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03/03/2014 - BOYS DISTRICT BASKETBALL: Helmstadter's Shot Lifts Rockets To State

By Jeff Motz

BELLEVUE---Payton Helmstadter proved to be Mr. Clutch again to his Lincoln Northeast teammates.

The senior hit a 15-foot jump shot with eight seconds left that gave the Rockets a 38-36 victory over Millard West on Monday night and earning the A-6 boys district basketball championship.  

The win for Northeast (12-13) puts them in an automatic spot in next week's NSAA Class A boys basketball tournament.  For now, the Rockets would come in as the eighth-seed and likely play top-seed Omaha Benson to open up the Class A tournament 2pm on March 13 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Millard West (11-14) had just rallied from a nine-point deficit in the second half and closed the gap to 35-33 with 2:28 left in the game when Ben Kositzke converted on a three-point play.  Helmstadter responded by drawing a foul and hit one of two free throws to extend the Northeast lead to 36-33 with 1:45 left.

The Wildcats answered when Phill Ehly got an offensive rebound from a missed Joey Koca three-pointer and scored on the putback, which led to a three-point play to tie the game up at 36 with 1:31 left.

Northeast had possession of the ball for more than a minute, until calling a time out with 18 seconds left to set up what turned out to be the game-winning shot from Helmstadter.

Millard West had the ball with 5.6 seconds left and drew a foul from Northeast's Connor Springman with 3.8 seconds left.  Koca would get the ball and heave a desperation three that fell short at the buzzer.

Northeast had a 19-10 second quarter lead before the Wildcats clawed back and pulled to within five on a Ehly shot before the buzzer to trail 21-16 at halftime.

Helmstadter led the Rockets with 15 points.  Kositzke had a team-high 13 points for the Wildcats.  

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