The first game of championship Saturday proved to be a classic as No. 1 Wahoo outlasted No. 2 Winnebago 70-66 in overtime. The game featured 10 ties, 12 lead changes and a double-digit deficit comeback.
“I don’t think you can ask any more of a state final than that; unbelievable game,” Wahoo coach Kevin Scheef said. “Hat’s off to Winnebago for a great effort and a great game and a great season. That’s the third time in four years we’ve met them at state. Last year and this year were just unbelievable games and we have the utmost respect for how hard they play and the job they do.”
The Warriors looked to be in trouble a couple of times as they fell behind by 11 midway through the third quarter then lost their leading scorer Brendan Lacey with his fifth foul midway through the fourth. However, the Warriors kept battling and the younger Lacey brother, junior Blake, made some big plays late in regulation and in overtime.
“I’m incredibly proud of my guys for persevering,” Scheef said. “It wasn’t looking very good; they had us on the ropes and we battled back and found a way to get it done … Our two guys off the bench here, Blake and Winston [Cook] — Winston got us back into it in the third quarter and really the fourth with his drives to the hoop and Blake hit two huge 3s.”
On Wahoo’s first play without Brendan, Blake knocked down a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:47 to play to give the Warriors their first lead since late in the second quarter.
“Was I really worried [when Lacey fouled out]? Absolutely,” Scheef said. “He’s been such a big part of what we do and he’s such a great offensive player for us but we have complete confidence in all seven of these guys and and somebody else had to step up, as they have all year for us.”
Wahoo pulled ahead by three, but Maurice Scott tied it up with a three of his own at the 1:34 mark. Wahoo pulled ahead by three again at the free-throw line, the last make coming with 40 seconds to play, but MaNaPe Cleveland had an answer for Winnebago, drilling a 3 from the top of the key with 28 seconds left.
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) March 10, 2018
Both teams had a chance to go for the win, but neither converted.
Cleveland struck first for Winnebago in overtime, then Lacey answered with another 3. D’Von LaPointe took the lead back at the free-throw line but Billy Hancock responded with four straight free throws of his own. Scott connected again from deep, right in front of his team’s bench, to tie the game with 75 seconds to play. On the other end, Wahoo put the ball in Lacey’s hands and he set up Cameron Quick for a layup with just over a minute to play.
After a timeout, Wahoo forced a Winnebago turnover and Lacey hit two free-throws with 15 seconds left to seal the win. He finished with 12 points, nine coming after halftime.
“I’ve worked all my life for this moment and I just stepped up and knocked them down; I was proud of that,” Lacey said about his clinching foul shots.
Brendan Lacey had to watch the finish from the bench and ended up with 6 points after scoring 43 in his first two games at state.
“It’s his senior year and this means a lot to him, all the work he’s put in,” Blake said. “Seven 3s in the first game and carrying us yesterday, it was… I’m glad we got it.”
Cook led all scorers with 19 points, six boards and three assists off the Wahoo bench. Quick had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Will Shanahan just missed one with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Scott had 18 points and six rebounds, Cleveland finished with 16 points and seven boards, LaPointe recorded 13 points and 14 assists and Lance Denney chipped in 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Both teams struggled mightily offensively in the first half with each side shooting 12-of-32 from the field. The Indians shot 2-of-12 from the perimeter against Wahoo’s 1-3-1 defense but the Warriors managed just 1-of-10 from deep on the other end.
The first half included four ties and seven lead changes. Winnebago led 15-14 after one, but Wahoo opened the second quarter with a 7-0 run including a 3 by Blake Lacey and a layup followed an assist by Brendan Lacey, giving the Warriors a six-point lead, the largest of the half for either team.
The teams traded buckets then Winnebago closed the half of a 9-2 run to take a 28-23 lead at the break. The Warriors turned the ball over eight times in the first half.
Winnebago hit three straight 3s early in the third quarter to help them take a 39-38 lead, but Wahoo closed the period on a 10-2 run to pull within three heading into the fourth, and the margin was three or less the rest of the way until Blake Lacey’s free throws to create the final margin.
Winnebago has finished third or better in each of the last four years after taking state in 2015 and finishing third in 2016 and 2017.
Third-Place Game: Lincoln Christian 68, Broken Bow 49
“THREE-PEAT! THREE-PEAT! THREE-PEAT”
That was the chant coming from the Nebraska City Lourdes crowd as the final seconds ticked off the clock in the No. 7 Knights’ 32-25 win over previously unbeaten and top-seeded Kenesaw Blue Devils.
Senior Brandon Friedrichs led all players with 16 points and eight rebounds while Briar Cliff signee added 11 points for the Knights. Will Gallagher led Kennesaw with seven points, five rebounds and four blocks.
Offense was a significant struggle for both teams as they combined to shoot 20-of-80 from the field and 36 turnovers.
The Knights went 70-18 over the last three seasons including a perfect 9-0 at the state tournament. Kenesaw ends the year 28-1.
Third-Place Game: Johnson-Brock 63, Heartland 54
“BACK-TO-BACK!” chants rang out from the York student section after the final horn sounded as the top-seeded Dukes came from behind to take down No. 2 Skutt in 61-56 in double-overtime.
After beating the SkyHawks in the Class B football championship in the fall, the Dukes repeated the feat in basketball with a lot of the same players on both squads. York is the first team to win multiple overtime games int he same state tournament.
“I’m so incredibly proud of these kids,” Coach Scott Lamberty said. “You have two double-overtime games here down in Lincoln, that’s just an incredible feat. To be down nine with 1:15 or whatever, juts never say die. It’s a great group of kids that just refused to quit. We had a motto all year — ‘Believe in yourself and trust in each other,’ and they did that for 32 minutes every night and this weekend they did it 40 minutes a couple of times. Hat’s off to those kids; they earned it. I always say championships are always earned; they’re never given.”
Garrett Snodgrass (a 2019 Nebraska football commit) kept the Dukes in it early, Brady Danielson took over in the second half and Reid Hoffmann closed it out in the extra periods to allow the Dukes to battle back from down 11 in the third quarter and secure their first boys basketball title since 1944.
Skutt struck first with a 3-pointer by Jake Kudron and led throughout regulation until the final minute when Danielson hit two free throws to tie it. The SkyHawks led 12-7 after on and 23-14 after two. York used a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to four but Skutt still led 29-23 after three.
Skutt went into stall mode for much of the fourth quarter and Tyson Gordon pushed the lead to nine with 1:45 to go. Danielson drew a foul in the bonus, but missed the front end. The rebound got tipped back to him, however, and he stepped back and drilled a 3 to cut it to six.
York ratcheted up the intensity with a full-court press down the stretch and Skutt opened the door with three missed free throws and two turnovers in the final 65 seconds. Danielson scored York’s last 15 points of regulation and tied it up with 13 seconds left. Skutt had a shot at the buzzer for the win but Jackson Gordon’s runner was off-target.
“My teammates put me in great spots, my coaches put me in great spots to score,” Danielson said. “That’s what we’ve done all year and they found me and I just got easy buckets.”
Ash opened the first overtime with a 3, but Danielson answered with a two, giving him 17 straight points for the Dukes. After a Skutt turnover, Reid Hoffmann — the hero from York’s first-round comeback win over Crete — knocked down a 3-pointer to give York its first lead of the game at 48-46. He was 0-of-6 from the field in regulation. York didn’t score again, but Skutt split a pair of free throws twice in a row to tie it ip at 48-all and that is where the score remained as the buzzer sounded.
Skutt scored first again in the second overtime, this time with a layup by Andrew Merfeld, but Jeb Lucas answered with a 3 and Hoffmann scored again to make it 53-50. Danielson fouled out on the next play with 1:49 on the clock and Tyson Gordon split a pair of free throws to cut it to two. Hoffmann converted a three-point play to put the Dukes up five with 1:33 to play and York put the game away at the free-throw line.
Danielson scored 19 of his game-high 25 points after halftime, shooting 8-of-17 from the field overall (2-of-4 from 3) and 7-of-10 from the free-throw line.
“He’s just a scorer,” Lamberty said about Danielson. “He might not be the best shooter, but he’s going to find different ways to score. He hit a couple 3s when he got open, he gets to the basket, he can pull up and hit the jumper, he can create off the dribble, he moves so well off the ball, he doesn’t need the ball in his hands so it’s hard to guard him.”
Hoffmann finished with 10 points, Lucas added 11 and Snodgrass just missed a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds. Nebraska football preferred walk-on commit and defensive sub Simon Otte chipped in two points, two rebounds and a steal.
Tyson Gordon led Skutt with 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Kudron finished with 15 as well on 5-of-10 from 3. Ash added 10 points and seven boards.
Ponca took care of business for the second straight year, taking down Hastings St. Cecilia 50-40.
The Indians did most of their damage from the free-throw line, shooting 20-of-27 compared to just 1-of-2 for the Bluehawks. Max Masin led Ponca with 16 points, five rebounds and two blocks. Carter Kingsbury added 11 points.
Trevor Leach led all scorers with 24 points, shooting 8-of-17 from 3 and ending his three-day tournament run with 18 total triples.
Ponca led 13-9 after one and Masin scored on the first possession of the second to stretch the lead to six, but leach erased it with back-to-back treys. Ponca pulled ahead again by seven a couple of times late in the half but Leach’s fourth 3 of the period made it 27-23 at the break.
Points were few and far between in the third and St. Cecilia cut it to one late but Connor Day hit a pair of free throws with two seconds left to put the Indians up 34-31. The indians shot 12-of-16 from the charity stripe and held the Bluehawks the just nine points (three 3s by Leach) to close it out.
Third-Place Game: BRLD 73, Yutan 62
No. 2 Omaha Creighton Prep was the most explosive offensive team in Class A all season, leading the class in points per game, but when shots wouldn’t fall, the Junior Jays relied upon their defense to carry them and the result was a 56-46 win over Bellevue West and the school’s 13th state championship.
Prep held the Thunderbirds to 38 percent from the field including 2-of-18 from 3 and forced 15 turnovers.
“The guys really bought into what we wanted to do this year and that was to really do four things, and we talked about it every day — play with intensity and effort, play with a defensive pride and trying to get stops, and then offensively, be us and really value the ball,” Prep Coach Josh Luedtke said. “The final thing is if we do those three things, we will have fun. I think we achieved that this year.”
Senior and coach’s son Kyle Luedtke led all scorers with 24 points, shooting 6-of-11 from the field including 3-of-6 from deep and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line
“Growing up, I was just always around the locker room, always around the team, riding the busses down to state,” Kyle Luedtke said. “Just seeing the 2009 and the 2015 team win state titles really just gave me the motivation to get myself and my classmates a state title. I luckily got to achieve that dream this year.”
“Kyle had the — I hope — fortunate upbringing of Creighton Prep basketball,” Josh Luedtke added. “He’s seen a lot of disappointing games at the state tournament, he’s seen some state titles and now he’s earned himself a state title.”
Senior Jayden Temme and junior Jaylin Hunter, the son of Nebraska basketball assistant coach Kenya Hunter, chipped in 11 points apiece while junior Akol Arop scored six points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Senior Cedric Johnson led the Thunderbirds with 14 points while fellow senior Tevin Tanner added 10.
Prep jumped out to a 17-11 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Thunderbirds slowly chipped away throughout the second and third periods until a steal and score by Johnson gave West its first lead of the game at 36-34 wth 2:38 to play in the quarter. Luedtke scored in the final minute to tie it up heading into the fourth.
Junio Nico Felici scored on the first possession of the final period but Luedtke answered 13 seconds later with a 3-pointer from well beyond the college arc. That shot coupled with a step up defensively sparked a 15-0 run as Prep held Bellevue West scoreless for nearly six minutes, building up an 11-point lead that was far too much for the Thunderbirds to overcome in the final minute-and-a-half.
“When we fell behind, we just knew we had to get stops and really, we knew our offense was going to come even though we did struggle pretty much the whole tournament with shooting,” Hunter said. “When we get down on defense, we’re hard to beat because we have a lot of talent on offense and if you take one of our options away, somebody else is going to be open to make plays and we all trusted each other and all the work we put in in the offseason. We all trusted each other to make shots and have great team chemistry. But it was really on the defensive end where we just tried to get stop after stop. After the third day, everybody’s legs are gone so that’s the time to dig deep.”
The Junior Jays finished the year 26-1 with their only loss coming to Omaha Central before Hunter, a transfer from Lincoln High, was eligible to play. Prep avenged that loss later in the season as Hunter put up a career-high 30 points to lead the Junior Jays to a victory at Central.
Riverside sophomore Tredyn Prososki put on a show but in the end the overall team play and offensive balance of Falls City Sacred Heart was too much as the Irish captured their ninth state championship with a 59-42 win.
Sean Arnold hit a jumper late in the first period to put Sacred Heart up 18-13 after one and the Irish kept the Chargers at an arm’s length the rest of the way despite the best efforts of Prososki who finished with 23 points including a 3-pointer from the First National Bank logo.
Prososki was the only Charger in double figures, however, while three players reached that mark for Sacred Heart. Drew Bippes finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Theo Rohrer had 12 points and five boards while Tyler Whitt chipped in 13 points. Sacred Heart shot 49 percent from the field and had 10 assists to just four turnovers. The Irish out-rebounded the Chargers 12-3 on the offensive end and converted that into a 17-0 edge in second-chance points.
Third-Place Game: Mullen 57, Giltner 51
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.