On Monday, I made the drive down Highway 92 to check out a Class C showdown between the Yutan Chieftains (Class C-2) and Wahoo Warriors (Class C-1). The two teams hadn’t faced each other since 1989, and though it looked like a blowout early, the host Chieftains made a heck of a run to push the Warriors until the final buzzer, resulting in a 71-64 win for Wahoo.
Wahoo led 21-13 after one and 39-28 at halftime, then pushed the lead as high as 20. However, Yutan came storming back, cutting the deficit to six with a few minutes to play. Wahoo pushed the lead back to double figures, then held on for the seven-point win.
Here are five thoughts on Wahoo (6-2) at Yutan (5-2).
Tuesday was the first time I’ve made it out to Yutan for a game, and I came away impressed with the atmosphere in that gym. It’s a cozy but it felt like half the town (with a population of just over 1,200) turned out for the game.
The giant mural on the wall looks terrific and adds to the setting, and the modern video scoreboards are a nice touch that makes it easier to follow along with the game.
Of course, Wahoo shows up as well as any fanbase, home or away, and the cheers of both sides made the game even more intense as it got close down the stretch.
Winston Cook is a True Warrior
Wahoo had the best player on the floor, and he ended up being the difference. Winston Cook, a 6-foot-5 senior forward who signed to play at Division II Nebraska-Kearney, finished with 30 points, seven rebounds and three assists to lead the Warriors to victory.
It was his second 30-point game of the season after he put up 39 points in a 72-64 win against Wayne on Dec. 7.
Cook is a strong downhill driver with a near unguardable spin move as his go-to weapon. He had some trouble finishing on Monday, shooting just 5-of-14 inside the arc, but he was able to get to the rim at will and was shooting 71 percent inside the arc heading into the game.
On the other hand, Cook had struggled a little bit to get going from behind the arc this year with just six makes on 19 attempts in his first five games. He found the touch on Monday, however, and knocked down four of his six triples. A few of those 3s came in big moments to end Yutan runs while the Chieftains were battling back into the game.
Cook is a terrific rebounder, particularly on the offensive end. His size, motor and instincts allow him to beat defenders to the ball off the rim, especially on his own misses.
Though Wahoo opened the season with two losses, they were to two Class B teams, and likely state qualifiers at that. Wahoo looks like it has the pieces to make a run at a second straight state title, and Cook is a big reason for that.
That Pesky Zone
Wahoo runs an extended 1-3-1 defense and has for years under Coach Kevin Scheef, and it gave all sorts of problems to toe the Chieftains on Monday, especially early on. Thomas Waido, a 6-foot-3 junior, started at the top of the zone and when he got into foul trouble, Cook took a turn at that spot.
Yutan’s starting guards are listed at 5-foot-10 and 6-foot, and they had trouble moving the ball against that length at the top and sides of the zone. Yutan had 16 turnovers in the first three quarters which was the primary reason the Warriors held a 13-point lead after three.
Yutan scored efficiently when it was able to get a shot off, shooting 48.9 percent from 3 including 12-of-26 from 3. However, Wahoo only turned the ball over eight times and grabbed five more offensive rebounds, and as a result the Warriors attempted nine more field goals and eight more free throws.
Yutan shot better than Wahoo, but Wahoo shot a lot more.
Brady Timm Put the Team on His Back
As a freshman last season, Brady Timm, a 5-foot-10 point guard, averaged 8.0 points for the Chieftains, third behind only his senior brother, Mason, and current Nebraska football walk-on Colton Feist. As a sophomore, he’s the unquestioned leader and the piece that makes Yutan go.
Timm struggled early on against the Wahoo zone (he told me they don’t normally play against teams that use it), turning the ball over five times in the first quarter and missing his only shot attempt. However, he settled down from there (only turning the ball over two more times the rest of the way) and put the team on his back int he second half, willing the Chieftains back into the game.
Timm scored or assisted on 17 of Yutan’s first 22 points to start the second half, cutting the deficit from 20 down to just six after a 3-pointer by junior Will Hays. Timm scored nine points in the third quarter and five more in the fourth to finish with 19 points and seven assists.
Timm is small but strong, and he uses his body well to probe a defense and get to his spots.. He can score at all three levels (he shot 6-of-8 from the field including 2-of-3 from deep and 5-of-7 from the foul line) and is a good passer.
Timm couldn’t quite carry the Chieftains to victory, but he got pretty darn close.
Trey Knudsen is Aptly Named
Timm isn’t the only talented guard on Yutan. Gretna transfer Trey Knudsen, a junior, is his running mate in the backcourt this year and has brought a much-needed scoring presence to replace what the elder Timm brought last season.
Knudsen is one of the best pure shooters in the state and he’s in range as soon as he crosses halfcourt. Knudsen had 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting — all from deep. He tied the Yutan school record for triples in a game.
Knudsen took his time and picked his spots all night, finding the soft spots in the zone and waiting for a good look. Sometimes those good looks just happened to be four or five feet behind the arc, which isn’t a problem for him. In fact, he easily could have hit two or three more bombs as the stiff rims resulted in a couple shots going halfway down before popping back out.
With Timm and Knudsen in the backcourt and 6-foot-5 junior Colby Tichota inside (16 points and 10 rebounds on Monday), the Chieftains are going to be tough to deal with over the next two years.
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.