Saturday night’s Class A championship between Millard North and Bellevue West was what a state title bout is supposed to look like.
The game had everything: Star power. Pace. Entertainment. Great student sections and an as-packed-as-it-can-get Pinnacle Bank Arena. Heck, Bud Crawford was in the house for the second straight night.
There are too many great plays to count from Millard North’s 84-78 overtime win against Bellevue West, which should go down as one of the greatest high school basketball games in Nebraska history. And Bellevue West’s epic triple overtime win over Creighton Prep the night before should be up there, too.
While it’s impossible to rank the top plays from the Class A championship, let’s give it a try anyway with the top eight.
8. Saint Thomas with the dish, Hunter Sallis with the jam
Saint Thomas only scored nine points, but he made an impact in other areas of the game — he hauled down nine rebounds with a team-high six assists. This assist to Hunter Sallis is a great example. Thomas drives baseline, draws the attention of Greg Brown (4) and Chucky Hepburn (24) and dishes a pass to Sallis, who sneaks down into the lane. Strong finish for a strong play from the 6-foot-7 Thomas.
7. Hepburn strips Sallis
Wisconsin is getting an absolute stud in Hepburn. Watch how the 6-2 guard stays in front of Sallis, then uses his left hand to cleanly strip the 6-5 guard without fouling. Once Hepburn recovered the loose ball, he finds a streaking Brown for the two-handed flush. Nice job from Hepburn getting the pass off before Thomas could do something about it.
6. Hepburn draws five-second call on Sallis
Let’s stick with Hepburn. This kid really, really excels at defending without fouling. Sallis couldn’t get away from Hepburn here, and was called for a five-second violation as a result.
5. Sallis drains 3 while getting fouled
Sallis was great in the game. He scored 25 points while going 3-of-5 from 3-point range and 6-of-7 at the free-throw line. It takes focus to knock down this shot with Frankie Fidler closing in hard. Sallis made the and-one for the four-point play.
4. Thomas’ block on Hepburn
Thomas got up for this swat on Hepburn’s layup. The video doesn’t show it, but Jadin Johnson grabbed the ball, pushed up court and found Sallis for a two-handed jam. It was a momentum-shifting play, all created by the block from Thomas.
3. Hepburn’s and-one through traffic
Yep, another play from Hepburn. But he deserves it. This was an impressive finish through Tyler Sandoval, Millard North’s 6-9 big. Hepburn ended with 25 points — he was perfect at the line, going 7-of-7 — and flirted with a triple-double with nine assists and eight boards.
2. Hepburn’s assist before halftime
I get that Hepburn is all over this blog, but he should be. Hepburn creates some space from Sallis thanks to a screen from teammate William Kyle (44), then splits Millard North’s Johnson on his way into the paint, where he draws the attention of Jasen Green (35). Thomas (1) was caught in no-man’s land, and a clever no-look pass to a cutting Brown led to a layup. That play cut West’s deficit to just 34-27 at the break. It was a big, big play.
1. Johnson’s fall-away jumper
This was absurd. Johnson may have played the game of his life. The Old Dominion University commit came into the tournament averaging 6.8 points — he scored 24 on 10-of-14 shooting Saturday. This circus shot gave his team a 57-56 lead at the end of the third quarter.