The Nebraska boys and girls state basketball tournament rolled on Friday with the first six state championship games at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Session one on Friday featured the D1 boys, C1 girls and B boys championships.
D1 BOYS: No. 1 North Platte St. Patrick’s 65, No. 3 Loomis 57
For the first time since 1928, the North Platte St. Patrick’s Irish are state champions.
After a back-and-forth first half where points were hard to come by, St. Patrick’s opened and closed the third quarter with a pair of bigs runs then fended off a fourth-quarter rally from the Wolves to finish the season 26-2.
“I think the game was really a microcosm of everything that these guys have done,” St. Pat’s coach Bill O’Malley said. “They’ve just been kind of all in all year and they really believe in each other. They believe in their ability particularly todefend and and they were able to get get the stops they needed to to win today. It’s just really a credit to to their work ethic and and their dedication to the team and our common goals, and it just was a really smooth year all the way around. We’ve got great kids and they played well today and it was a well deserved win.”
Sophomore big man Brecken Erickson closed out a dominant state tournament run with a 19-point, 13-rebound, two-block double-double. Nine of rebounds were on the offensive end, helping St. Pat’s earn a 14-5 edge in second-chance points.
Senior guard Jack Heiss did a bit of everything with 14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals. Senior forward Caleb Munson chipped in 12 points and six boards. The Irish assisted 16 of their 22 buckets.
Senior guard Quinn Johnson, the state’s all-time leader in career 3-pointers, led Loomis with 20 points and nine rebounds, though he only hit one triple. The Irish held Loomis to 3-of-17 from 3 overall.
“That kid is he’s a great player, probably the best shooter I’ll ever play against,” Heiss said. “I just tried to stay right there on him the whole time … The range is crazy. You can’t just let him dribble into it, so you’ve got to pick him up early and then once he got rid of it, I just tried not to let him get it back because he’s a very talented kid.”
Fellow senior Shay Swanson added 18 points on 5-of-7 from the field and 8-of-12 from the foul line.
After a back-and-forth start, Loomis locked up the Irish, holding them without a field foal in the last four minutes to take a 10-6 lead after one behind six quick points and an assist from Shay Swanson.
St. Patrick’s returned the favor in the second quarter, opening the period with a 5-0 run as Loomis didn’t score until the 4:15 mark. After four lead changes, the Irish surged ahead and took a 25-20 lead into halftime. Swanson, who scored a game-high 12 points, picked up his third foul with 10 seconds to go.
Heiss and Erickson led the Irish with seven points apiece, and ricks added eight boards. The teams shot a combined 30.6% from the field in the first half, but the Irish grabbed four more offensive rebounds and forced five more turnovers to win the possession battle.
The halftime break did stall St. Patrick’s momentum, however, as the Irish opened the third quarter with a 13-3 run to build a 38-23 lead. Wes Trompke finally took the lid off the rim for Loomis with a 3 and Swanson split a pair of free throws on the next possession, but he picked up his fourth foul after that with 3:23 to play in the quarter and took a seat.
With Swanson on the bench, Johnson stepped up and hit his first 3 of the game then tacked on a pair of free throws on the next trip down to cut the deficit down to six. Erickson and Johnson traded free throws to make it a six-point game again, then the Irish delivered the knockout blow.
Andrew Brosius hit 3s on back-to-back possessions then Caleb Munson scored the lane to close out the third quarter with an 8-0 run. Erickson opened the fourth with a bucket to push the lead to 16.
“If you looked at the first half, we had some of those same opportunities and and I think there was some nerves and adrenaline and we missed some opportunities,” O’Malley said. “I think we had a five-point lead or whatever at half despite not shooting a very good percentage from the field and I think the kids kind of settled in after after we talked at half and felt good about things and what maybe could happen.”
Loomis continued to battle, cutting the Irish lead down to eight a couple of times and then down to six with 30 seconds to go, but that’s as close as they got.
The Irish shot over 50% from the field in the second half as Erickson led the way with 12 points after halftime. Johnson’s 16 second-half points wasn’t enough for the Wolves to erase the deficit.
The Irish will now take the trophy back to North Platte for the first time in 94 years.
“There’s no better feeling than that,” Heiss said. “There just isn’t. It’s still not totally setting in, but what we did was was crazy. It’s awesome.”
North Platte St. Patrick’s: 6-19-23-17 — 65
Loomis: 10-10-14-23 — 57
NPSP: Brecken Erickson 19, Jack Heiss 14, Caleb Munson 12, Will Moats 8, Sam Troshynski 6, Andrew Brosius 6
L: Quinn Johnson 20, Shay Swanson 18, Wes Trompke 9, Aidan Perry 5, Cale Nelson 5, Cristian Blincow 2
CLASS C1 GIRLS: No. 2 North Bend Central 35, No. 1 Lincoln Lutheran 31, OT
For the second straight year, North Bend Central had to overcome a fourth-quarter deficit int he championship game, and for the third straight, the Tigers cut down the nets.
Senior Sydney and junior Kaitlyn Emanuel won the first two together, and little sister Lindsey joined them as a freshman this year for the third. Kaitlyn led the team with 13 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Sydney and Lindsey combined for 11 points, 11 rebounds and five steals.
“It’s just been absolutely amazing,” Sydney said. “It’s been a true blessing to be able to play with as many good teammates as I’ve had and to be able to come down here and make the runs like we have past three years. It’s definitely something that means we can look way back to the teams ahead of us that have won state championships, and then set up a culture for the future as well.”
It was sophomore Josie Cleveringa, however, who made the biggest shot of the game, and she finished with nine points on 2-of-4 from deep and 3-of-4 from the foul line.
Senior Shanae Bergt was the only Warrior in double figures with 13 points, shooting 5-of-9 from the field and 3-of-5 form the line.
Kaitlyn Emanuel put the Tigers on her back in the first half, nearly matching the Warriors by herself as the Tigers built up a 19-14 lead at halftime. The 6-foot junior scored 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and grabbed seven boards in the first half.
Bergt kept the Warriors afloat with 10 points of her own. Lutheran shot just 6-of-22 form the field with Bergt accounting for four of those buckets. North Bend Central shot 50% but turned the ball over eight times.
The Warriors flipped a switch in the second half, however, knocking down their first two 3-pointers of the game to key an 11-0 start to the quarter. Lutheran hit its first four shots from the field while holding the Tigers to 0-6 with three turnovers to build a 25-19 lead. North Bend Central didn’t score until a pair of free throws from Lindsey Emanuel at the 2:08 mark. Lutheran led 26-23 at the end of the third after holding the Tigers to 1-of-8 shooting.
Lutheran opened the fourth quarter with a 3 from Katelynn Oxley, but the Tigers locked in defensively after that, holding them to two points the rest of regulation. The Tigers extended their defense full-court and forced seven turnovers in a 3:26 span to tie it up at 31-all with 3:45 to play.
“We’ve got to have our best players on the court so we kind of have to be a little bit more careful about putting [the press] in there and and that seemed like the opportune time,” North Bend Central coach Aaron Sterup said. We kind of needed it and we expected a boost from it, and we got it got it right away. We probably got it a little quicker than I expected, to be honest.”
North Bend Central got a stop then chewed up nearly two minutes of game time probing Lutheran’s 1-3-1 zone before finally launching a 3-pointer with just over a minute remaining that didn’t go down. Lincoln Lutheran turned it back over on a travel with 38.1 to play but the Tigers couldn’t take advantage, missing a 3 at the buzzer.
Lutheran traveled again on its first possession, but the Tigers returned the favor with a live-ball turnover on a bad pass. The Warriors pushed it up the floor looking for the go-ahead layup but Kaitlyn Emanuel sprinted back and swatted the layup from behind. Another Tiger dove on the loose ball and forced a tie-up to get possession for North Bend Central.
Emanuel only scored two points on 1-of-9 shooting int he second half but still find a way to make a big impact for her team.
“Nothing was really working for me and I kind of felt for a little bit that I was forcing it,” she said. “So I just told myself I’ve got to hand it over my teammates and trust them to score and I’ll do my job on defense.”
The Tigers took advantage of the extra possession as Sydney Emanuel drove and kicked the ball to Cleveringa — the Tiger who had missed the 3 at the end of regulation — in the corner in front of her bench, and she buried the shot.
“I was glad she shot it because I knew she could make it,” Sydney Emanuel said. “Sometimes I think we know that she can make it more than she does, but I was just happy that she shot it and stepped up.”
Five straight empty possessions followed until Lutheran fouled Cleveringa to stop the clock with less than 20 seconds to to play and she split the shots to seal the victory.
North Bend Central held Lutheran scoreless for the final 10:16 of game time.
No. 1 Lincoln Lutheran: 9-10- 4- 5- 0 — 31
No. 2 North Bend Central: 6- 8-12- 8- 4 — 35
LL: Shanae Bergt 13, Katelynn Oxley 7, Abby Wachal 3, Elsa Meyer 3, Jenna Luebbe 3, Erika Young 2
NBC: Kaitlyn Emanuel 13, Josie Cleveringa 9, Sydney Emanuel 6, Lindsey Emanuel 5, Madelyn Gaughen 2
CLASS B BOYS: No. 2 Omaha Roncalli 52, No. 1 Omaha Skutt 37
Omaha Roncalli came up just short of a state title in 2019 and 2020, finishing runner-up both years before missing the state tournament last season.
They finished the job this time, pulling away from Omaha Skutt in the second half for a 52-37 win and their first state championship since 1996.
“I’m very proud of our guys,” Roncalli coach J.J. Stoffel said. “Like they’ve done all year, they worked their tails off to get to this point. We had three goals: host districts, win districts, win the state title, and I just couldn’t be more proud that we got to this moment and then they seized the moment and really made it happen today.”
Quincy Evans led the Crimson Pride with 16 points on 6-of-9 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line. Jacob Orr, a four-year player and three-year starter who played a key role on both runner-up teams, added 12 points and five rebounds. Fellow senior Austin Schwarz chipped in nine points.
“We knew we had a very good chance today to put ourselves in Roncalli history,” Orr said. “Those two times when we went runner up, it was just motivation to get to here. These guys on my side (Evans and Schwarz), they’ve worked all four years to get to this point too. So there’s not a lot of pressure when you have the teammates we had this year.”
The Crimson Pride outscored the SkyHawks 32-10 in the paint and limited Skutt’s second- and third-leading scorers to a combined three points and zero field goals. As a team, Skutt shot 28.2% from the field.
James Gninefou led Skutt with 16 points while fellow senior Grant Dvorak added 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting (3-of-6 from 3) and 2-of-2 from the line plus a game-high nine rebounds.
Roncalli set the tone from the jump with an 8-1 opening run, the first six scored by Evans. The Skyhawks settled in and got hot as Gninefou and Dvorak each knocked down a pair of 3s to give Skutt a 13-12 lead. Lucas Brown closed out the quarter with a buzzer-beating fadeaway jumper to give Roncalli a 14-13 lead.
Skutt never led again. The Crimson Pride doubled up the SkyHawks in the second quarter, 10-5, as Skutt shot 2-of-6 from the field with three turnovers.
“We came out on a mission,” Evans said. “We wanted to be intentional about defense. We knew what we had to do to get it done and all it came down to was attacking the rim and who wanted to be more aggressive at the rim.”
Skutt cut it to four twice in the third quarter before an 8-2 run extended the lead to 10 for Roncalli. Dvorak answered with a 3, but Orr finished in transition to push the lead to nine heading into the fourth and the SKyHawks didn’t get any closer the rest of the way.
Roncalli led by double digits for most of the fourth quarter and the lead peaked at 18 as the Crimson Pride shot 11-of-15 from the foul line. The SkyHawks didn’t make a 3 in the fourth until Charlie Burt banked on in in the final minute.
Skutt shot 25% from the field in the second half including 2-of-12 from deep. Roncalli only attempted two 3s, hitting one, and shot 47.1% overall.
The championship was the fourth meeting of the season between the two teams. Skutt won the first two — an overtime game at Roncalli and a double-digit neutral site win in the River Cities Conference Tournament title game. The Crimson Pride broke through at Skutt in the subdistrict final, though, with an overtime win.
“It was a big confidence-booster because we we lost the first two,” Orr said about the subdistrict win. “So going into state with that win and knowing that we would probably see them down the road, and then once we saw them there was a big confidence booster to know that we could go out and do it if we just put our mind to it and gave our full effort.”
The four-game season series ends with an aggregate point total of 213-213.
No. 1 Omaha Skutt: 13- 5-10-15 — 52
No. 2 Omaha Roncalli: 14-10-13- 9 — 37
OS: James Gninefou 16, Grant Dvorak 15, Charlie Burt 3, JJ Ferrin 2, Jake Brack 1
OR: Quincy Evans 16, Jake Orr 12, Austin Schwarz 9, Lucas Brown 6, Brady McGill 5, Brent Heller 4
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.