For the second consecutive night, Elkhorn South used its comeback magic to post a boys basketball victory.
And Friday night’s 59-55 overtime win over visiting Waverly handed the Storm the Eastern Midlands Conference tournament title.
The victory seemed unlikely as the Vikings held a three-point lead with just a few seconds left in regulation. But junior guard Matt Thomas saved the day for the Storm, sinking a desperation 3-pointer from almost halfcourt at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
Elkhorn South, ranked second in Class B, rode that momentum into the four-minute OT and never trailed the rest of the way. The victory came one night after the Storm (14-2) overcame a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter to upend Gretna 45-44 in a tourney semifinal.
“Two nights in a row,” Elkhorn South coach Alex Bahe said. “Our guys just never quit.”
Seventh-ranked Waverly (11-6) appeared to be in great shape, leading by eight with about a minute left in regulation. But the Vikings missed just enough free throws down the stretch to breathe life into Elkhorn South.
Sophomore guard Johnny Trueblood sank a pair of free throws to pull the Storm within 49-47 with 4.7 seconds left. Waverly’s Dylan Janecek then was fouled with 3.2 seconds left, and he was able to sink just the second of two free throws.
That was just enough of an opening for Thomas, who took a pass from teammate JJ Zumbrennen and then launched his long 3-pointer. It drew nothing but net, tying the game and sending the Elkhorn South students into a frenzy.
“When I shot it, it was right on,” Thomas said. “I hit one like that my freshman year, but never one in a big situation like this.”
Elkhorn South got a 3-point play from Ben Green early in the overtime and never looked back. Waverly drew within a point twice but the Storm refused to surrender the lead, getting late free throws from Thomas and Tony Pete and a basket from Cal Rutherford to clinch the title.
“There’s not too much you can say after that one,” Waverly coach Mark Watton said. “When a kid makes a shot from half court, you just guess it’s not your night.”
The Vikings stayed close despite seeing 6-foot-5 senior center Brandon Janssen foul out with 4:53 left. He finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Green led the Storm with 14 points while Thomas added 13 and Pete 11.
Waverly senior guard Erik Evans led all scorers with 20, but it wasn’t enough Friday night to beat the Eastern Midland Conference’s comeback kids.
“We needed some guys to step up and make plays tonight,” Bahe said. “And they did it again.”
The game was déjà vu for the hard-luck Vikings, who lost in overtime against Elkhorn South last Friday night.
“I thought we were the better team tonight,” Watton said. “It was a real shame our guys weren’t rewarded for their effort.”
Waverly (11-6) ................. 13 13 9 15 5—55
Elkhorn South (14-2) ................. 15 6 13 16 9—59
W: Adam Jorgensen 9, Aaron Ochsner 4, Sam Tewes 2, Erik Evans 20, Dylan Janecek 6, Brandon Janssen 14.
ES: Matt Thomas 13, Johnny Trueblood 7, John Wehling 2, JJ Zumbrennen 5, Ben Green 14, Cal Rutherford 7, Tony Pete 11.
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