After a classic day of semifinals at Pinnacle Bank Arena the stage is set for Saturday’s championship games and the culmination of a season that we didn’t know we’d get to finish. Time to be thankful to break down our last set of championship games.
Class D-1 | Howells-Dodge (20-8) vs. Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family (22-5) | 9 a.m.
A rubber match to open the day for the Class D-1 title game. HLHF playing for their second title in three seasons and the Jaguars are riding the play of Blake Sindelar who has 61 points in tournament wins. Twin juniors Jason and Jacob Sjuts lead the Bulldogs. HLHF won 46-32 in December and H-D took the sub-district final 53-49.
Sautter Says: It’s fairly simple. If HLHF is going to win the key will be slowing down Sindelar and the Jaguars from getting to the basket. Howells-Dodge is relentless in attacking the rim and Sindelar isn’t just a a good athlete that can get down hill in a hurry, he is a great passer. HLHF will need to make outside shots to avoid long rebounds that result in run-outs for the Jaguars. Howells-Dodge has more than just Sindelar. Junior forward Richard Bayer can clean up on the glass and is similar to Sindelar in his ability to get to the hoop.
To win a state title you generally need more than your stars to shine. The Sjuts twins are good and can control the pace but they will need a big game protecting the rim and rebounding from 6-3 post Ethan Keller. Foul trouble and depth has been an issue for H/LHF. If the Sjuts’ can play defense without fouling and control possessions without turning the ball over they could win their second title in three years.
Class C-1 | Auburn (25-0) vs. Adams Central (26-2) | 10:45 a.m.
Auburn is the top-seeded, top-ranked, two-time defending champion with a 61-game winning streak that is third all-time in Nebraska history. Can the Patriots crack the code against Cam Binder and coach Jim Weeks? If so, it will come with balanced play. Six players scored in the first half of their 52-40 win over Wayne in the semifinals.
Sautter Says: It’s pretty simple for Auburn. Do what you do and you win. Value possessions, take and make good shots and play solid defense. Senior Ryan and freshman Maverick Binder were great defensively on the ball in the semifinals. Senior post Daniel Frary is the key for the Bulldogs. He’s had a fantastic year and will likely need to have a big game on the glass for Auburn to win their third title in a row.
Adams Central might be the toughest task the Bulldogs have seen in the finals. The matchup of Cam Foster and Cam Binder is intriguing. Senior Tyler Slechta played through foul trouble in the semis and will need to play without fouling against the patient Bulldogs.
It should be a low scoring game with some longer possessions. If Lucas Bohlen can connect on shots from distance that will likely open up driving lanes for Slechta and Foster.
Class B | Elkhorn (19-7) vs. Beatrice (18-6) | 2 p.m.
What we didn’t expect? The 5th and 6th seeds in the Class B state title game. But that’s what we’ll get and neither team is apologizing after winning a pair of meat grinders on Friday that didn’t get to 50. Expect more of the same on Saturday. Beatrice got 13 points from Kaden Glynn in the semifinals and Elkhorn has been really good in the post in Lincoln, with Drew Christo and Dane Petersen combining for 29 points against Norris.
SAUTTER SAYS: If the two teams combine for 80 points it will be almost a miracle.
Beatrice is the clear underdog in the game but that hasn’t fazed the Orangemen in their first two games. Kaden Glynn’s ability to probe the defense and find his teammates in the short corner of the intimidating Elkhorn 1-3-1 will be a key.
Christo and Petersen have been fantastic in the tournament. Senior point guard Jack Buddecke’s ability to make good decisions and handle the ball is a key for the Antlers. He’s been great initiating the offense in the first two games without scoring a ton. If he has another low turnover game Elkhorn can win their first state title.
Class D-2 | Parkview Christian (27-1) vs. Falls City Sacred Heart (19-7) | 3:45 p.m.
The supremely athletic Patriots can score in bunches, but on Saturday they get to plan against legendary coach Doug Goltz as the Irish go for their 11th state championship, which would tie Wahoo for the most in state history by a non-Class A school. Jahiem Curry and Mark Lual combined for 38 points in PC’s semifinal win over top-ranked O’Neill St. Mary’s while the Irish got 19 points from Brogen Nachitgal and 12 points and 13 rebounds from Jack Fiegener.
SAUTTER SAYS: This game is all about pace. If Parkview speeds up Sacred Heart they can win. They have great length on the wing and their pressure is impressive for a D-2 team.
If the Irish can jump out to an early lead look out. They could control the pace and take advantage of their patient post play from Fiegener and Nachitgal.
A key for Parkview is keeping their composure when the waters get rough. They have the talent and skill advantage but in the semifinal they got rattled and let St. Mary’s climb back into the game.
Class A | Millard North (25-2) vs. Bellevue West (24-2) | 7 p.m
The championship crash we asked for since last March, is finally here. But, mercy, the story it took to get there. Millard North pulls away late against Millard West. And, then that is followed up by the Bellevue West, Creighton Prep instant classic. However many tickets they have for this one, they’ll sell them. Sit back and soak it all in.
SAUTTER SAYS: If you can just be a fan and watch this is the game, do it. Two of the best the state has ever seen in Hepburn and Sallis will go at it for the third time this season. Don’t forget about their Robin’s in Saint Thomas (Millard North) and Frankie Fidler (Bellevue West). Those two have had tremendous careers of their own.
The key will likely be Will Kyle and Tyler Sandoval. The teams post players and two that are vital to the success of their teams. Millard North’s Jadin Johnson has drawn the assignment of Chucky Hepburn in previous matchups. Look for that again on Saturday night.
Just how much Bellevue West has left in the tank after a three overtime semifinal win over Prep will likely be a factor.
Class C-2 | Grand Island Central Catholic (24-4) vs. Yutan (24-2) | 8:45 p.m.
The nightcap should provide plenty of drama. GICC has been cruising in the postseason with the inside presence of brothers Gil and Dei Jengmer as they combined for 23 points and 14 rebounds in a 64-40 win over Hartington Cedar Catholic, where they led 24-6 in the second quarter. Yutan got to the final on a Brady Timm jumper with 2.2 seconds left to oust two-time defending champion BRLD.
SAUTTER SAYS: What does Yutan do with all of that size and skill the Crusaders can roll out at you? And, what does GICC do to handle the excellent guard play of Yutan. These two met in a three overtime, semifinal classic last year and are the past two runner-ups in the class.
Brady Timm has been a gamer and the Crusaders will have to somehow limit his success or at least contain him and his touches to win. It’s likely Russ Martinez gets that assignment. And, how do the Chieftains slow down GICC, which beat Tri-County 58-29 in the opener and was ahead of 24-6 on Hartington Cedar Catholic on Thursday night. If the Crusaders get 3-point shooting to go with the inside player of Gil and Dei Jengmer, they’ll be a tough out.