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03/06/2016 - From The Press Box: East Helps Lincoln Area Avoid Shutout
 Lincoln East may be one team in the 48-team field for this year's NSAA Girls State Basketball Tournament that fought their way back in three straight games to capture gold.


Chatting with a few of my media colleagues, including Kevin Sjuts of KOLN-TV/KGIN-TV and John Gaskins of 93.7 The Ticket, I told them if East got past the first round Thursday, they would be playing Saturday night.

Not bragging, but probably the first time in a while I've been right with a prediction.

The Spartans trailed then undefeated, top-ranked and top-seeded South Sioux City, before Grace Barry, Regan Sankey and Elyssa Jurgens helped in a fourth-quarter rally to edge the Cardinals 64-56.

Friday night was more of a hair raiser.  

Tied at 42 after regulation and 44 after the first overtime, East went on a 13-3 run in the second overtime to edge Millard South 57-47.

By this point, I'm wondering if I should consider becoming a psychic and give up my broadcasting career.  It seemed too good to be true that East and two other Lincoln metro teams (Waverly and Lincoln Christian) would be playing on Championship Saturday.  

Saturday night, Pinnacle Bank Arena was jumping with tons of Spartan fans and plenty of Millard West supporters who made the 50-minute drive down Interstate 80.  

A tight game late in the fourth quarter, East gets a three-pointer from Sankey to pull to within one of the Wildcats, 46-45 with 2:14 to play.  Sophomore Alli Roh sinks one free throw to tie the game at 46 with 1:09 left.

Crunch time went up a level.  Now the Spartans had to find a big stop.

Roh blocked a shot from Millard West's Logan Black and came up with the ball.  East got the ball in the front court, ran time down and called time out with nine seconds left.

The Spartans got the ball to Grace Barry, who found Roh alone on the left side of the basket and scored off a layup with eight seconds left, which ultimately gave East the state title.


Walking out of Pinnacle Bank Arena Saturday night, I began to think about the finish I had just called and it dawned on me about how ironic that Lincoln East wins a state title on a late basket.

Alli Roh will now be in the same company as the late Scott Copple.  

Longtime East fans and high school basketball followers remember Copple as the guy who lobbed a line drive of a shot from 25 feet that went through at the buzzer as the Spartans claimed the 1971 Class A boys basketball title with a 74-72 win over Papillion (now Papillion-LaVista).

To summarize that play, with a tight game (tied at 72) with five seconds left, East's Jack Ball inbounded the ball full-length of the court.  He threw a baseball pass that drifted wide to the right, about to go out of bounds.  

Running after it, sophomore forward Rick Samuelson rescued the ball, tapping it to stay in play and Copple happened to be running by and heaved it with one hand and right through the hoop.  If you see the video of it on YouTube, the East crowd instantaneously storms the court.

Alli Roh's basket will also be talked about for years to come, like Scott Copple's basket.  For both players, there was certainly a high-level of drama involved while helping their teams win championships.


Lincoln East senior guard Caroline Spethman suited up, but didn't sit the bench for much of the Class A championship game.  She wasn't playing either.

In fact, she came out to be introduced when the lineups were announced, then went back outside to listen to the game on the radio in her parents car, she told the Lincoln Journal Star.

Spethman was unable to play because of a concussion she suffered Friday night in the double-overtime win against Millard South.  She did come inside for the final 16 seconds of the championship game.  

When the medals were handed out, Spethman walked over and received one from coach Dennis Prichard and gave him a big hug.

Spethman explained to the Journal Star after the game she was "really dizzy right now, but I'm also really happy."

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Like Lincoln East and just about every team around, there's a family bond among players, coaches and support staff.

Waverly is a prime example.

Playing in only their second state championship game in school history, the Viking girls played their best to the very end, but lost 43-33 to Elkhorn South in the Class B title game.

Great senior leadership will be gone.  Still, there's a lasting memory for this team that they can talk about for years to come.

Observing them from press row, the Waverly girls were simply excited to be playing together on the grandest stage of them all at Pinnacle Bank Arena.  They had fun and while they came up short, it managed to be a great accomplishment for a program that's been building for several years.

Let's see if some rebuilding can continue the success from this year's team and move forward.


I have no doubt in my mind that the Lincoln Christian girls basketball team will be in the hunt for a state championship next year.

This year's starting five of sophomores and juniors are back next year and already, are on the radar screen to win Class C1.  The same would have been said if the Crusaders won the C1 title on Saturday.

The heartbreaking 39-37 loss to Kearney Catholic on a basket from Michelle Messbarger will sting for a little while.  But head coach Nick Orduna and his team will get back to work during the off-season and be ready for practice in November.

Congrats to the Crusaders, Vikings and Spartans for a job well done this year!  Proud to have covered all three teams during the season.


We'll have play-by-play coverage of the NSAA Boys State Basketball Tournament, starting Thursday morning at 10:45am with Parkview Christian taking on Anselmo-Merna in the Class D2 quarterfinal.

Then at 3:45pm, we'll cover the Class A quarterfinal with Lincoln Northeast vs. Papillion-LaVista.

Best of luck to Northeast and Parkview Christian!

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