In the end, Wahoo Bishop Neumann will be remembered as Class C1 champion of the 2014 Nebraska Boys State Basketball Tournament.
Boone Central/Newman Grove fans will remember their Cardinals as a team that fought valiantly to the end.
For nearly the full 32 minutes of Thursday’s first-round game at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Bishop Neumann (22-6) clicked on all cylinders. The Cavaliers, ranked #1 by the Omaha World-Herald entering the state tournament, scored inside, outside and, seemingly, from every spot on the court in a 90-72 victory over Boone Central/Newman Grove (19-6).
The Cardinals never quit during difficult times, however. Finally looking like the team that was state runner-up in 2013 and deemed preseason #1 this year, BC/NG made a furious rally from a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t quite enough.
It was close.
With Neumann reeling on the ropes, the lead cut to 78-72 in the waning minutes, BC/NG’s fans in a frenzy and the staggering Cavaliers susceptible to a final comeback knockout punch, Cardinal junior Wyatt Mazour’s arcing 3-point attempt sailed just long.
Bishop Neumann was able to regroup from there and score the final 12 points, securing its first victory in a march to the state championship.
“I just knew it was going in because it just looked like it was going in,” BC/NG Coach Dan Zoucha told reporters following the contest.
What might have been.
Boone Central/Newman Grove was forced to gamble after Mazour’s miss and Neumann’s final margin ballooned back to 18 points. Zoucha said that was not indicative of the contest between the C1 titans.
“It’s 90 points, it looks like they kind of walked all over us. That’s not the way it was.
“Sometimes things just don’t work out like you expect them to work out,” Zoucha continued. “Bishop Neumann is a very good team. I felt whoever made it out of our game Thursday would be playing on Saturday – and that’s what happened.
“Neumann was hitting (shots) very well in the first half. They also hit the boards very hard, and that is something we stressed in prepping for the game. We did not keep them off the offensive glass as well as we expected. We did rebound better in the second half and grabbed several offensive rebounds of our own we were able to convert into points.
“We felt we prepared well for the defenses they would throw at us and, for the most part, we handled their pressure,” he noted. “Our first-half turnovers were very uncharacteristic, as we had nine. The second half was much better.
“Our team made a great run that would have brought down the house. They played so hard and with such grit – it really did show what they are made of. We got within six with around two minutes left, but several shots didn’t fall. After that, when you have to gamble, you will give up some points.”
Despite the outcome, Zoucha was proud of his charges and their fight.
“You could see we were creating doubt (for Neumann). We were making a run and not being shy,” he said. “Pierce hit a couple. He was on – you could see it in his eyes. Tyler gritted up and Derek, you could just tell by the look in his eyes, he was kind of possessed to try and make it happen.”
The Cardinals also received praise from Bishop Neumann Coach Mike Weiss.
“They’re a state final team from last year,” he noted. “I feel Boone Central, just like we are, is a proud program.”
“Overall, while this was not the way we planned on finishing, we had many, many successes and memorable moments,” Zoucha praised. “As coaches, we feel so grateful for the time and effort these young men gave to this program.
“Our seniors have left a lasting legacy for our communities and schools – and for this we say ‘Thank you’.”
Boone Central/Newman Grove finished 19-of-29 on 2-point field goal attempts, but just 8-of-29 on 3-point tries and 10-of-21 at the foul line. Bishop Neumann sank 22-of-42 from 2-point range, 8-of-14 behind the arc and 22-of-29 at the charity stripe.
Further details in Print & Online editions of Albion News