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Auburn upsets Wahoo in state semifinals

March 9, 2019

A minor tweak was all it took for Auburn to turn the tide.

Trailing 24-20 at the half to defending Class C-1 state champion and No. 1 Wahoo, the Bulldogs focused on shot selection and ball security to boost themselves to a 59-46 win Friday morning in the state tournament semifinals at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Auburn (23-3) will be seeking its first-ever state title in boys basketball, as it takes on North Bend Central Saturday in the final at 9 a.m.

When asked what the key was to attacking Wahoo’s infamous 1-3-1 zone, Auburn coach Jim Weeks had a simple answer.

“Taking good shots is a huge part of winning,” Weeks said. “Not turning the ball over is a huge part of winning. We spend a lot of time on those two things.

“The second half, we did a much better job of those things.”

The Bulldogs made a concerted effort to pound the ball inside to 6-foot-7 junior post Josh Lambert. Lambert’s bucket off a nice high-low feed put Auburn up 30-28. Junior guard CJ Hughes drained a three-pointer on the next possession to make it 33-28.

Hughes, who came up big in Thursday’s dramatic win over GICC with a steal and bucket, buried another three from the left wing to make it 38-33. Hughes would finish with 12 points.

That’s when sophomore guard Brody Darnell came up with arguably the play of the game.

Darnell swiped the ball in the backcourt with three seconds left, then finished the layup, beating the third quarter buzzer to make it 40-33.

“The play at the end of the third was big,” Wahoo coach Kevin Scheef said. “We bobble the inbounds pass where we could’ve cut it to three, yet they extend it to seven.”

The Bulldogs showed resolve over the final eight minutes, using a 13-2 run to bump the lead to 16. Sophomore standout point guard Cam Binder, who led all scorers with 18 points, made 5 of 6 free throws over the final quarter.

Binder passed credit to his teammate and close friend Hughes for again making big plays.

“CJ’s one of my best friends both on and off the court,” Binder said. “He’s like a brother to me and he does some amazing things for our team.”

The loss stung even more for Wahoo, (24-4) which played without senior guard, and second leading scorer Blake Lacey. Lacey injured his leg against Boys Town Thursday.

Scheef made no excuses for not being at full-strength.

“We would’ve loved to have him, but that’s high school athletics,” Scheef said. “I’m proud of our kids. We were good enough for a half, but not good enough for 32 minutes.”