Twelve more teams punched their ticket to the state tournament finals on Thursday as the second day of semifinals rolled on in Lincoln.
Pinnacle Bank Arena played host to the Class C1 boys, Class B girls and Class A boys semifinals.
CLASS C1 BOYS
No. 4 Auburn 48, No. 8 Fort Calhoun 46, OT
After knocking off the No. 1 seed on Tuesday, the Pioneers nearly took down the reigning champs on Thursday. However, Mav Binder and the Bulldogs had other plans.
Auburn pulled ahead early in overtime and then hit enough free throws down the stretch to hold on despite a monster performance from Fort Calhoun senior Carsen Schwarz.
The Pioneers got off to a great start, pulling ahead by five a couple of times early, but Auburn settled in and the teams went back and forth throughout the game with neither side able to create any kind of separation.
Sophomore Grayson Bouwman, the Pioneers’ leading scorer and primary ball-handler, picked up his fourth and fifth fouls on the sea possession with five minutes to play and Fort Calhoun had to play the rest of the way without him, but they kept battling.
After playing behind for most of the game, Marcus Hudson gave Auburn a 34-33 lead with a 3 out of a timeout. After trading empty possessions, Carsen Schwarz answered with a bucket inside with 45 seconds to go, but Binder answered with a three-point play to give the Bulldogs a two-point lead with 28.7 to go.
On the final possession, Fort Calhoun went for the win with a 3 that fell short, but Schwarz rebounded it and drew a foul with 1.6 to go. He swished both shots to tie it u at 37-37 and Auburn’s half-court heave at the buzzer didn’t go.
Skylar Roybal gave the Bulldogs the lead with a bucket inside on the first possession of overtime. The next points came on a pair of free throws from Binder with 2:05 to play, giving the Bulldogs a four-point lead, and that proved to be enough as Auburn mirrored every score and stop and never let the lead drop below two points.
The Bulldogs left the door ajar by splitting a pair of bonus shots up by two with less than 25 seconds to play. The Pioneers went for the quick two instead of the 3 but Schwarz drew a foul with 14.6 to go. He only hit one of the shots then Mav Binder got fouled and hit two to push the lead to four with 12.6 left and that was enough to secure the victory.
Binder, a sophomore, finished with 24 points on 7-of-11 from the filed (4-of-7 from deep) and 6-of-8 from the foul line with three steals.
Schwarz finished with a game-high 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting and 7-of-11 from the free-throw line and 13 rebounds (four offensive). Bouwman scored 11 points before fouling out.
The Bulldogs advance to the state championship four the fourth straight year and will play on Saturday.
Auburn: 8-10- 9- 8-11 — 48
Fort Calhoun: 8-10-11-10- 9 — 46
A: Mav Binder 24, Marcus Hudson 8, Ryan Binder 7, Skylar Roybal 6, Ryan Dixon 3
FC: Carsen Schwarz 27, Grayson Bouwman 11, Zane Schwarz 6, Glenn Hunter 2
No. 2 Ashland-Greenwood 62, No. 3 Kearney Catholic 55
The Stars went bucket-for-bucket with the Bluejays all game long, but senior Cale Jacobsen would no be denied as he put Ashland-Greenwood on his back and carried the team to the finish line to punch its ticket to the final.
Jacobsen, who tore his ACL in December of 2020 and didn’t get a chance to play in last year’s state tournament, went off for a Class C1 state tournament single-game record 43 points, breaking C.J. Cowgill’s record of 41 set in 1996.
Jacobsen hit a 3 to put Ashland-Greenwood up by four at the end of the first, but the Stars hung around throughout the second quarter, tying it up at one point before heading into halftime down by two.
The teams traded the lead a couple of times in the third and the Bluejays took a one-point lead into the fourth. Brett Mahony opened the final period with a bucket for the Stars, but Ashland-Greenwood answered with an 10-1 run including a pull-up 3, a three-point play and a pair of free throws by Jacobsen to pull ahead 52-44 with 4:16 to play.
The Bluejays left the door open with turnovers and missed free throws down the stretch, but four points was as close as the Stars managed to get and Ashland-Greenwood held on to advance to the championship game.
Jacobsen shot 13-of-17 from the field (3-of-4 from 3) and a perfect 14-of-14 from the foul line for his 43 points. He scored 13 of the team’s 15 points in the third quarter and hit nine free throws in the fourth quarter.
Brooks Kissinger chipped in 10 points on 2-of-3 from the field and 6-of-8 from the line.
Mahony led the Stars with 19 points on 7-of-10 from the field (10of-1 from 3) and 4-of-6 from the free-throw line, seven rebounds and three assists. Turner Plugge added 15 points.
Ashland-Greenwood will face Auburn in Saturday’s championship game set for 11 a.m.
Ashland-Greenwood: 15-12-15-20 — 62
Kearney Catholic: 11-14-16-14 — 55
AG: Cale Jacobsen 43, Brooks Kissinger 10, Evan Shepard 5, Cougar Konzem 2, Dane Jacobsen 2
KC: Brett Mahony 19, Turner Plugge 15, Dylan Merz 7, Mason Mandermach 5, Jaden Seier 5, Garret Schmaderer 4
No. 1 Elkhorn North 68, No. 4 Norris 52
The Class B semifinals featured a 2021 championship rematch, but the Wolves ran away from the Titans early and cruised to their third win against Norris in three tries this season. The Wolves improved to 5-0 at state and will get a chance to go two-for-two in title games on Saturday.
Elkhorn North’s pressure caused all kinds of problems for Norris early as the Titans turned it over 12 times in the first half, allowing Elkhorn North to build. a10-point lead at halftime. Norris cut its deficit to nine early in the third quarter but Elkhorn North responded with three straight layups to stretch it out and seal the victory.
Stellar sophomore Britt Prince finished with 29 points on 5-of-10 from the field and 17-of-20 from the foul line. She also grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out six assists and secured four steals. Grace Thompson got the Wolves off to a great start, scoring 10 of her 21 in the first quarter. She shot 9-of-15 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line, adding six boards and four steals.
Delaney White led Norris with 12 points and six rebounds while Sydney Jelinek chipped in 11 points while shooting 3-of-5 from deep.
Elkhorn North: 20-12-18-18 — 68
Norris: 12-10-12-18 — 52
EN: Britt Prince 29, Grace Thompson 21, Hannah Nadgwick 8, Reilly Palmer 6, Molly Bruggeman 4
N: Delaney White 12, Sydney Jelinek 11, Sage Burbach 9, Anistyn Rice 6, Grayson Piercing 6, Gracie Kircher 4, Sophia Talero 4
No. 2 Omaha Skutt 55, No. 3 Hastings Adams Central 31
Norris hung round into the second half, but Skutt delivered a knockout blow with a 16-0 run then cruised through the fourth quarter to advance to the state championship game on Saturday.
Norris had a tough time dealing with Skutt’s pressure from the jump, turning the ball over 17 times. The SkyHawks had a tough time capitalizing, though, as they shot just 25% from the field. Skutt led 21-16 at halftime.
The offense started to click for Skutt in the third quarter, however. Leading 25-20 midway through the period, Mia McMahon knockdown a 3, triggering a 14-0 close to the quarter. Peyton McCabe scored eight in the third while the SkyHawks held Adams Central to 1-of-10 shooting to build a 39-20 lead heading into the fourth.
Skutt struck first in the fourth to complete the 16-0 run and push the lead to 21, and Norris never threatened after that.
McCabe didn’t miss a shot form the field in the second half and finished with a game-high 20 points. Addison Burt chipped in 12 points and six boards.
Rachel Goodon, a 6-foot-3 junior, led Adams Central with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, eight rebounds and two blocks. The Skyhawks limited the Patriots’ leading scorer, Libby Trash (15.3 points per game) to two points.
Skutt and Elkhorn North will face off for the third time this season with a state title on the line. Skutt won the first meting — Elkhorn North’s only loss of the season — but the Wolves got their revenge in the subdistrict finals on a Britt Prince buzzer-beater. Tipoff is set for Saturday at 1 p.m.
Omaha Skutt: 10-11-18-16 — 55
Hastings Adams Central: 8- 8- 4-11 — 31
OS: Peyton McCabe 20, Addison Burt 12, Mia McMahon 7, Kam Kasner 5, Julia Connealy 4, Presley Douglas 3, Lucille Currans 3
HAC: Rachel Goodon 14, Lauryn Scott 7, Grace Weichman 5, Brianna Stroh 3, Libby Trausch 2
CLASS A BOYS
No. 1 Millard North 58, No. 4 Gretna 43
Millard North jumped out to an early lead then fended off a second-half comeback attempt to earn its third straight trip to the title game in Thursday’s night cap.
Millard North scored the first nine points then stretched the lead to 14-3 as the Mustangs hit four of their first six 3-point attempts. Millard North sophomore Isaiah McMorris scored three the old-fashioned way to put Millard North ahead 19-6 before Gretna sophomore Landon Pokorski converted a tough bucket to close out the first quarter.
The Mustangs cooled off in the second quarter, missing all four of their 3-point attempts, but they played Gretna even in the second (thanks to three buckets from Creighton signee Jasen Green) and took an 11-point lead into halftime.
Pokorski tried to get the Dragons back in the game, keying a 10-4 run with a floater and pair of 3s to cut the deficit down to five at 31-26. However, the Mustangs responded with an 8-0 run — four apiece by Green and McMorris — to push it back to 13. Gretna made one more push with seven straight points to pull within six, but the Mustangs closed out the quarter with a dunk from Nick Dolezal then scored the first five points of the fourth to push the lead back into double digits.
Eventually, Gretna coach Brad Feeken turned to his bench to play the last few minutes of the game, but before then the Mustangs put an exclamation point on the victory with back-to-back dunks — an alley-oop from Neal Mosser to David Harmon then a transition slam by Green off a pass from Harmon.
Green had his mid-range jumper falling all night and finished with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Harmon fell just short of a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds including four offensive. Dolezal chipped in 10 points and six rebounds. Millard North shot 57% from the field and rebounded 10 of their 18 misses.
Sophomore Alex Wilcoxson matched Green with 16 points, shooting 5-of-8 from the field including 3-of-5 from deep and 3-of-4 from the free-throw line. Pokorski added 10 points and four assists.
Millard North: 19- 8-14-17 — 58
Gretna: 8- 8-17-10 — 43
MN: Jasen Green 16, David Harmon 11, Nock Doleful 10, Isaiah McMorris 9, Jakson Page 7, Neal Mosser 3, Brady Hermann 2
G: Alex Wilcoxson 16, Landon Pokorski 10, Jeffrey Rozelle 7, Alec Wilkins 4, Ethan Hermsen 3, Michael Stukenholtz 2, Joey Vieth 1
No. 2 Bellevue West 68, No. 6 Omaha Creighton Prep 51
Creighton Prep looked well on its way to a second straight upset with a terrific first half, but the Thunderbirds flipped a switch in the third quarter and dominated the rest of the way to earn a return trip to the championship game.
The Juniors Jays used an 8-0 run to take a 13-6 lead midway through the first, then they stretched it out to 10 in the second quarter at 28-18. The Junior Jays hit all four of their 3s in the first half.
Omaha commit Luke Jungers picked up his second foul on a charge and spent the last 3:29 on the Prep bench. The Thunderbirds trimmed the lead all the way down to three, but Joey Rieschl hit a fadeaway jumper in the lane to close out the half and give Prep a 32-27 at halftime. The Junior Jays shot 13-of-18 from the field in the first half.
Martel Evans stole the ball on Bellevue West’s first possession of the third quarter and took it the other way for a two-handed slam.
The excitement from Evans’ highlight play didn’t last long, however, as Bellevue West upped the intensity on both ends of the court and ripped off a 23-2 run. Evans finally drew a foul at the end of the half and split the free throws to make it 50-37 heading into the fourth. After struggling in the first half, Bellevue West junior Josiah Dotzler hit all five os his third-quarter shots for 11 points, more than doubling up the Junior Jays by himself. Prep missed all five of its 3s and scored just five points.
Bellevue West continued to roll into the fourth quarter as the run reached 32-6 after a step-back 3 from Dotzler pushed the score to 59-40, and both teams sent in their benches to close out the game soon after. Bellevue West shot nearly 65% from the field in the second half.
Dotzler finished with 20 points after scoring 18 on 8-of-9 shooting in the second half. He also dished out four assists and grabbed four steals. South Dakota State signee William Kyle III notched a double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. Kyle did not miss a shot in his first two tournament games, converting all 14 of his attempts.
Evans led Prep with 15 points, five rebounds and five steals. Prep shot 50% from the field, but Bellevue West nearly hit 55% and won the turnover and offensive rebounding battles.
The Thunderbirds will face Millard North in the championship game for the third straight year. Bellevue West won in 2020 while the Mustangs took him the title last season. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Bellevue West: 12-14-23-18 — 68
Omaha Creighton Prep: 19-13- 5-14 — 51
BW: Josiah Dotzler 24, William Kyle III 16, Jacob Arop 9, Jaden Jackson 7, Evan Inselman 7, Jaxon Steve 5
OCP: Martel Evans 15, Casey O’Malley 9, Luke Jungers 9, Joey Rieschl 8, Emmett Knight 3, Joe Sudbeck 3, PJ Newbill 2, Ashton Zabka 2
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.