Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

2022 Nebraska State Basketball Tournament Roundup: Day One

March 07, 2022

Six days of Nebraska state tournament basketball tipped off on Monday at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Devaney Center Lincoln Northeast and Lincoln North Star.

Because of the the Big Ten Wrestling Tournament last week, the NSAA is holding the boys and girls state tournaments simultaneously this week.

I posted up court-side at Pinnacle Bank Arena to bring you coverage throughout the day of the Class B boys and Class A girls semifinals.

CLASS B BOYS

No. 1 Omaha Skutt 62, No. 8 Blair 36

The top-seeded SkyHawks built an early lead then pulled away in the second half to cruise into the semifinals in the first game of the day at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Skutt scored on six of its nine first-quarter possessions while holding Blair to 2-11 shooting to build a 14-4 lead after one. The Skyhawks slowed down in the second quarter but still led 24-13 at halftime.

The Bears made their run to start the third quarter, scoring on four of their first five possessions to cut Skutt’s lead down to six at 30-24, but the comeback was short-lived. Skutt outscored Blair 30-12 the rest of the way.

Senior James Gninefou put on a show for the SkyHawks, finishing with 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting (1-of-2 from 3) and 2-of-2 from the free-throw line, eight rebounds (four offensive), three assists and two blocks. Skutt’s point guard threw down a pair of dunks — a two-handed tip-slam in transition and then a one-handed hammer on a drive down the lane.

Junior forward Joe Brack, a 6-foot-8 Division I prospect, scored 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting including an and-one. Junior sharpshooter JJ Ferrin chipped in 10 points while hitting three of his six triples. Skutt shot nearly 58% from the field including 4-of-10 from deep and turned the ball over just five times as the SkyHawks picked apart Blair’s zone.

Senior point guard Kip Tupa led the comeback early in the third quarter, scoring six of his team-high 10 points during that stretch. He shot 3-of-6 from the field and 3-of-4 from the line.  

BOX SCORE

Omaha Skutt: 14-10-17-21 — 62

Blair:                 4-  9-13-10 — 36

OS: James Gninefou 23, Jake Brack 15, JJ Ferrin 10, Nate Zuroske 6, Grant Dvorak 3, Gabe Edstrand 3, Wil Tobaben 2

B: Kip Tupa 10, Jacob Czapla 7, J’Shawn Unger 7, Lukę Ladwig 3, Sawyer Lawton, James Dobbins 3, Greyson Kay 2, Jakob Kantor 1

No. 4 Platteview 60, No. 5 Bennington 44

Bennington defended Platteview star Connor Millikan and the Trojans as well as any team has all year, but Millikan’s relentless eventually wore the Badgers down and they couldn’t get enough shots to fall as Platteview rallied for the double-digit win.

The Trojans led 11-9 after one before missing their first eight shots of the second quarter, opening the door for the Badgers to surge ahead as they scored on six of their first seven possessions. Bennington took a 26-17 lead into halftime as Millikan scored just seven points on 2-of-13 shooting.

The game turned in the third quarter, however. Bennington scored the first two buckets to pull ahead 30-13, but Millikan got to the line and hit a pair of free throws to get the Trojans on the board. That triggered a 31-5 run extending into the fourth quarter. Millikan capped the run with a steal and score as he accounted for 22 of the 31 points during the run.

Leading by 13 midway through the fourth, the Trojans salted the game away at the foul line as Bennington couldn’t get anything to fall.

Millikan scored 14 points apiece in the third and fourth quarter to finish with 35 and 13 rebounds. He had a tough day from the field asBennington packed the lane and didn’t give him anything easy, but he shot 16-of-18 from the foul line to make up for his struggles from the field. 

Junior guard Alex Draper came up just shy of his own double-double with nine points and none boards. The Trojans shot 28.1% from the field but did enough at the foul line (23-of-26) and on the defensive end (Bennington shot 30.9% including 1-of-8 from 3) to advance to the semifinals.

Senior Seth Wempen led the Badgers with 19 points and five boards while fellow senior Austin Holtz chipped in 11 points.

Platteview avenged a regular season loss to Bennington and will meet Omaha Skutt in the semifinals on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

BOX SCORE

Platteview: 11-  6-21-22 — 60

Bennington: 9-17-  7-11 — 44

P: Connor Millikan 35, Alex Draper 9, Michael Wiebelhaus 9, Cael Wichman 3, Ezra Stewart 2, Keegan Stobbe 2

B: Seth Wempen 19, Austin Holtz 11, Trey Bird 5, Dylan Casart 4, Isaac Conner 3, Cayden Bluhm 1, Gunnar Lym 1

CLASS A GIRLS

No. 1 Millard South 62, No. 8 Bellevue West 45

A record-tying shooting performance from Mya Babbitt and a dominant defensive effort propelled Millard South past Bellevue West and into the semifinals.

Babbitt tied the all-class state tournament record for 3s in a game, shooting 7-of-13 from deep, and tacked on a pair of free throws to finish with a game-high 23 points.

Babbitt scored as many points in the first half as Bellevue West did (15 each) and the top-seeded Patriots held the Thunderbirds to 8-of-34 shooting through the first three quarters to the a 47-21 lead into the fourth.

Bellevue West got going late, making more shots in the fourth quarter than it did in the first three combined, but it was far too little and way to late to make a difference.

The Patriots shot 11-of-26 (42.3%) from deep as a team, heating up after a 2-for-8 first quarter. Khloe Lemon scored 13 points and dished out five assists while Juliana Jones chipped in 10 points off the bench with a pair of triples.

Senior Dani Peterson led Bellevue West with 12 points and eight boards while sophomore Ahnica Russell-Brown added 10 points and three steals.

BOX SCORE

Millard South: 16-15-16-15 — 62

Bellevue West:  7-  8-  6-24 — 45

MS: Mya Babbitt 23, Khloe Lemon 13, Juliana Jones 10, Megan Belt 7, Cora Olsen 7, Lexi Finkenbiner 2

BW: Dani Peterson 12, Ahnica Russell-Brown 10, Dani Coyer 6, Taryn Wharton 4, Kenzie Melcher 3, Grace Schaefer 3. Mia McVay 3, Alyssa Fjelstad 2, Makayla Mitchell 2

No. 5 Lincoln Southwest 54, No. 4 Omaha Central 38 

Sophomore Kennedi Williams, the daughter of Nebraska coach Amy Williams, put on a show Monday afternoon and the Eagles had no answer as the Silver Hawks secured their second double-digit win over Central of the season.

The Eagles went 0-2 against both Millard South and Lincoln Southwest but won every other game they played this season.

Williams put up a game-high 24 points on 7-of-8 shooting (2-of-2 from deep) and 8-of-11 foul shooting while senior forward Freddie Wallace added 18 points and six boards, outscoring the entire Central team by themselves.

The game was close early as Southwest took an 11-10 lead into the second quarter. Central tied it up at 13-all with a 3-pointer from Aniah Wayne, but the Silver Hawks responded with a 10-0 run to create some separation.

Central cut the deficit to six at halftime, but Southwest scored the first nine points of the third quarter as the Eagles’ first second-half bucket didn’t come until the 3:17 mark. Southwest held Central to 1-of-11 shooting and three points in the period to stretch its lead to 16 heading into the fourth, and they cruised from there despite shooting just 6-of-15 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.

Central shot 28% from the field including 3-of-16 from deep. Wayne, a Northern Colorado commit, hit all three of Central’s triples and finished with 17 points and eight boards. Sophomore point guard Inia Jones added 10 points and four assists.

Southwest will face Millard South in Tuesday’s semifinal at 6 p.m. The two teams did not face each other during the regular season.

BOX SCORE

Omaha Central:       10-11-  3-14 — 38

Lincoln Southwest: 11-16-13-14 — 54

OC: Aniah Wayne 17, Inaia Jones 10, Ital Lopuyo 8, Claire Williams 2, Lilliana DeLeon-Peterson 1

LSW: Kennedi Williams 24, Freddie Wallace 18, Brinly Christensen 7, McKenna Rathbun 3, Taryn Ling 2

No. 2 Fremont 57, No. 7 Lincoln Pius X 41

Twenty-one turnovers proved to be too much for Lincoln Pius X to overcome as Fremont won the rubber match with the Thunderbolts to advance to the semifinals, sending the reigning Class A champions home on day one.

Fremont shot 7-of-11 from the field with a pair of fire throws and forced five Pius turnovers in the opening quarter to build. 17-10 lead after one, and the Tigers maintained that lead the rest of the day despite slowing down offensively.

Fremont took a 29-16 lead into halftime. Pus scored one seven of its 11 possessions in the third quarter to narrow the deficit to 10 then Makenna Lesiak buried a 3 on the first possession of the fourth quarter to make it a seven-point game, but Iowa commit Taylor McCabe answered with a 3 of her own, sparking a 12-2 Tiger run to seal the game.

McCabe led all scorers with 22 points, but the Thunderbolts made her work for them. Macy Bryant added nine points, eight rebounds, four steals and three assists. Between the turnover disparity and Fremont’s 10-3 advantage on the offensive glass, the Tigers attempted 15 more shots and nine more free throws.

Lesiak, a junior, provided a big spark off the Pius bench with 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting (2-of-2 from deep) and 1-of-2 from the line. 

BOX SCORE

Fremont:           17-12-12-16 — 57

Lincoln Pius X: 10-  6-15-10 — 41

F: Taylor McCabe 22, Macy Bryant 9, Bella Keaton 9, McKenna Murphy 8, Sarah Shepard 6, Emmalee Sheppard 3

LPX: Makenna Lesiak 21, Adison Markowski 9, Sarah Iburg 6, Lily Hodge 3, Keeleigh Knobbe 2

No. 3 Lincoln High 52, No. 6 Bellevue East 41

Senior Riley Jensen stole the ball and took it the other way for a layup to give Bellevue East a 41-40 lead with four-and-a-half to play, but it was short-lived. The Chieftains didn’t score again the rest of the way as Lincoln High closed the game on a 12-0 run to earn a trip to the semifinals.

After Jensen’s layup, senior J’unti Franklin took over for the Links. She drew a foul and split the free throws to tie the game up, then after a stop she hit a 3 — Lincoln High’s only one of the second half — to take the lead back, then she stole the ball and took it the other way, missing a difficult layup but opening the offensive glass for her teammate, Dyvine Harris, to get fouled. Harris hit both free throws, then Franklin rebounded a Chieftain miss and hit her own freebies to push the lead to seven with 71 seconds to play. Finally, Franklin deflected a pass to force a turnover, and Brian Robinson closed the game out at the line.

The final game of the night was the most physical one of the day as it featured 42 fouls and 49 free throws. Bellevue East converted 14 of its 20 shots inside the arc, but the Chieftains went 0-for-13 from deep and 13-of-23 from the foul line with 18 turnovers. Lincoln High hit five 3s and shot 15-of-26 from the line to offset East’s interior advantage.

Franklin finished with 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Robinson added 12 points and five boards. Kiana Wiley chipped in 11 points, nine rebounds and three steals off the bench.

Jensen led East with 17 points while Mya Skoff scored 16. Baylee Egan pulled down 12 rebounds to go with her six points, but the rest of the Chieftains combined for two points.

Bellevue East will face Fremont in the semifinals on Wednesday at 7:45 p.m. During their regular season meeting, the Links battled back from a 20-point deficit to beat the Tigers and snap their 17-game winning streak.

BOX SCORE

Lincoln High:  13-14-  9-16 — 52

Bellevue East: 12-10-  9-10 — 41

LH: J’unti Franklin 13, Briauna Robinson 12, Kiana Wiley 11, Nyawarga Jock 6, Divine Harris 4, Jailynn Brill 4, Ariana Hoagland 2

BE: Riley jensen 17, Mya Skoff 16, Baylee Egan 6, Mackenzie Reimer 1, Kara Stricklin 1

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