By Jeff Motz
I have to tell you the reason for the inspiration to write this article.
Seeing a link to a Omaha World-Herald story written by Dirk Chatelain about the Class A and Class B boys state basketball championship games 25 years ago.
The 1989 finals were very special. Wahoo won their second consecutive state title in the four-year run in the double-overtime barn burner against Lincoln Pius X. Millard South capped off the first undefeated season from a Class A team in 29 years and did it with a last second shot in regulation against Columbus.
The amount of decibels coming out of the Devaney Sports Center on March 11, 1989 will probably never be duplicated again, unless we have one of those back to back finishes this year or down the road.
Troy Glock instantly became forever enshrined into Wahoo basketball lore with his heroics in the overtime periods, while Matt Kelly saved Millard South's bacon by hitting that close range shot with three seconds left to give the Indians (now Patriots) their second consecutive title and first undefeated title team since Omaha South claimed gold by going undefeated in 1960.
Millard South's Matt Kelly (43) scores the game winning shot against Columbus in the 1989 Class A final. Kelly, a former TV sports anchor in Lincoln, now owns a media production company in Omaha. (Courtesy of Matt Kelly)
The Devaney Center is no longer the site of Championship Saturday, but still hosts first round and semifinal games. Now, it's time for all that magic to happen in the brand new Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Does it seem fitting that Lincoln Northeast is back in the boys state tournament?
Not saying it as a former player and alum, but it seems that something new shows up, the Rockets are always there.
Flashback to March 1976, when the first event was held at the Nebraska Sports Center (Devaney Center), happened to be the boys state basketball tournament. Among the first group of teams to play in the new facility was Northeast.
The Rockets edged Hastings 54-52 to advance on to the Friday night semifinal against Omaha Creighton Prep. The draw for the Northeast/Prep game was a sellout and the State Fire Marshal forced the doors to be closed.
But the Rockets ended their season that night, thanks to the performance from Junior Jays center and all-stater Ted Parks and shooting guard Chris Salerno; as Prep won 64-49 and would go on to win the first Class A boys basketball title at Devaney against Mike McGee and Omaha North.
This year, Northeast will be among the group of teams opening up the boys tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena, some 38 years after christening the Devaney Center.
You can also throw Lincoln Southeast and Lincoln Pius X into that group, too.
Southeast will be searching for their first boys basketball title this weekend, while Pius X will play for their seventh state title. Northeast will look to claim their 13th basketball title in school history, but will have to overcome a first-round obstacle against top seed Omaha Benson.
The Bunnies are the early favorite among members of the media. They key will be to stop all-stater Khyri Thomas early and shut down the inside game with Thik Bol.
Omaha Central will look to make it a record five titles in a row this weekend that's never been done in Nebraska high school basketball history.
Omaha Westside, Southeast's opponent on Thursday afternoon, played for gold 10 years ago and fell to Bellevue West. The Warriors also played three other times in the finals (1973, 1980 and 1983), only to win the '80 Class A title in a 63-55 triumph over Lincoln East.
Dean Thompson, one of the most prolific shooters in history, had 28 points in the title game for Westside; while Alex Stivrins finished with 24 points for East.
Stivrins played professionally in Europe and Japan, while spending two seasons playing in the NBA and Continental Basketball Association. Thompson was known for his Hoop-It-Up 3-on-3 title teams and played briefly for the now defunct Omaha Racers of the CBA.
Norfolk is back at State. The Panthers are going on 27 years since their first and last Class A title in 1987, on a last second shot from Chris Price to earn a 62-61 victory in the final against Lincoln Northeast.
Coach Ben Ries, who played in the tournament three years as a guard for the Panthers, guided Norfolk to the championship game in 2010. Their season has been full of ups and downs, but clinched the wild-card after losing to Southeast in the district final.
Omaha South, under head coach Bruce Chubick, is back again. The Packers are looking to get back to the final for the first time in two years. James Dumes could lead South in the charge.
Doug Woodard's final hurrah with Bellevue West may be the spark the Thunderbirds get to spoil Central's chances of going for five-in-a-row.
Who knows why lies ahead? It's easy to speculate. Even the favorites could be sent packing home after Day One.
Let's tip it off, right now!
ROCKET FLASHBACK: 41 YEARS AGO
It was 1973, the third to final year the Boys State Basketball tournament title games would be played at the NU Coliseum. Lincoln Northeast, under legendary and hall of fame coach Ed Johnson, claimed the school's seventh basketball title with a 54-50 win over Omaha Westside.
Pictured below are the Rockets celebrating after winning the title. Coach Johnson is on the left, while senior guard Rob Ketterer is on the left and Marty Shields (33) hoist up the championship trophy.
The photo comes courtesy of the 1973 Rocket yearbook and from Jeff Buss, which was posted on the Facebook page: Northeast Lincoln NE-Havelock, Bethany, University Place.