The 2020-21 boys basketball season in Nebraska came to a close on Saturday as six teams cut down the nets as state champions.
No. 2 Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family 52, No. 4 Howells-Dodge 47, OT
Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family captured its second state title in three years and took the rubber match with Howells-Dodge behind a monster performance from junior Jacob Sjuts in the first game of championship Saturday.
Despite dealing with some foul trouble throughout, Sjuts put up 24 points on 8-of-13 form the field and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line, 20 rebounds (seven offensive), three blocks and two assists.
“I saw 24 and 20 and I was in disbelief because it didn’t feel like I pulled down that many rebounds,” Sjuts said. “The guys on the team did such a good job of getting the ball inside. They weren’t falling in the first half but in the second half, if you keep constantly getting those looks, they’re going to start falling, and they did.”
Howells-Dodge junior Blake Sindelar scored 61 points in his first two games of the tournament, and he was priorities one through five on the Bulldogs scouting report. Their game plan of playing primarily a 2-3 zone worked as he finished with 18 points on 7-of-20 shooting and five turnovers.
“That’s crazy, we held him to 12 under his average here,” Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family coach Joe Hesse said. “We watched him the first couple games and he just got to the basket whenever he wanted. We actually had a walk-through yesterday and we talked about all this different junk, all this stuff we could throw at him.
“Last night I was talking to Jason [Sjuts] and he mentioned that we should have a 2-3 zone as our plan B; we were going to start in a 1-3-1 and 2-3 should be our plan B. I got to thinking about it and gosh, they have this one guy you want to keep our of the paint, the other guys on the team, you want them to make shots to beat you. Why not start in the 2-3? That’s what the 2-3 is.”
Howells-Dodge led 13-9 after one quarter and pushed the lead to 24-11 in the second quarter. Jason Sjuts, Jacob’s twin brother, hit a tough turn-around jumper in the lane and then converted a pair of free throws to close to gap to 24-16 at halftime.
Howells-Dodge continued to control the action throughout the first half of the third quarter, taking a 32-19 lead with six different Jaguars scoring. Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family closed the quarter strong with a 9-3 run including seven points from the Sjuts twins, but Gavin Nelson closed out the period’s scoring with a 3-pointer to make it 38-28 heading into the fourth.
The Bulldogs locked the Jaguars down in the fourth quarter, holding them to 2-of-11 shooting with three turnovers. Humphrey steadily chipped away at the lead until Jacob Sjuts tied it up with 2:45 to play.
Sindelar turned the ball over but then made up for it by shooting the passing lane for a steal and breakaway layup with two minutes to go. The Bulldogs came up empty on their next possession and Howells-Dodge started running clock until Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family put the Bulldogs in the bonus with 32 seconds left.
Howells-Dodge missed the front end of the bonus, giving the Bulldogs another chance to tie it up. The ball eventually found its way to sophomore sixth man Sage Frauendorfer, who had not scored. He surveyed the floor then attacked the baseline for a reverse layup that tied the game with just under 13 seconds to play.
“I tend to have a few turnovers and I didn’t want to throw a stupid pass, so I saw the baseline was open and pretty much just said ‘Go for it,’” Frauendorfer said.
Howells-Dodge turned the ball over and Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family called timeout with 1.1 to draw up a play. The Bulldogs threw an on-target lob to Jacob Sjuts at the rim and he caught it but couldn’t finish.
Jacob made up for it in the overtime period, however, scoring nine of his team’s 10 points as he accounted for the final five points of the game. Howells-Dodge’s final point came at the 1:57 mark on a free throw by Sindelar. The Jaguars missed their last five shots, and Jacob Sjuts rebounded the final miss just before the buzzer to seal the game.
Jason Sjuts added 13 points and seven rebounds while Ethan Keller chipped in 11 points.
Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family: 9- 6-13-14-10—52
Howells-Dodge: 12-11-14- 4- 5—47
HLHF: Jacob Sjuts 24, Jason Sjuts 13, Ethan Keller 11, Beller 2, Sage Frauendorfer 2
HD: Blake Sindelar 18, Jacob Tomcak 6, Lance Brester 6, RJ Bayer 6, Aandy Dominguez 6, Gavin Nelson 6
No. 1 Auburn 41, No. 3 Hastings Adams Central 33
Three teams brought an undefeated record to Lincoln, but only one of them cut down the nets at the end of the tournament.
Auburn’s eight-point victory over Adams Central was the 62nd straight win for the Bulldogs who have won three straight Class C1 titles.
Cam Binder has been one of the state’s best shooters in recent memory and a prolific overall scorer throughout his four-year varsity career. Adams Central was very aware of that and used a 1-3-1 and box-and-1 while keeping a man in Binder’s face all game long. He did not attempt a shot all game long, and he didn’t score until the 2:20 mark of the fourth quarter. The UNK commit finished with four points, all from the free-throw line.
“I’ve given my blood, sweat and tears to this school,” Binder said. “I played center in football. I do golf. I do thing that people don’t really talk about. All my focus is trying to make Auburn a better place, and kids to look up to me and try to see a role model in me. I’m not the biggest, strongest, fastest, but every day I’ll out-work everybody in the room. That’s what I’ve been trying to do for four years.
“Freshman year I came in a hot-head, kind of emotional. Now I’m a little bit more seasoned. I told myself before this game, if I score zero points and we win the state championship, I will take that. They were all over me and guys stepped up and made plays.”
The rest of the Bulldogs took advantage of the attention paid to Binder. Daniel Frary led the way with 14 points and nine rebounds. Frary averaged 13.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals while shooting 70.4% from the field in his three tournament games.
Josh Lambert, a 6-foot-8 center, was the focus of the offense for the Bulldogs during their 2020 state title run, but he graduated and is playing at Midland. Frary stepped into that role this season and has thrived.
“If you saw him as a sophomore, he was just a skinny little guy,” Coach Jim Weeks said. “He has become a better athlete and now he can play the inside. Josh was great, but Dan can block shots. He’s a rim protector too and he’s more versatile, he can five-way switch and be on the perimeter. He can steal and go down and dunk. To have a guy like that on your team that’s so versatile, you don’t have to play eight or nine guys … To have a guy like that that can do what he does is absolutely special.”
Freshman Maverick Binder, Cam’s brother, stepped up with 11 points while shooting 2-of-4 from deep. Ryan Binder, their cousin, chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds as well. Auburn held Adams Central under 32% from the field.
The Bulldogs hit their first four shots of the game and jumped out to a 10-1 lead at the end of the first as Jacob Eckhardt drew a foul as time expired and split the free throws. Auburn cooled off, missing eight straight shots with four turnovers after that 4-for-4 start, but Adams Central was only able cut the lead down to four and Frary converted a cutback late to make it 12-6 at halftime.
The teams traded 3-pointers to open the third, then the Patriots scored four straight with a Dante Boelhower put-back and a Tyler Slechta layup. Auburn built the lead back to seven with a bucket by Ryan Binder and a triple by Maverick Binder, taking a 20-13 advantage into the fourth.
The youngest Binder scored four if the first five points of the fourth quarter as well to push Auburn’s lead to 10, and the Bulldogs played ball control the rest of the way, shooting just well enough from the free-throw line to survive a late comeback attempt as the Cardinals finally got some shots to fall. Adams Central cut the lead all the way down to three in the final minute but could not get any closer.
“I really wanted him to experience Pinnacle like this, get one of those (the trophy) over there,” Cam said about his brother. “I’ve been telling him this whole year, he’s been down if he has a bad game. I said ‘Maverick, your’e going to make big shots in a big game some day. You just keep your head down, keep working.’ With six seconds left, I said ‘I told you. This is that moment. You did this today.’ Without him we would have not won the state championship.”
The fourth quarter featured 41 points after the teams had combined for 33 in the first three quarters. Auburn went 11-for-19 at the foul line to offset the Patriots hitting three fourth-quarter 3s.
Slechta led the Patriots with 14 points and four steals.
Hastings Adams Central: 1-5-7-20—33
A: Daniel Frary 14, Ryan Binder 11, Maverick Binder 11, Cam Binder 4, Cade Patzel 1
HAC: Tyler Slechta 14, Dante Boelhower 7, Cam Foster 6, Lucas Bohlen 5, Jacob Eckhardt 1
No. 6 Beatrice 36, No. 5 Elkhorn 34
The Antlers led for 15 minutes and 59 seconds of the second half, but when the buzzer sounded at the end of regulation the score read 29-29 thanks to a buzzer-beating 3 by Kaden Glynn. Beatrice scored the first five points of overtime as well to hold on for the school’s first state title since 2008.
The Orangemen trailed by three and Elkhorn had the ball with 40 seconds leftism but instead of fouling immediately Beatrice looked to trap and forced a turnover with 20 seconds left. Coach Clark Ribble called a timeout and drew up a play for the 1-3-1 zone Elkhorn had been playing all game. The Antlers gave them a different look and went man-to-man, however, and the Orangemen adjusted on the fly.
Ribble trusted his team and point guard Elliot Jurgens sucked in the defense then kicked it out to Glynn right in front of Beatrice’s bench, and he got the shot off just before the buzzer to tie it up.
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) March 13, 2021
“My main concern was just getting a shot off in time because I saw the time was going down around four or three when Elliot was passing to me,” Glynn said. “I was just like I‘ve got to get this shot off. It felt good off my hands. Initially I was in shock, like ‘Wow, I hit that.’ But then I was like ‘We’ve got to win in overtime, we’ve got regroup quick.’”
Glynn scored the first three points of the overtime, all from the free-throw line, and then Bennett Crandall jumped a pass, stole it and took it all the way for a layup to put the Orangemen up five with 1:22 to go.
Elkhorn gave itself a chance form there as Drew Christo drew a foul, made the first and missed the second. Dane Petersen grabbed the rebound and got fouled as well, however. He also hit the first and missed the second, only this time Elkhorn committed the foul. Tucker Timmerman, a 2023 Nebraska baseball commit, missed the first but made the second, pushing the lead to four.
Caden Reynolds hit a tough 3 off the dribble for Elkhorn to cut the deficit to one. The Antlers fouled Jurgens with 8 seconds left and he went 1-for-2. Elkhorn got a look off at the buzzer but couldn’t get it to fall.
Devin Smith led all scorers with 11 points and Crandall added 10. Gannon Gragert was the only Antler in double figures with 10.
Beatrice got off to a solid start, leading 10-6 after one, but the Antlers turned things around in the second quarter as Elkhorn cut down on its turnovers and knocked three 3-pointers including two by Gragert to loosen up the Beatrice defense. The Antlers led 19-16 at halftime.
Elkhorn continued to control the pace, taking its largest lead of the game on another 3-pointer from Gragert with less than two minutes to go in the third quarter. Beatrice shaved a few points off the deficit heading into the fourth, however, and kept chipping away at the lead until Glynn’
“We got out to a decent start, then they made a run in the second quarter and we kind of got behind a little bit,” Ribble said. “But our kids showed a lot of resiliency. I’m really proud of how they played in the second half. We got down seven, called a timeout, and then we made a little run. We put a little defensive pressure on them, and I think that’s what changed the game … Then the fourth quarter we just batted. We were in for a dog fight and they’re really good and we’re really good.”
Beatrice went 10-13 in 2017-18, 6-14 in 2018-19 and 12-10 last season. This year they went 19-6 and made it to state for the first time since 2015, and now they’re champions despite having one player with state tournament experience in Glynn, who transferred from Johnson-Brock after his sophomore year.
“None of our kids with the exception of Kaden have ever been in this environment before,” Ribble said. “We’ve never played in this area, we’ve never been to the state tournament as a team. So Kaden’s experience calmed us down. We knew that he knew what to do in the moment, because he’s been there before. When we got into some hairy situations this week, we knew we could get him the ball and he would make the right decision, whatever that decision was. We had a lot confidence in Kaden because he’s been here and he’s won it before, and I think that permeated through the team.”
The Eagles took home the Class D1 state title in 2018 with Glynn scoring a game-high 25 points. He moved to Beatrice after the school year, and now he’s closed out his Beatrice career with another championship.
“Initially it was a tough move for me,” Glynn said. “I didn’t know a lot of people at Beatrice, but they welcomed me pretty well, especially the basketball team, and made me a part of their family which is good. It feels amazing to get two, different classes with two different groups of kids. It’s a great feeling. It’s hard to put into words.”
As for the Antlers, they fall just short of following up their football title with a basketball one. They’ll have to wait for the spring to go for a baseball title, led by Nebraska commits Christo and Kyler Randazzo.
Elkhorn: 4-15- 5- 5- 5—34
Beatrice: 10- 6- 4- 9- 7—36
E: Gannon Gragert 10, Christo 7, Dane Petersen 6, Jacke Buddecke 3, Colton Uhing 3, Caden Reynolds 3, Kyler Randazzo 2
B: Devin Smith 11, Bennett Crandall 10, Kaden Glynn 9, Elliot Jurgens 4, Tucker Timmerman 2
No. 7 Falls City Sacred Heart 64, No. 4 Lincoln Parkview 47
Falls City Sacred Heart trailed for most of the first half, but the Irish turned it on in the third quarter and broke the game wide open with a 15-2 run before cruising to their second straight state title.
The win was No. 694 for coach Doug Goltz, who moved into a tie with Duane Mendlik for the most in state history. Sacred Heart has won three of the last four state titles and Goltz is 19-0 in state finals in football and basketball. As the Irish were cutting down the nets, the Sacred Heart fans serenaded Goltz with chants of “694.”
“I just wanted this win,” Goltz said. “`As long as I keep coaching we’re going to get a few more wins, I think. But it was really about this team and just how they came along. I don’t want to say they’re the worst team in Sacred Heart history to win a state championship, because that would take away from what they did, but they were probably the team that struggled the most and we just found our way. That’s what’s so fun about coaching.”
Sacred Heart entered the tournament as the No. 7 seed with a 1707 record. At one point in the middle of the season, the Irish dropped four straight games. But they brought a five-game winning streak to the tournament and won three more in Lincoln to finish on top.
“This is definitely the team that has improved the most of any team I’ve ever coached,” Goltz said. “We were not very good in January and even February. We were 9-6; it was really just not working out real well. I think a lot of that was we only had one starter back, we had a couple seniors that were out with injuries, we did have little bit of a COVID issue. Summer-wise, we didn’t really do anything basketball-wise; we usually do that in June. When we finally could start working out it was really football time in July, so these guys didn’t really play any games.
“It just took this team longer than most to come around. Part of it was it took a while for them to figure out how to win and how to prepare … All of that got better and better as the season went on and we never lost this group, even though we were struggling and it looked pretty ugly.”
Parkview controlled the action early, taking a 21-17 lead at the end of the first. Sacred Heart scored the first five points of the second quarter to take the lead and the teams went back and forth the rest of the half. A bucket by Jaheim Curry gave the Patriots a 29-27 lead at halftime.
Mark Lual opened the second half with a bucket for Parkview, but it was all Irish the rest of the way. Sacred Heart put together a 15-2 run fueled by Parkview turnovers to pull ahead 42-33. The Patriots cut the deficit to four late in the third, but Sacred Heart responded with a 17-2 run to run away with the game.
Parkview shot 7-of-19 form the field with 12 turnovers in the second half.
Jack Fiegener led the way with 22 points on 8-of-13 from the field and 5-of-7 from the line plus seven rebounds. Jakob Jordan, the only returning starter for the Irish from last year’s title team, added 13 points while Jake Froeschl chipped in 12 points including two end-of-quarter buckets.
Curry led the Patriots with 17 points and Michael Ault added 13 points and four steals. Parkview shot 5-of-25 from 3 and 4-of-11 from the foul line compared to 6-of-10 and 8-of-12 for the Irish.
Lincoln Parkview: 21- 8-11- 7—47
Falls City Sacred Heart: 17-10-21-16—64
LP: Jaheim Curry 17, Michael Ault 13, Tom Kraan 8, Mark Lual 7, KeShawn Moore 2
FCSH: Jack Fiegener 22, Jakob Jordan 13, Jake Froeschl 12, Brogan Nachtigal 7, Evan Keithly 6, Joe Simon 2, James Froeschl 2
No. 1 Millard North 84, No. 2 Bellevue West 78
Millard North: 17-17-23-14-13—84
Bellevue West: 11-16-29-15- 7—78
MN: Hunter Sallis 25, Jadin Johnson 24, Jasen Green 18, Saint Thomas 9, Tyler Sandoval 6, Colin Monie 2
BW: Chucky Hepburn 25, Greg Brown 18, Frankie Fidler 11, Josiah Dotzler 10, William Kyle III 8, Jaxon Steve 4, Evan Inselman 2
No. 1 Grand Island Central Catholic 55, No. 2 Yutan 34
Yutan scrapped and clawed and battled in the first half, but Grand Island Central Catholic pulled away in the second half to win its first state title since 200 and second overall.
“First thing I would like to do is congratulate Yutan on a really good season,” Central Catholic coach Tino Martinez said. “The game was very competitive. They gave us everything we could handle and more. Brady Timm is a special player and we had our hands full with him … For us, it’s a very satisfying moment for us. It’s something that we sat here a year ago and had a more somber press conference, so the feeling that we’re sitting with here today is a much better feeling.”
Last year, Grand Island Central Catholic lost to BRLD 61-47 in the Class C2 state championship. The Crusaders trailed by 18 at halftime after scoring just 13 points in the first half. This time, Central Catholic pulled ahead midway through the first quarter and never looked back and now they’re champions.
“Our masks say ‘Practice like a champion, act like a champion,’ and that’s what we had to do on a daily basis … We demand a lot out of them and they’re ready to do that every day,” Martinez said. “I think kind of the way we guided ourselves through the season is we wanted to practice like a champion, act like a champion and play like a champion, and most days we were able to do that.”
Central Catholic went 25-4 this season, but all four losses were to teams from higher classes. Nobody in C12 was able to match up with the Crusaders’ combination of size and athleticism for a full 32 minutes.
Yutan took an early 6-4 lead, but Central Catholic used a 7-0 run to pull ahead. Carter Tichota knocked down his second 3-pointer of the first quarter but the Crusaders answered with a three-point play by Marcus Lowry. Yutan held the ball for the last possession and Timm, Yutan’s outstanding senior point guard, pulled up for a 3 at the buzzer to make it 14-12 after one.
Yutan cut it to one early in the second quarter, but that’s as close as the Chieftains got as the Crusaders pushed the lead back to five at 24-19 heading into halftime. Timm had 12 of Yutan’s 19 in the first half.
Central Catholic opened the second half with a 5-2 run to push the lead to eight midway through the period before Timm put the Chieftains on his back with a three-point play, a steal and a jumper to cut the deficit to three.
Isaac Herbek answered quickly with a layup, and then the game changed on one possession. Central Catholic sprung senior guard Russ Martinez for a 3 from the top of the key, and after the release Koby Bales drew a foul grappling for rebounding position, giving the ball back to the Crusaders. Bales made the extra possession count with a tough bucket, pushing the lead to 10.
“That was a big turning point in the game,” Tino Martinez said. “Big shot by Russ. We had been running, mostly, plays to get the ball inside to our bigs off of in-bounds, out-of-bounds on the baseline. We ran a play there to get Russ the 3 at the top. He hit it and Koby did a good job on the rebound; they had to foul him to keep him off the board and we were able to score again. I thought from that moment on we were able to dictate the game.”
The Crusaders opened the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run (giving the Crusaders 15 straight points in total) to seal the game.
The Crusaders held Timm to nine points on 2-of-13 shooting in the second half with the twin towers of senior Dei Jengmer (6-foot-9) and junior Gil Jengmer (6-foot-8) protecting the rim and making it tough to finish inside.
Dei led the Crusaders with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting while Gill added eight points on 4-for-4 from the the field, and both corralled seven rebounds. Lowry added 11 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Grand Island Central Catholic: 14-10-12-19—55
Yutan: 12- 7- 7- 8—34
GICC: Dei Jengmer 12, Marcus Lowry 11, Gil Jengmer 8, Isaac Herbek 7, Tanner Turek 6, Koby Bales 6, Russ Martinez 3, Brayden Wenzl 2
Y: Brady Timm 21, Gavin Kube 6, Carter Tichota 6, Drake Trent 1
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.