One school competing in the first state basketball championship game in the history of the program and its respective communities.
Another gunning for its 10th hardcourt state title.
In the end, separated by a mere three points.
That was the scenario that played out on the floor of Lincoln’s Bob Devaney Center Saturday, as Wahoo – with one of outstate Nebraska’s most-storied basketball programs – nipped the Boone Central/Newman Grove Cardinals 45-42 to win the Class C-1 title in the 2013 Nebraska Boys State Basketball Championships.
Boone Central/Newman Grove – which opened the 2013 state tourney with a 63-57 victory over #2 seed Kearney Catholic, then routed semi-final opponent Kimball 53-33 – had two final chances to send Saturday’s title showdown to overtime.
The Cardinals saw one 3-point attempt bounce off the Devaney Center rim, then failed to get off a shot in their final possession of the season.
An agonizing finish, but a season and tournament to be proud of for Boone Central/Newman Grove, which was also runner-up in the C-1 state football playoffs this past fall.
“It was a great season. It’s a testament to the hard work they put in. These guys haven’t had a day off since, basically, August 5,” praised Cardinal Coach Dan Zoucha. “There were times we struggled here and there, but the leadership exhibited by the upperclassmen was a great example for all the young players coming up in the program.
“Coach (Roger) Gentrup and Coach (Matt) Rudloff did an outstanding job throughout the season getting the players ready – for that, I am extremely thankful.”
Believing his team had given its all, Zoucha could only take a philosophical view of the season’s finish.
“We just could not get a couple of shots to fall in the final minutes. Wahoo had a couple of lucky shots fall and we had a couple that didn’t. Unfortunately, those things happen.”
In a fitting C-1 season finale between teams ranked #1 and #2 by the Omaha World-Herald entering the state tournament, Saturday’s title game came down to that match-up, with tradition-laden Wahoo edging championship neophyte Boone Central/Newman Grove 45-42 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln.
It was a classic battle, with the largest lead seven points and the outcome hanging in the balance in the final seconds.
When BC/NG mishandled an inbounds pass in the final five seconds, the Warriors escaped with their 10th overall basketball championship.
“Give Boone Central credit,” Wahoo Coach Kevin Scheef told reporters immediately following the contest. “They battled us right to the wire.”
The Cardinals certainly didn’t look starstruck in their initial title game appearance. BC/NG came out firing with confidence.
“Getting mentally ready to play the third game in three days is just as important – if not more so – than being physically ready,” Zoucha noted. “Our team was ready to play and they knew we matched up well against Wahoo.
“We came out and shot the ball extremely well from 3-point range. We were not able to get the ball inside as well as we would have liked, and that was frustrating.”
Kimball brought a 22-1 record and first-round win over Gibbon to the state tournament semi-finals.
The Longhorns could not stand up to the relentless pressure of Boone Central/Newman Grove, however, as the Cardinals advanced to the Class C-1 championship game with a 53-33 rout.
“Getting pressure on their guards was the one part of our defense we wanted to accomplish,” BC/NG Coach Dan Zoucha stated. “We got control of the game early and forced them into some turnovers.
“Going right after their post player was a big part of the game plan. We did this and got him into foul trouble. We played very aggressively on both ends of the floor.”
BC/NG did, indeed, get Kimball’s Michael Daum in foul trouble. The 6-foot-8 center, who scored 24 points against Gibbon, got his second foul with 3:32 remaining in the first quarter, his third with 2:05 to play in the first half, and number four with 5:40 left in quarter three. He fouled out with 2:59 remaining in that third period.
BC/NG used a 12-5 run to open a 24-13 halftime lead, then pulled away in the second half behind Tyler Hedlund’s 11 points.
First Things First
If you want to advance deep into the state tournament, you have to take care of the first step.
Boone Central/Newman Grove took that to heart Thursday, riding the hot hand of junior Derek Gentrup and its defensive pressure to a 63-57 first-round victory over Class C-1 #2 seed Kearney Catholic at the Pershing Center in Lincoln.
Gentrup scored 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting – 3-of-4 beyond the arc – to lead the win.
“We had a very good shooting day in Pershing. Sometimes the shooting can be a little off in a large venue,” BC/NG Coach Dan Zoucha noted. “We also got to the hoop and scored in the paint. We executed our offense well.
“We knew Kearney Catholic had several players who shoot the ball well. With our defense, communication was going to be a key. Our three-quarters court pressure was also effective in dictating the pace of the game.”
BC/NG roared out of the gate. With Gentrup hitting a pair of threes and scoring eight points, the Cards forged a 22-11 lead in the opening quarter. Kearney Catholic spent the second period fighting back and trimmed the deficit to 32-29 before Wyatt Mazour’s long 3-pointer helped BC/NG take a 36-30 lead into intermission.
Boone Central/Newman Grove used a 10-3 run over four minutes of the third quarter to go ahead 50-39 and had leads of 54-41 and 58-45 in the fourth before Kearney Catholic’s Alex Leiss drained a trio of 3-pointers – each longer than the previous – in the final 1:23.
Further details in Print & Online editions of Albion News.