Talk about highs and lows – the full range of emotions!
Spalding/Spalding Academy players, coaches and fans certainly ran the full gamut of the emotional scale during a wildly entertaining Class D-2 final on championship Saturday at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln.
In the end, the S/SA Knights, who had come so far, fell agonizingly short of their first state basketball championship in a 57-56 double-overtime loss to Wynot.
What a season! What a tournament! What a game!
The Knights just did not want their state title dreams to die Saturday.
First, senior Kyle Bloom stared potential defeat straight in the eye and arced in a long 3-point field goal from just in front of his team’s bench with two seconds remaining in regulation, wiping out a three-point Wynot lead and sending the game to overtime.
“He’s our leading 3-point shooter. He’s a great leader – a kid that has been clutch all season,” S/SA Coach Joe Imus told reporters following the game. “He told me on the bench, ‘Coach, I got this.’ I had confidence he would make it.”
In the first OT period, senior Erig Berger nailed a 3-point dagger of his own to tie the score at 51-51. Spalding/Academy regained possession and held the ball for a final shot, but failed to convert. On to a second overtime.
Wynot again took the advantage, scoring the first five points of the second extra period. The Blue Devils had a four-point edge, 57-53, after Jackson Sudbeck hit a free throw with 13 seconds to play.
Berger then sank another long trey, but the clock ticked under five seconds as the ball rattled in, out, and back in – allowing Wynot to let time expire without needing to inbound the basketball.
It was a game and an ending that left players, coaches and fans on both sides drained.
“I think if we played those guys 100 times, it would go 50-50,” Imus said later. “We were two evenly matched teams.”
Although it was a heartbreaking finish, Imus said his team has a lot to be proud of. Accomplishments like the most wins in program history, the first S/SA state tournament trip and initial championship game appearance.
“The season was awesome,” he stated. “It was nine more wins then we’ve ever had before. Getting 25 (wins) is something special.”
There were some special moments on the way to Saturday’s final.
Spalding/Academy began its state tournament run with a 65-62 victory over Wausa Thursday at Lincoln North Star, holding off a late charge by the Vikings.
The Knights used a 12-1 run over the the third and fourth quarters to take an 11-point lead, but Wausa roared back and had a shot to tie with a 3-point try in the final seconds.
Knight fans didn’t need to bite their nails as Friday’s semi-final wound down, as S/SA roared by Leyton 68-51 at Pershing Center.
Credit Spalding’s depth and frenetic style of play.
“We can go about 11 deep and we don’t drop off much,” Imus said. “I saw, Thursday, Leyton only play six guys.
“With the tempo we play, they got a little fatigued and got into foul trouble. Ultimately, that really helped us win the game.”
Further details in Print & Online editions of Albion News.