie Sidney


   Peppers scored 22 points, Nelson added 16 and the third-ranked Spartans posted a 58-43 victory to complete the opening day of the Class 1A tournament.


   The two juniors combined to shoot 16 of 29 from the field, helping Exira/EHK pile up a 38-24 advantage in points in the paint. Nelson also grabbed 13 rebounds and Peppers pulled down seven.


   Sophomore Camryn McClintock scored 14 points for eighth-ranked Sidney, which made its state tournament debut and lost for only the second time in 25 games. Exira/EHK takes a 24-1 record into a semifinal game at 11:45 a.m. Thursday against Turkey Valley, last year's state runner-up.


   Despite the Spartans' dominance inside, Sidney stayed close for much of the game and trailed just 42-37 late in the third quarter.


   But Peppers converted a three-point play with 4.2 seconds left in the period and the Spartans ran off the first 11 points of the fourth quarter to make it a 13-0 run. That took the lead to 55-37 and Sidney never recovered.


   Exira/EHK, in the tournament for the third straight year, held the Cowgirls scoreless in the fourth quarter until coach Tom Petersen pulled his starters.


   Sidney, which has played in the last two state volleyball tournament, started two sophomores and a freshman, so the Cowgirls' basketball future is bright.