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02/05/2010 - From the Press Box: Scott Copple has a special place in Nebraska Prep Basketball history
Highlight for Album: Untitled
Jeff Motz

As a young child growing up in northeast Lincoln and having a father with a place of his own in Nebraska high school basketball history, I always had a fascination of learning about the top basketball players this state has ever produced.  Learning the history of Northeast basketball came at an early age and I would be apart of that as I reached high school, playing on the first two state championship teams of the four-year title run in the 1990s.

As a 7th grader, I got out a book my father bought in 1980 called "Nebraska High School Sports" written by Jerry Mathers (no, not the actor).  It was the second edition of the book that summarized and went in depth on the state's best teams and athletes from the late 1890s to 1980.  In that book, I learned of the legend that became widely known as the "Miracle on Vine Street."

From 1926 to 1975, the State Basketball Tournaments were played at the NU Coliseum, sitting at the corner of 14th and Vine on UNL's City Campus.  In its days, the Coliseum played center stage to a lot of historic state championship finishes, including the "Miracle on Vine Street" in 1971.

It was a neck and neck game between first timer Lincoln East and Papillion-LaVista.  East featured sharpshooter Kent Reckewey, who went on to play at Nebraska, and 7-2 center Mike Heck was the star for what was then known as Papillion.  

With the game tied at 72 with two seconds left in the Class A state championship, East had to inbound the ball the full-length of the court.  Jack Ball threw what turned out to be an errant baseball pass down the floor intended for Reckewey to shoot the game winning basket.  

Instead of allowing a turnover, it was Rick Samuelson who rescued the ball from going out of bounds and tapped it back into the hands of Scott Copple, who lofted the ball on a runner from 20-feet out and went right through the hoop.  In an instant, East fans poured on to the Coliseum floor to celebrate the young school's first State Basketball title.

Copple, from that point on, was not only a legend in East basketball history but long being remembered across the state as the guy who hit the miraculous buzzer beater.

Nearly 40 years after that historic shot, Copple lost his life with family at his side Wednesday.  He was 56-years-old.

I never had the pleasure to meet Scott Copple.  From what I gathered, he was a great man and highly respected amongst his peers.  He was recently teaching courses at the University of Nebraska-Omaha College of Law.  

Bill and Renee Stephenson are family friends of the Copples.  Renee had called the KFOR Newsroom Friday morning, wondering if I could get the family a copy of the tribute to Scott on the KFOR Morning Show.  

In a brief conversation with Renee Stephenson, I kindly told her the CD featuring Chuck Stevens' sportscasts talking about Scott's death was ready to be picked up.  She said "thank you for what you did in taking time out to create the CD.  Scott's family will want to keep this forever."

Scott Copple is a member of the Lincoln East Athletic Hall of Fame and rightfully so.  Not only is his shot in basketball memorable, but his accomplishments on the football field standout, too.  

In Ryly Jane Hambleton's article from the Lincoln Journal Star Friday morning, Scott was an all-state selection and completed 94 of 158 passes for 1,204 yards and 17 touchdowns his senior year at East.  He obviously had great athletic ability.

Whether it was on the basketball court, football field, or classroom, Scott Copple made an impact on people who knew him and young kids in Lincoln at the time going to the YMCA or school gyms to practice that shot that made him famous.

Scott Copple will truly be missed.

The link below is a YouTube video I found of Scott's shot from '71.

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