The six-day Nebraska boys and girls state basketball tournament reached its conclusion on Saturday night with its final three-game session.
The first session on Saturday featured the Class D1 girls, Class C1 boys and Class B girls championships.
Session two included the C2 girls, A boys and D2 boys championships.
CLASS C2: No. 1 Hastings St. Cecilia 40, No. 3 Bridgeport 38
Last season, the Hawkettes came up just short of a title, finishing as C2 runner-ups. When 6-foot-2 senior Addie Kirkegaard went down with an injury two minutes into the game, it looked like they were in trouble once again.
However, the Hawkettes bounced back after a Bridgeport run, Kirkegaard returned for the second half and St. Cecilia closed the game strong to win its third state title in four years. The Hawkettes fell to North Bend Central in the C1 championship last year before dropping down to C2 this season.
“I think that was a big motivator. We all had that nasty taste in our mouth throughout the whole entire year,” senior guard Bailey Kissinger said. “The only thing that we wanted to do is come back here and end our careers with a gold. We fought so hard in that game too and just came up just short. So our theme for this year was ‘finish’ and we wanted to finish every single game, finish the season, finish the fourth quarter, finish everything, and we’re very proud that we did that.”
Kissinger finished with a game-high 17 points and six rebounds. Shaye Butler added nine points, 11 rebounds and three assists.
Only three Bulldogs scored. Olivia Loomis-Goltl led the way with 16 points, five assists and four rebounds. Ruthie Loomis-Goltl added 14 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. The Hawkettes held the Bulldogs to 2-of-10 from 3 and just six-free throw attempts and forced 11 turnovers, including one on Bridgeport’s final possession.
“I knew our girls were going to dig in,” St. Cecilia coach Greg Berdt said. “I’ve always kind of said offensively, I give them a lot of freedom and defensively, that’s my end and that’s where you’re going to really find out a lot about someone’s character. These kids are tough as nails. Last year and this year are my two best defensive teams ever and it’s just kind of force of will. They weren’t going to quit and obviously, they didn’t quit that last possession.”
Kirkegaard, the team’s second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, went down with an apparently non-contact injury two minutes into the game, and she looked to be in a lot of a pain as she limped back to the bench and eventually to the locker room.
After Kirkegaard went down, the Bulldogs ripped off a 10-0 run before St. Cecilia sophomore Ryann Sabatka beat the buzzer with a put-back to cut the deficit to six, 14-8. The Hawkettes settled in from there, however, and tied the game up at 16-16 with an 8-2 run. Ruthie Loomis-Goltl regained the lead for Bridgeport with a three-point play, but Butler scored the last four points to give the Hawkettes a 21-19 lead at halftime.
“Addie gets hurt early and I think that was kind of a turning point very early,” Berndt said. “We could have folded up shop we got down early, and we dug our way back in. Rachel Jelden and I, walking back to the locker room, look at each other like ‘How are we up by two right now?’ I think that’s just kind of the the mindset and mentality of the seniors. I always say that Bailey’s just the right kind of stubborn, and that was definitely a stubborn performance to finish the first half because a lot of teams would fold it up and we dug in and it may have turned that adversity into a little bit of momentum.”
Kirkegaard spent most of the first half back in the lock room, but when the Hawkettes returned to the floor to warm up she joined them with her knee wrapped. She started the second half and immediately helped force a turnover.
“Having her back out there was a huge relief for just all of us,” Kissinger said. “Just her presence on the floor, she matched up really well with Ruthie. So just having her back there, we all felt a little bit more comforted and also just knowing that we had our five starters back out there. Ryann did step up and she did an amazing job and we’re all so proud of her, but it was just really good to see Addie back out there and we all felt a little bit more relieved.”
Ruthie Loomis-Goltl scored first in the second half to tie the game up, but Kissinger took over at that point, knocking down a 3 from the left wing then stealing the ball and taking it all the way for a three-point play to push the lead to six.
Between the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs managed to score seven straight capped by an Ellie Cline 3 to pull ahead 33-30. Erin Sheehey answered with her own 3 to tie it, then Ruthie Loomis-Goltl earned three the old-fashioned way with 5:16 to play.
The Bulldogs didn’t score again for five minutes. St. Cecilia tied it up with a bucket from Butler, then Kissinger dropped in a put-back over the 6-foot-3 Ruthie Loomis-Goltl with just over there emanates to play to give St. Cecilia the lead. Bridgeport missed 3s on its next two possessions and the Hawkettes began running clock.
The Bulldogs eventually fouled Kissinger with 21.3 to play to put her to the line. She hit the first to make it a three-point game but missed the second. Olivia Loomis-Goltl pushed the ball up the floor and missed a tough shot at the rim, but her sister followed it up with 13 seconds to go for Bridgeport’s first points since the go-ahead and-one.
Bridgeport sent Kissinger back to the line and she split the free throws again to push the lead back to two, but the Bulldogs turned it over and the Hawkettes held on.
“Just being in the title game four years in a row, we kind of get used to how things go,” Kissinger said. “I think in the fourth quarter we stayed really poised when they started making a run and it got close again. I think just being there so many times before allows us just to take a deep breath and know that we’ve done this before, we can do it again. So I think that our experience really helped us.”
St. Cecilia shot just 6-of-20 from the field and -of-12 from the foul line int he second half, but it was enough to get the job done as Bridgeport shot just 2-for-6 from the line for the entire game.
Hastings St. Cecilia: 8-13- 9-10 — 40
Bridgeport: 14- 5- 9-10 — 38
HSC: Bailey Kissinger 17, Shaye Butler 9, Erin Sheehy 6, Addie Kirkegaard 3, Tatum Krikac 3, Ryann Sabatka 2
B: Olivia Loomis-Goltl 16, Ruthie Loomis-Goltl 14, Ellie Cline 8
CLASS A BOYS: No. 1 Millard North 67, No. 2 Bellevue West 57
For the third straight year, the two best teams in the state in Millard North and Bellevue West traded punches early in a great display of high school basketball in front of a packed house.
However, the Mustangs delivered a critical blow in the third quarter and weathered a late comeback attempt from the Thunderbirds to win their second straight state title.
“I thought we played a good game,” Millard North coach Tim Cannon said. “They’re a great opponent, so well-coached. Coach Woodard, I just compliment him and his team. These guys, we just have some tough kids here that really love each other and that’s why we came through, just great chemistry, great teamwork. I thought we played a great second half, especially defensively.”
Millard North returned just one starter from last year’ title team in Creighton commit Jasen Green, but seniors David Harmon and Nick Dolezal stepped into featured roles after waiting their turn and a talented group of sophomores took a big step forward to help the Mustangs win it again.
“These two guys right here (Green and Harmon), they’ve been together all through high school,” Cannon said. “David played last year, but he didn’t play as much as this year, and when they got to play together this year, these two have been awesome, and so has Nick Dolezal as the third senior.”
Harmon closed out a breakout senior season with 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting (2-of-3 from 3) and 6-of-7 from the foul line plus eight rebounds. Green added 13 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two blocks and numerous other altered shots. Dolezal chipped in 10 points on 3-of-4 form he field and 4-of-4 from the line plus five rebounds.
“I feel like a lot of people didn’t know who I was or they didn’t think that we were going to do anything like we did this year,” Harmon said. “I know that I put in as much work as I could, I know that all my teammates did, and every time in practice, we all went as hard as we could and just to get this done. It just feels surreal.”
Millard North shot 51% from the field and 14-of-17 from the foul line.
Sophomore Jaden Jackson led the Thunderbirds with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting (2-of-3 from 3) including a three-point play. William Kyle II added 13 points, eight boards and two blocks. Junior Josiah Dotzler finished with 15 points, but the Mustangs held him to 5-of-19 shooting with Green’s defense at the rim playing a big part in that.
Bellevue West shot 41.2% from the field. They hit five 3s but went 10-of-15 from the foul line and lost the paint points battle 42 to 30.
Harmon set the tone from the jump, scoring eight of Millard North’s first 10. The first quarter included four lead changes and three ties, including at the buzzer after a tough layup from Millard North sophomore Isaiah McMorris made it 18-18 after one.
Bellevue West opened the second quarter with a 9-2 run to pull ahead 27-20, and the Thunderbirds pushed that lead to eight at 32-24, but the Mustangs tied it up with eight straight — five by Harmon and a three-point play by Green. Evan Inselman split a pair of free throws to give Bellevue West a one-point lead at halftime.
The teams went back and forth throughout the third quarter with the Mustangs making the last push, outscoring the Thunderbirds 9-3 down the stretch to take a 49-42 lead at the end of the period.
Green asserted himself to start the fourth quarter. After McMorris split a pair of free throws, Green took a charge, then assisted a cutting McMorris for a layup, then blocked Dotzler at the rim, then tipped in a miss on the other end to push the lead to 12 with six minutes to play.
Bellevue West made one last push late with a couple of 3-pointers to cut the deficit to six with 19.1 to go, evoking memories of two years ago when Millard North gave up a 16-0 run to the Thunderbirds to blow a 14-point lead in the 2020 Class A championship game.
“It was kind of a similar situation. I remember telling my teammates during the game that we’re not going to have a repeat of what happened in 2020 because in 2020 they made two 3s in a row and that kind of got them going. This year, kind of a similar thing happened, but I made sure I pulled them together and told them that is not going to happen again. I was not going to let that happen again.”
He was right. Dolezal hit a pair of free throws, Bellevue West missed a 3 and Harmon got a run-out dunk at the end to put an exclamation point on the victory.
Millard North held Bellevue West to 28.6% from the field in the second half while shooting 57.1% on the other end.
Millard North: 18-14-17-18 — 67
Bellevue West: 18-15- 9-15 — 57
MN: David Harmon 26, Jasen Green 13, Nick Dolezal 10, Isaiah McMorris 9, Elijah Gaeth 6, Neal Mosser 3
BW: Jaden Jackson 17, Josiah Dotzler 15, William Kyle III 13, Jacob Arop 6, Evan Inselman 6
CLASS D2 BOYS: No. 6 Lincoln Parkview 64, No. 1 O’Neill St. Mary’s 48
O’Neill St. Mary’s: 9-14-13-12 — 48
Lincoln Parkview: 17-10-17-20 — 64
OSM: Aidan Hedstrom 18, Adam Everitt 10, Blake Benson 9, Isaac Everitt 6, Tate Thompson 5
LP: Michael Ault 19, Jaquez Curry 17, Viktar Kachalouski 10, Brayden Ulrich 8, Maurice Reide 7, Terance Pittman 3
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.