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Nebraska high school boys basketball state tournament: Skutt goes back-to-back in Class B

Skyhawks win third title in five years

Head coach Kyle Jurgens lets his seniors design the state tournament T-shirt each time Skutt Catholic makes another early March trip to Lincoln. This year’s senior group put one word on the front: Rebuild. Although combined into the same word, the “re” and the “build” purposely have a different look – a nod to the low expectations Skutt felt it was facing a year after graduating nine seniors. 

Skutt Catholic players celebrate together moments after winning the Class B boys basketball championship Saturday in Lincoln. It was the Skyhawks' second straight title and third in the past five years. Photo by @marcus_scheer on X.

Skutt Catholic players celebrate together moments after winning the Class B boys basketball championship Saturday in Lincoln. It was the Skyhawks' second straight title and third in the past five years. Photo by @marcus_scheer on X.

All that disrespect, real or perceived, was silenced on Saturday when the Skyhawks won back-to-back Class B championships. Junior center Brock Scholl put together a double-double on 22 points and 12 rebounds, three other Skutt starters scored in double digits and Skutt took down Norris 70-63.

A 9-3 Skyhawk run late in the third quarter then seven in a row when the Titans had cut it to 54-53 in the fourth proved to be the crucial sequences of the afternoon.

"That team last year was favored from the start, but you still have to figure out who you are and where all your pieces fit. I knew that, for this group, was probably going to take longer, and I thought a big part of it was these guys trusting that we were going to have to go through some bumps in the road to get those things figured out,” coach Jurgens said. “But, if they trusted in the process, we would eventually find our groove, our rhythm, whatever you want to say, and I think we did definitely offensively, and these guys committed to the defensive end.”

Skutt went 24-3 last season and capped the year with a win over Platteview and the second-best scorer all-time in Nebraska history, Connor Millikan. That group graduated two all-state first-team honorees and two others who were chosen as honorable mention selections. Seniors had 41 of the team’s 57 points in the 2023 Class B title game.

The Skyhawks looked like they had another quality squad that would play in Lincoln for the 17th time in school history, but a second state title in a row seemed improbable with so many new faces filling the starting lineup.

A 16-point loss at upstart Elkhorn North in early January then a three-game losing skid to end the month seemed to provide proof that Skutt wasn’t ready for the big stage. But just when the Skyhawks slid out of the conversation, they put together an 8-0 finish to the regular season and opening rounds of the playoffs. Skutt knocked off Norris, took down Elkhorn, beat a quality Bishop Heelan team from Iowa and defeated Roncalli for the second time.

Perhaps some inexperience showed when Skutt was down eight against Elkhorn in the first round then trailed Crete by 10 in the semifinals. But the Skyhawks figured it out as they advanced through the state bracket and were again at Pinnacle Bank Arena on championship Saturday.

Scholl, who had 10 in last year’s state title game, was only a minor factor in Thursday’s quarterfinal win over Elkhorn. He was a force and had 28 in the semifinal win over Crete. The Cardinals were unbeaten before the Skyhawks went on a 13-0 run in the fourth and sewed up another championship appearance by giving just four points in the final eight minutes on the other end.

Scholl was good again on Saturday, but so too were Dylan VanDyke, Will O’Doherty and Kyle Cannon. Cannon played against Platteview last year but had just four points on four free throws. That trio combined for 42 points and 10 assists against Norris. VanDyke had 15 and hit three three-pointers, O’Doherty scored 14 with four threes and Cannon added 13 on 4 of 7 shooting and 5 of 6 at the line.

Norris led 14-11 after the first quarter then trailed Skutt 27-24 at halftime. Skutt hit four threes in the second, two by O’Doherty.

Four different Skyhawks contributed a bucket during a 9-3 run in the third that led to a 47-39 Skutt lead after three. Scholl had nine of his game-high 22 in the frame.

A bad pass led to a runout for Norris’ Evan Greenfield and a layup to make it 54-53 Skutt with exactly four minutes left in the game. Skutt turned to Scholl the next time down and he responded with a short jumper in the paint. A Norris turnover then led to a VanDyke three. VanDyke added two more on a putback that followed another Norris giveaway.

Cannon essentially ended it when Norris went 0 for 2 at the line and he took an outlet pass the other direction for an and-one.

“That’s us staying aggressive,” coach Jurgens said. “When that happens, you can kind of get back on your heels and, like I said, get a little tentative. But these are just not those guys. They just kept attacking them, and I think that, and not going into survival mode, was a huge part of it.”

Greenfield and Chris Garner Jr. led Norris with 15 points apiece. The Titans were in their second straight state tournament looking for their first championship since 2003.

“A huge credit to our guys,” coach Jurgens said. “We had to hang in the last two days coming from behind. In this instance, when they cut it to one and we called timeout, we had to trust and bear down a little bit and fight back. To our guys' credit, we did.”