3 basketballs going towards the basketball hoop during pregame warmup
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

2021 Boys Basketball State Tournament Friday Semifinals Round-Up

March 12, 2021

Friday locked in the second half of Saturday’s state tournament final matchups at Pinnacle Bank Arena with the classes C1, B and A semifinals.

CLASS C1

No. 1 Auburn 39, No. 4 Omaha Concordia 47, 2OT

Under Jim Weeks, Auburn is as good as anybody in the state at controlling tempo and dictating the pace and style of play. The Bulldogs won 60 straight games heading into Friday by grinding teams into dust.

In the semis, Concordia gave the Bulldogs a taste of their own medicine, matching Auburn’s intensity on both ends and turning the game into a rock fight. It took eight extra minutes to decide, but the Bulldogs eventually prevailed to keep the dream of a third straight state title alive.

The teams combined to shoot 6-of-23 from the field in the first quarter, resulting in a 7-7 tie after eight minutes of play. Auburn got going in the second quarter, putting together a methodical 10-0 run, but the Mustangs scored two of the last there buckets to make it 19-13 Auburn at halftime.

Concordia picked it up even more on defense in the third, holding Auburn to two points on 1-of-5 shooting with four turnovers. The Mustangs tied it up at 21-all with a steal and score from Zach Kulus in the final minute of the third quarter.

Concordia scored the first four points of the fourth to pul ahead, but Cam Binder responded with his first 3-pointer of the game. Soon after, Daniel Frary scored inside to tie it up. Karsten Mathsen hit a 3 in transition to give the Mustangs the lead, but Binder answered with another triple to tie it up at 29-all with just under two minutes to play.

Neither side scored again. Auburn held for the last shot and Cam Binder put up a contested 3 from the corner that wasn’t close. Frary had a chance to put it back up and in t the buzzer, but just missed.

Ryan Binder opened the extra period with a pair of layups, but Concordia got buckets from Mathsen and Justin Otten to tie it up with just over a minute remaining. Cam Binder again tried to go for the win with a 3 in the final seconds, but he couldn’t get it to fall.

Cam Binder opened the second overtime with three points the old-fashioned way and the Bulldogs led the rest of the way. Otten cut it to one with a bunny, but the Mustangs couldn’t capitalize on opportunities to take the lead with a layup and then, after a pair of Ryan Binder free throws, tie it up on a 3-pointer.

Auburn left the door open with a missed front end, and after the Bulldogs nearly got a steal, the Mustangs recovered and Otten found Ian Groninga cutting to the basket for a layup to make it a one-point game. Daniel Frary split a pair of free throws to push the lead to two and Concordia got the ball back with about six seconds to play. The Mustangs pushed the ball up the floor but couldn’t Geta. Shot off before the buzzer.

Ryan Binder led all scorers with 13 points and Cam Binder added 11. Frary grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds (five offensive) and chipped in in points.

BOX SCORE

Auburn:                   7-12-2-8-4-6—39

Omaha Concordia: 7-  6-8-8-4-4—37

A:  Ryan Binder 13, Cam Binder 11, Daniel Frary 9, Maverick Binder 3, Cade Patzel 3

OC: Zach Kulus 9, Justin Otten 8, Ian Groninga 8, Karsten Mathsen 6, Nico Orlich 4, Gage Kanzmeier 2

No. 3 Hastings Adams Central 52, No. 7 Wayne 40

Wayne couldn’t find a way to crack Adams Central’s 1-3-1 zone in the first half and by the time the Blue Devils got going in the second half it was too late.

Cam Foster got the scoring started 2:15 into the game with a steal and a score after a sluggish start for both teams and the Patriots ent on to score eight of the first 10 points before a Wayne 3-pointer.

Adams Central responded with a 16-4 run extending into the second quarter to pull ahead 24-9, an the Patriots took a 26-12 lead into the locker room at the break. The Blue Devils shot 5-of-15 from the field with eight turnovers in the first half.

Adams Central continued to steadily pull away in the third quarter as a pair of layups from Lucas Bohlen extended the lead to 18 at 32-14. Wayne cut the deficit to 14 at 29-25 heading into the fourth but Adams Central stretch it out to 19 to open the fourth as Bohlen banked in a 3 then fed Dante Boelhower for a layup, and the patriots cruised form there.

Bohlen led all scorer with 14 points, shooting 5-of-8 form the field including 4-of-7 from deep. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists. Boelhower hit six of his eight shots for 12 points and led the Patriots with seven rebounds.

Brandon Bartos was the only Blue Devil in double figures with 11 points on 3-of-6 from the field (2-of-5 from 3) and 3-of-3 from the foul line.

Adams Central will face top-seeded and undefeated Auburn in the Class C1 championship game on Saturday at 10:45 a.m.

BOX SCORE

Hastings Adams Central: 12-14-13-13—52

Wayne:                                 5-  7-13-15—40

HAC: Lucas Bohlen 14, Dante Boelhower 12, Cam Foster 8, Tyler Slechta 7, Paul Fago 6, Sam Dierks 5

W: Brandon Bartos 11, Daniel Judd 8, Colton Vovos 7, Tanner Walling 7, Alex Phelps 3, Jacob Kneifl 2, Treyton Blecke 2

CLASS B

No. 5 Elkhorn 49, No. 1 Norris 33

Norris and Elkhorn faced off twice during the regular season, and both games were double-digit wins for the Titans. Elkhorn turned the tables in Lincoln, however, and confounded Norris with its 1-3-1 defense.

The Titans made one shot from the field in the first half, and by the time they started figuring some things out in the second half it was far too late.

Elkhorn forward Dane Petersen makes a dunk against Norris

Elkhorn forward Dane Petersen (41) makes a dunk against Norris in the second half Friday. Photo by John S. Peterson.

Norris only got two shots off in the first quarter — both misses — as Elkhorn forced six turnovers. Elkhorn took a 10-2 lead into the second quarter after Trey Deveaux drew a foul and hit a pair of free throws with four seconds left.

Elkhorn didn’t let up at all in the second quarter as the Antlers didn’t give up their first field goal  until the 3:45 mark and then closed the half on a 7-0 run including a dunk from Nebraska baseball commit Drew Christo and a 3 at the buzzer from Gannon Gragert.

The Antlers led 22-4 at halftime, holding the Titans to 1-of-11 from the field with nine turnovers in the first 16 minutes.

Norris matched its first half total in the first few minutes of the third quarter as Deveaux earned two trips to the foul line and sank all four shots, but the Titans couldn’t find a way to slow down the Antlers as Elkhorn pulled ahead 34-9 after a long 2-point jumper from Christo.

Norris finally scored its second field goal late in the third quarter, a put-back by Deveaux, and Izaiah Pankoke-Johnson closed out the 3 with a 3-pointer (Norris’ first after nine straight misses to open the game) to make it 34-16.

Norris put up 17 points in the  fourth, but the Antlers maintained a comfortable cushion the whole way.

Norris didn’t have an answer for the interior tandem of Christo and junior Dane Petersen. Christo led the way with 15 points on 5-of-7 from the field and 5-of-8 from the line with five rebounds. Petersen added 14 points on 5-of-9 from the field (including a high-flying dunk) and 4-of-5 from the charity stripe with four boards and three steals.

Deveaux was the only Titan in double figures with 13 points on 3-of-6 from the field and 7-of-8 from the foul line, and he also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.

BOX SCORE

Norris:      2-  2-12-17—33

Elkhorn: 10-12-15-12—49

N: Trey Deveaux 13, Izaiah Pankoke-Johnson 8, Dane Small 5, CJ Hood 3, Cade Rice 2, Brayson Mueller 2

E: Drew Christo 15, Dane Petersen 14, Colton Uhing 8, Gannon Gragert 6, Jack Buddecke 3, Caden Reynolds 3

No. 6 Beatrice 41, No. 7 Waverly 29

Beatrice was perfect from the foul line in the fourth quarter and locked up on defense to pull away from the Vikings late and advance to the Class B state championship game.

With two minutes to play, Andrew Heffelfinger stole an in-bounds pass in the backcourt and laid it in to pull the Vikings within two at 31-29. That was Waverly’s only bucket of the fourth quarter. Waverly closed the game on a 10-0 run with all 10 coming at the free-throw line. Kaden Glynn scored the first eight and Elliot Jurgens tacked on two more at the end.

The Orangemen held the Vikings to 1-of-12 from the field and just two trips to the free-throw line in the fourth quarter after taking a one-point lead into the period.

Beatrice guard Kaden Glynn drives to the basket against Waverly guard Cole Murray

Beatrice guard Kaden Glynn (20) drives to the basket against Waverly guard Cole Murray (10) in the third quarter. Photo by John S. Peterson.

Glynn led Beatrice with 13 points and six rebounds. Devin Smith added 10 points and six boards.

Beatrice struggled against Waverly’s 2-3 zone in the first quarter, but Waverly had a tough time scoring as well, taking a 6-4 lead into the second period. Beatrice took control from there, outscoring the Vikings 12-3 with scores from four different players. The Vikings shot 1-for-5 with three turnovers.

Waverly turned up the pressure and started converting turnovers into points, pulling ahead 24-22 on a. Steal from Cole Murray and pass ahead to Riley Marsh for a layup. However, the Orangemen closed the period with a three-point possession. Smith drew a foul and made the first free throw before missing the second. Beatrice grabbed the board, however, and ran off the rest of the time until Tucker Timmerman found Jace Method for a layup at the buzzer to give the Orangeman a one-point lead.

That’s as close as the Vikings got, however, as Beatrice held onto the lead throughout the fourth quarter, controlling possession and forcing the Vikings to foul.

Heffelfinger led Waverly with 14 points, four rebounds and three steals.

Beatrice will face Elkhorn on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.

BOX SCORE

Beatrice: 4-12-  9-16—41

Waverly:  6-  3-15-  5—29

B: Kaden Glynn 13, Devin Smith 10, Bennett Crandall 6, Elliot Jurgens 4, Tucker Timmerman 4, Jace Pethoud 4

W: Andrew Heffelfinger 14, AJ Heffelfinger 8, Cole Murray 3, Preston Harms 2, Riley Marsh 2

CLASS A

No. 1 Millard North 69, No. 5 Millard West 62

Millard West executed its game plan incredibly well on offense, but the Wildcats just couldn’t get the stops it needed to pull off the upset in the first Class A semifinal.

Both teams shot over 50% from the field and were at 40% from 3, but Millard West built a lead heading into the fourth and the Mustangs sealed the gamer at the free-throw line to survive a late rally from the Wildcats.

Both sides were sloppy early on with six turnovers apiece, and it led to a 12-12 tie at the end of the first quarter. North cleaned things up after that (zero turnovers in the second quarter) and Saint Thomas caught fire, hitting three 3s including two during an 8-0 Millard North run that put the Mustangs up by 10.

Bellevue West guard Chucky Hepburn makes a 3-point shot against Creighton Prep

Bellevue West guard Chucky Hepburn makes a 3-point shot against Creighton Prep. Photo by John S. Peterson.

West settled down from there and North took a 31-23 lead into halftime. The Mustangs shot 60% from the field with five 3-pointers. The Wildcats shot 60% as well but only hit two triples and had three more turnovers and three fewer offensive rebounds.

North started turning the ball over again in the third, opening the door for Millard West to get right back in it. The Wildcats put together a 14-5 run to open the second half, taking the lead on a bucket from Trace Thaden. However, Millard West failed to capitalize on shots at the rim a couple of times and it sparked some transition play that led to an 11-10 run to end the period.

Millard North led 47-37 heading into the fourth and the Mustangs shot 14-of-16 from the charity stripe to fend off a comeback attempt as the Wildcats put up 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting in the fourth.

Thomas finished with a game-high 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting including 5-of-10 from deep. Nebraska target Jasen Green scored an efficient 12 points, shooting 4-of-5 from both the field and the foul line. Hunter Sallis did a bit of everything with 11 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Evan Meyersick, a Nebraska football walk-on commit, closed out his basketball career with a strong showing, leading the Wildcats with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Ryan Larsen scored nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter to lead the comeback attempt.

BOX SCORE

Millard North: 12-19-16-22—69

Millard West:  12-11-14-25—62

MN: Saint Thomas 26, Jasen Green 12, Hunter Sallis 11, Jadin Johnson 9, Tyler Sandoval 9, Tyler Sandoval 5, Colin Monie 5, Neal Mosser 1

MW: Evan Meyersick 15, Ryan Larsen 14, Dominic Humm 12, James Conway 10, Dustin Hatch 5, Trace Thaden 4, Chase Hultman 2

No. 2 Bellevue West 95, No. 3 Omaha Creighton Prep 94, 3OT

The Metro Holiday Tournament final between Bellevue West and Millard North was the best high school game I’ve ever seen. Bellevue West and Creighton Prep one-upped that game on Saturday night in a contest that was so competitive that it needed 12 extra minutes to decide a winner.

Creighton Prep looked like it had the game won a few different times, but Bellevue West refused to give up, and in the end Chucky Hepburn added another chapter to one of the most incredible high school careers Nebraska has ever seen.

Bellevue West guard Josiah Dotzler drives to the basket against Creighton Prep forward Luke Jungers

Bellevue West guard Josiah Dotzler (22) drives to the basket against Creighton Prep forward Luke Jungers (21). Photo by John S. Peterson.

Hepburn went 0-for-6 in the first quarter. He didn’t score until late in the third quarter. But with his team trailing in the fourth quarter, Hepburn did the same thing he did against Prep during the regular season — came alive in the fourth to get the game to overtime.

Hepburn hit five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and scored eight more points in the extra periods to finish with 23 points (20 in the last 20 minutes), nine assists, seven rebounds and four steals.

The Thunderbirds trailed 67-60 with about a minute to play in regulation, but with Hepburn on their side you can’t ever count them out. His fifth 3-pointer of the quarter cut the deficit to four with 49.5 to play. After Prep split a pair of bonus free throws, Hepburn made the extra pass to Omaha signee Frankie Fidler in the corner for a 3 to cut it to two. Then Hepburn trapped a Junior Jay just ver half court and stole the pass attempt, throwing it ahead to Greg Brown for a layup to tie the game with 20 seconds left.

The Junior Jays couldn’t get a shot to fall at the end of regulation. Prep struck first in overtime, but every time the junior Jays pulled ahead the Thunderbirds had an answer. Hepburn went straight to the rim to tie it up at 77-77 with 21 seconds left, and a crazy sequence resulted in no points and a second overtime.

The teams went back and forth throughout the second extra period, trading the lead several times, and Josiah Dotzler tied the game at 84-all in the final 10 seconds. Out of a timeout, the Thunderbirds got a stop to extend the game once again.

The teams traded 3s to open the final period, then Hepburn gave West the lead with a pair of free throws. Prep went to the rim looking for the tie, but William Kyle III dropped down in help and blocked the shot out near mid-court. Hepburn beat everyone to the ball and gave it up to Dotzler and Prep sent him to the line where he sank both shots to make it a four-point game.

Prep scored twice — one bucket by Justin Sitti and one by AJ Rollins — but Bellevue West answered from the free-throw line both times with shots by Hepburn and Dotzler. Mai’Jhe Wiley  hit a tough 3 for Prep to cut the deficit to one with about six seconds left, but Prep was out of timeouts and the Junior Jays let time expire without in-bounding the ball.

Prep got off to a 9-2 start and led 17-14 at the end of the first, but Sitti, the team’s senior point guard, got in foul trouble and had to sit much of the second quarter. Bellevue West forced 12 Prep turnovers in the first half and took a 33-29 lead into the break. Prep shot 70% in the third quarter and didn’t commit a turnover, allowing the Juniors Jays to pull ahead 47-43 at the end of the period. Brendan Buckley scored nine points in the quarter.

Creighton Prep Forward AJ Rollins Drives Against Bellevue West

Creighton Prep forward AJ Rollins (11) drives to the basket against Bellevue West. Photo by John S. Peterson.

Prep led throughout the fourth until the Bellevue West comeback.

Fidler scored a game-high 32 points on 11-19 from the field including 7-of-11 from 3 and 3-of-6 from the free-throw line. He had 19 in the first half and the other 13 in the fourth quarter and overtimes. Dotzler added 18 points on 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-4 from the line. Kyle chipped in 10 points, five rebounds, four blocks and three assists.

Buckley scored a season-high 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting (3-of-3 from 3) and 5-of-7 from the free-throw line with four steals. Sitti put up 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting (1-of-1 from 3) and 2-of-5 from the line with seven assists. Wiley added 15 points.

Rollins, the Nebraska football commit, was a force on both ends, finishing with 22 points 10-of-15 form the field and 2-of-3 from the line, 12 rebounds, five assist and two blocks.

The victory sets up a rematch of last year’s epic Class A state championship. Bellevue West will take on Millard North in a rubber match on Saturday at 7 p.m.

BOX SCORE

Bellevue West:                14-19-10-25-9-7-11—95

Omaha Creighton Prep: 17-12-18-21-9-7-10—94

BW: Frankie Fidler 32, Chucky Hepburn 23, Josiah Dotzler 18, William Kyle III 10, Evan Inselman 5, Greg Brown 4, Jaden Jackson 3

OCP: Brendan Buckley 26, AJ Rollins 22, Justin Sitti 19, Mai’Jhe Wiley 15, Casey O’Malley 4

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