Bellevue West’s Chucky Hepburn Cuts Down Net at NSAA Boys Basketball Championship
Photo Credit: John Peterson

Viewing Guide for the 2021 Boys State Basketball Tournament

March 08, 2021

Nebraska crowned six state champions at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday as the 2021 girls state basketball tournament came to a close. This week, it’s the boys’ turn to take center stage.

This year’s boys tournament has been expanded to five days, just like the girls tournament, so the action tips off at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Tuesday. The field features plenty of star power including a handful of multi-sport athletes headed to Lincoln next year and others with Nebraska ties or interest.

Class A

Class A’s No. 1 seed should come as no surprise — it’s the Millard North Mustangs. Millard North is 23-2 including a win over perennial prep power Oak Hill Academy, but after falling short in last year’s championship game, this season was all about getting back to this point and finishing the job.

The Mustangs feature the most prolific offensive duo in the state in 5-star guard Hunter Sallis (22.5 points, 5.6 rebound and 3.5 assists per game) and wing Saint Thomas (21.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game), also a Division I prospect.

Millard North also has arguably the most talented third option in the state in Jasen Green, the 6-foot-7 junior forward who holds offers from a handful of high-major programs including Nebraska. He’s averaging 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds.

Point guard Jadin Johnson, an Old Dominion commit, and center Tyler Sandoval, a 6-foot-9 senior, round out the Millard North starting five, and all five played in last year’s title game so they certainly have plenty of experience.

Bellevue West lost three starters from last year’s team that closed out the title game with a 16-0 run to take down the Mustangs, but the Thunderbirds (23-2) have looked just as strong this season with Wisconsin signee Chucky Hepburn (15.7 points, 8.3 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game) and Omaha signee Frankie Fidler (21.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game) leading the way.

Senior transfer Greg Brown, junior forward William Kyle III and sophomore guard Josiah Dotzler have stepped into the starting lineup this season and the Thunderbirds haven’t skipped a beat. Dotzler played a huge part in Bellevue West’s comeback against Millard North last year and has stepped his game up this season, averaging 11.8 points.

As talentd as those top two seeds are, Class A isn’t a two-horse race by any means. No. 3 Creighton Prep (22-2) proved that by playing Bellevue West close twice and knocking off Millard North at the Stable. The Junior Jays have five starters averaging between eight and 13 points led by junior forward Luke Jungers (12.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game).

Nebraska football signee AJ Rollins starts in the middle and is averaging 8.9 points and 6.4 rebounds this season. Preferred walk-on commit Alex Bullock is also on the team.

The fourth seed is Lincoln Pius X (18-3) who fell in the district round but qualified for state as the wildcard. Fred Hoiberg’s twin sons, seniors Sam (15.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game) and Charlie (10.7 points per game), lead the way for the Thunderbolts while Division I prospect Sam Hastreiter, a 6-foot-6 junior, is a strong third option (9.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game).

The bottom four seeds all pulled off upsets in district play to qualify for the tournament.

Millard West is the No. 5 seed and will play Pius. Nebraska football preferred walk-on commit Evan Meyersick, a 6-foot-5 forward, leads a quartet of double-digit scorers at 13.5 points per game.

No. 6 Papillion-La Vista South, led by junior Daniel Brocaille (17.7 points per game) will face Creighton Prep. No. 7 Lincoln East, which knocked off Pius in the district final round, is led by senior point guard Carter Glenn (19.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game) and will face Bellevue West. No. 8 Millard South, led by a pair of Midland commits in Michael Harding and Jack Cooper, will face Millard North.

Class B

Class B features a pair of Nebraska commits on one team, but their futures lie on the baseball diamond. Drew Christo is a big part of what No. 5 Elkhorn does (9.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game) while Kyler Randazzo plays off the bench, and both are committed to play for Will Bolt next year.

Elkhorn will open the tournament against No. 4 Platteview, led by the most prolific player in Class B in sophomore guard Connor Millikan (26.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game).

Reigning champion Omaha Skutt looked shaky early in the season but figured some things out and closed the season strong. Led by the senior duo of guard Charlie Fletcher (13.5 points per game) and post Luke Skar (9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game), the No. 2 SkyHawks are a clear threat to repeat. They’ll face No. 7 Waverly in the first round.

Top-seeded Norris is back in the state tournament under new head coach Jimmy Motz after qualifying last year. Senior post Trey Deveaux (17.4 pants and 8.5 rebounds) leads a talented group. Norris will face No. 8 Blair, which upset Alliance to punch its ticket to state.

No. 3 Elkhorn Mt. Michael might be the most experienced team in the state and will be a tough out led by senior post Kaleb Brink (14.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game). The Knights will face No. 6 Beatrice in the first round.

Class C1

Top-seeded Auburn is riding a 59-game winning streak into the tournament and is looking to capture its third straight title as senior guard Cam Binder (15.1 points per game) looks to close out his outstanding career on a high note while senior forward Daniel Frary provides a strong interior presence (13.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game).

Other players of note:

  • Pierce sophomore Benjamin Brahmer: 14.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game (holds a Nebraska football offer)
  • Omaha Concordia senior Zachary Kulus: 16.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game (Coach Ken Kulus’ son)
  • Milford junior Jaxon Weyand: 17.8 points per game
  • Kearney Catholic junior Brett Mahony: 18.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game

Class C2

Two-time reining champion BRLD enters the tournament in an unfamiliar position: as underdogs. The Wolverines returned their top two players but lost everyone else from last year’s title team and is the No. 6 seed. Point guard Lucas Vogt (14.4 points and 6.5 assists per game) and forward Dylan Beutler (18.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game) is as good as any one-two punch in the class.

Other players of note:

  • Grand Island Central Catholic senior Dei Jengmer: 10.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game (leads a balanced group for the top-ranked Crusaders)
  • Tri County senior Cole Siems: 16.5 points
  • Freeman senior Holden Ruse and sophomore Carter Ruse: 25.4 points and 12.3 rebounds per game combined
  • Yutan senior Brady Timm: 21.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game

Class D1

Burwell joined Auburn as the only team to navigate the 2020-21 season without a blemish, heading into the state tournament with a 24-0 record. Senior guard Barak Birch (15.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game) has averaged over 15 points per game each of the past three seasons and junior forward Carter Mann (13.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game) is a double-double threat in every game.

Other players of note:

  • Central Valley senior Ty Nekoliczak: 19.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game
  • Central Valley senior Trevor Cargill: 18.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game
  • Howells-Dodge junior Blake Sindelar: 19.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game
  • Walthill senior Kaden Sheridan: 19.5 points and 4.4 steals per game
  • Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family junior Jason Sjuts: 16.2 points, 4.8 assisst, 4.2 rebounds and 2.9 steals per game
  • Southern Valley senior Clayton Berry: 18.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game

Class D2

Falls City Sacred Heart took down previously unbeaten Humphrey St. Francis in the championship to take home the title last season, but the Irish lost their best player from that squad and heads into the tournament as the No. 7 seed with a 17-7 record.

Meanwhile, St. Francis also lost its best player in Trevor Pfeifer but his younger brother Tanner piked up the slack and averaged 19.7 points and 8.3 rebounds to lead the Flyers to the No. 2 seed.

Other payers of note:

  • O’Neill St. Mary’s junior Aidan Hedstrom: 24.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game
  • Osceola sophomore Isaiah Zelasney: 19.0 points and 6.6 rebounds per game
  • Lincoln Parkview senior Mark Lual: 15.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game
  • Loomis junior Quinn Johnson: 24.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game

You can find the the all-class brackets here. The subscription-based NFHS Network will stream the quarterfinal and semifinal games while NET will televise the finals. News Channel Nebraska will also televise and stream the semifinals on Friday.

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