The 2023 high school boys basketball season in Nebraska came to a close on Saturday as all six classes crowned their champions at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Hail Varsity’s Jacob Padilla gives us a breakdown of the action below.
CLASS D1: No. 3 Johnson-Brock 46, No. 1 North Platte St. Patrick’s 40
Johnson-Brock built a big lead early then survived a late St. Patrick’s rally to secure its fourth state title and first since 2019.
Senior Nic Parriott had the first and last buckets of the game and led Johnson-Brock with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting including 3-of-5 from 3 and 2-of-2 from the line.
The Eagles (25-4) forced 19 Irish turnovers and converted them into 18 points on the other end while holding St. Patrick’s leading scorer Brecken Erickson to 10 points and just eight shot attempts. St. Patrick’s (25-3) shot 31.1% from the field and just 43.8% from the foul line.
Coach Lucus Dalinghaus said he thought the Eagles would be a high-powered offensive team heading into the year, but he quickly reset expectations once they got to work and he realized what he had.
“This is the 55th year of Johnson-Brock as a school, I believe, and 55th year of the boys basketball team,” Dalingaus said. “We talked about, at the beginning of the season too, setting a goal that we were going to allow the least amount of points ever, and we did that. Coming into this game, we had allowed 35.7 points a game and the record was 40-something. The kids bought into that and that’s what we saw today. Play our 2-3 zone, getting hands on passes; we’ve got ball-hawks on our team that just kind of know where the ball is.”
Johnson-Brock jumped out to a 9-1 lead as it took nearly six minutes for the Irish to convert their first field goal. They turned it over four times and missed their first six shots before a put-back by Erickson.
The Eagles took a 12-6 lead into the second quarter then expanded it to 21-8 as the Irish continued to struggle against Johnson-Brock’s 2-3 zone. However, the Irish stepped it up late on the defensive end and held the Eagles scoreless for the last two and a half minutes, scoring six straight to trim the deficit to 22-15 at halftime.
Johnson-Brock forced 12 turnovers in the first half and shot 4-for-8 from 3 to build its lead.
The Irish continued their run into the second half, holding the Eagles without a field goal for the first four and a half minutes. St. Patrick’s first 3-pointer of the game (after an 0-for-6 start) cut the deficit down to three at 25-22, but Johnson-Brock answered with a 3 from Sloan Pelican.
St. Patrick’s cut it to three again but Johnson-Brock closed out the third quarter with a 3 from Casen Dalinghaus to make it 31-25 heading into the fourth. Casen and Camden Dalinghaus each knocked down a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 10 less than a minute into the fourth.
However, after struggling from the arc all game long, the 3-ball finally came alive for the Irish. Andrew Brosius hit one early then Sam Troshynski hit a trey on three straight possessions, all from the right wing, to pull the Irish within two at 40-38 with three and a half to play. Troshynski scored nine of his team-high 14 in about a 60-second span.
After a pair of free throws from Parriott and a missed layup on each end of the floor, Logan Winder hit a short jumper in the lane to cut it to two again with 90 seconds to play. St. Patrick’s opted to pressure without fouling and the decision paid off as the Eagles burned about 35 seconds before throwing the ball away.
St. Patrick’s took a timeout to set up their possession, but Johnson-Brock shut it down and forced a turnover. Camden Dalinghaus, a sophomore, calmly stepped to the line with 22.7 on the clock and knocked down a pair of free throws to push the lead to four, then Parriott sealed the victory with a breakaway layup after a St. Patrick’s miss.
“I wanted to try and dunk it,” Parriott said. “I figured [Coach] would have yelled at me if I missed, so I played it safe.”
Parriott didn’t get to throw the dunk, but he did get to put on a gold medal to close out his career.
Johnson-Brock: 12-10- 9-15 — 46
North Platte St. Patrick’s: 6- 9-10-15 — 40
JB: Nic Parriott 15, Camden Dalinghaus 8, Sloan Pelican 7, Lane Buchmeier 6, Casen Dalinghaus 5, Brody Koehler 3, Jalen Behrends 1, Lleyton Behrends 1
NPSP: Sam Troshynski 14, Brecken Erickson 10, Logan Winder 6, Zarek Branch 4, Will Moats 3, Andrew Brosius 3
>> Third-Place Game: No. 5 Dundy County-Stratton 67, No. 2 Maywood/Hayes Center 59
The Tigers put up 26 points in the third quarter to pull away from the Wolves then held on in the fourth quarter to close the season on a win.
Junior Jackson Kerchal put up 26 points while Alex Englot capped a big tournament with 18 points for Dundy County-Stratton.
Four Wolves scored in double figures led by junior Haydn Farr with 15.
CLASS C1: No. 3 Ashland-Greenwood 54, No. 8 Auburn 24
The rematch from last year’s C1 championship produced the same result, though this one included much less drama as the Bluejays dominated start to finish to win their second straight title.
The margin of victory is the largest in C1 state tournament history while the 24 points are the fewest any champion has surrendered since Nebraska went to six classes in 1984.
Ashland-Greenwood held Auburn to 29.6% shooting and eight total field goals in 32 minutes of game time. The Bluejays surrendered just 72 points in their three games at the state tournament.
“These guys and our team really dug in defensively in the last couple games here at the state tournament and it’s hard to describe in a few words what they did defensively — amazing, lights-out, tremendous, excellent, all those things,” Bluejay coach Jacob Mohs said. “I just feel like they bought in, they locked in, their effort was amazing. They didn’t make many mistakes for three straight games and that’s mind-boggling. As coaches, we’re super-appreciative of the work those guys did and what they just went out and accomplished against three good basketball teams.”
Senior guard Brooks Kissinger led the way with a double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, both game-highs. Fellow senior Cougar Konzem added 13 points on 100% shooting.
Ashland-Greenwood shot nearly 50% from the field and turned the ball over one time all game while outscoring the Bulldogs 40 to 10 in the paint.
“We were taking great shots,” Mohs said. “We harped on that along with our defense. As you get to these games where it’s kind of win or go home, you’ve got to take great shots, and I thought we did a tremendous job in all three games just taking really, really good looks.”
Auburn tried to establish 6-foot-8 senior Carson Leslie, in the post early against the smaller Ashland-Greenwood frontcourt, but the Bluejays shut that down and limited the Bulldogs to one field goal overall in the first quarter to take an 11-4 lead.
It never got any better for the Bulldogs as the Bluejays continued to control the action on both ends. Ashland-Greenwood extended the lead to 16-4 before Auburn’s second bucket, a bucket inside from Leslie. Sophomore Nixon Ligouri hit a 3 on the following possession.
However, junior Dane Jacobsen scored with a couple of seconds left to push the lead back to 10 at halftime. Auburn opened the second half with a bucket to cut it to eight before Ashland-Greenwood closed the period on a 14-2 run then continued to extend the lead throughout the fourth quarter.
“We couldn’t guard them,” Auburn coach Jim Weeks said. “And defensively, when we were driving in the lane they were digging down. We just couldn’t get anything going and it kind of snowballed on us.”
Auburn wasn’t able to finish the job, but the Bulldogs were the only No. 8 seed in the field who made it out of the first round, let alone made it to the final.
“I think coming into the state tournament, we were 19-6 and we didn’t have a win that wasn’t double digits, so we were playing a lot of good basketball,” Weeks said. “We lost to some really good teams. At the end of the year, we were playing awfully well. In som regards, as you look back, second place isn’t too shabby.”
Last year’s title team featured current Husker Cale Jacobsen in a Bluejay jersey. On Saturday, he was in the stands watching his younger brother led the team and cut down the nets.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Dane said. “I had like 30 cousins there, 20 aunts, my whole family was there. Seeing my brother get u and cheer for me was pretty cool. Now I can just brag to him a little bit that I have two and he only has one.”
Auburn: 4- 8- 4- 8 — 24
Ashland-Greenwood: 11-11-14-18 — 54
A: Payton Boden 7, Nixon Ligouri 6, Skyler Roybal 3, Carson Leslie 3, Austin Lavigne 3, Mav Binder 2
AG: Brooks Kissinger 16, Cougar Konzem 13, Dane Jacobsen 6, Drake Zimmerman 6, Cade Bridges 4, Ty Carey 3, Dawson Thies 2, Luke Clark 2, Isaac Carson 2
>> Third-Place Game: No. 2 Ogallala 72, No. 5 Omaha Concordia 63
Ogallala bounced back for its rough outing in the semifinals to finish 28-1 on the year. The Indians trailed by seven at halftime but outscored the Mustangs 45-29 in the second half.
Junior Harry Caskey led the way with 26 points while junior Caden Rezac scored 20 and senior Jeron Gager added 15.
Elliott Wilson led Concordia with 21 points on seven made 3-pointers while big man Quentin McCafferty scored 14 and junior Jack Thrasher chipped in 11.
CLASS B: No. 1 Omaha Skutt 57, No. 2 Platteview 50
After entering the postseason as the heavy favorite in Class B one year ago, Omaha Skutt fell to Omaha Roncalli in the championship game.
Returning two starters in JJ Ferrin and Jake Brack, the SkyHawks earned the No. 1 seed again this season and this time they finished the job, outscoring the Trojans 18-6 in the fourth quarter to earn the right to cut down the nets.
“It’s remarkable, especially with what happened last year,” Ferrin said. “I’ve been thinking about this basically ever since that happened and it’s just a feeling I can’t describe, especially with us nine seniors. We’ve been talking about it for a while. I’ve been with these guys since freshman year. It’s just a crazy feeling for all of us. For the Skutt program, it’s just amazing.”
Ferrin, a Wayne State commit, finished with a game-high 21 points for the Skyhawks, though after hitting six 3s in Skutt’s semifinal win against Crete he did all his damage inside the arc and at the free-throw line.
“Yesterday, they were in a zone to start the game and I was just seeing open gaps and getting my shots that way,” Ferrin said. “Today was a different look. I was getting more heavily pressured man-to-man, and so I was just seeing gaps where I could get to the rim.”
South Dakota signee Jake Brack added 13 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Brock Scholl added 10 points and four rebounds while senior Jack Healey, who sealed Skutt’s semifinal win with a block at the buzzer, chipped in seven points and eight rebounds. The SkyHawks won despite going 0-for-9 from deep.
After six ties and 11 lead changes throughout the first three quarters, the game changed dramatically with three minutes to go in the fourth. The Trojans forced a miss at the basket from the 6-foot-9 Brack but weren’t able to secure the rebound. Brack got the ball back and went up for a shot in traffic, and an official called foul on Platteview’s Connor Millikan, Class B’s all-time leading scorer.
Brack split the free throws to put Skutt up by three and Platteview had to play the rest of the way without its leader and best offensive weapon. The Trojans cut it to one twice with a pair of free throws from Trey Moseman and a layup from Reiman Zebert.
However, Ferrin went 2-for-2 at the line then shot the passing lane for a steal and breakaway layup to push the lead to five with less than 45 seconds to play and Platteview ran out of gas.
Millikan closed out his prolific career with 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but nine of his points came from the line and Skutt’s size and length made it difficult for him to score as he shot just 5-for-21 from the field.
“You’re not going to stop [Millikan], so you’re trying to limit him the best that you can and we spent a lot of time game planning last night for how we were going to do that,” Skutt coach Kyle Jurgens said. “My best thought was showing him as many bodies as we could.”
Millikan’s career ends with 2,639 points scored and 910 rebounds collected. He’s second in the state in career scoring behind only the late Bill Holliday (2748 points).
Moseman added 15 points on 50% from the field and from 3, but the Trojans didn’t have anyone else with more than four points and shot 27.3% (6-for-22) from 3.
Platteview got off to a good start, jumping ahead by five late in the period before taking a 17-13 lead into the second quarter. Platteview got a pair of free throws from Millikan and a 3 from Moseman to open the second period as well, extending the lead out to 22-13 and triggering a timeout from Jurgens.
“I told them we have to decide right now,” Jurgens said about the huddle. “We hadn’t really worked hard enough to get a stop yet. This is the state championship game; we have to get some stops. Honestly, at that point you can panic and start shooting shots that are outside the game plan and what you want to do. So we kind of talked to them about there’s no 10-point shot and it’s going to be tied, it’s about stringing together stops and stringing together good offensive possessions. Obviously the run that we had from there definitely helped us.”
Skutt ripped off a 17-4 run out of the timeout, pulling ahead by four before a 3 off the bench from Platteview senior Cael Wichman. Ferrin got to the basket to put Skutt up 32-29 at halftime.
Platteview stepped up its defensive effort in the third quarter, holding Skutt to seven points despite navigating significant foul trouble. Sophomore Tarin Riley checked in and gave the Trojans good minutes including a layup and a free throw. Platteview took a 44-39 lead into the fourth thanks to a buzzer-beating put-back from Millikan.
Neither team scored in the first two minutes of the fourth, then Skutt surged ahead with a 9-2 run including three-point plays from Scholl (6-foot-8), Healey (6-foot-9) and Brack (6-foot-9).
“Obviously our strength and our advantage is our size,” Jurgens said. “We said it since day one, you get off the bus and everybody oohs and ahhs and whatnot, but it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not relentless in there and you’re not physically and tough and don’t stick your nose in there and go get it. So we’ve really been on these guys all year, don’t just be tall and long, be tough and want to be in the fight too. I think we wore them down a little bit there around the rim and that spurt there was definitely big for us.”
Millikan’s fifth foul happened shortly after the run.
Skutt outscored Platteview by 14 in the paint and by 11 from the foul line to earn the victory.
Platteview: 17-12-15- 6 — 50
Omaha Skutt: 13-19- 7-18 — 57
P: Connor Millikan 20, Trey Moseman 15, Reiman Zebert 4, Alex Draper 3, Cael Wichman 3, Tarin Riley 3
OS: JJ Ferrin 21, JJ Brack 13, Brock Scholl 10, Jack Healey 7, Kyle Cannon 4, Wyatt Archer 2