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Bergan and Bulldogs for D-1 bragging rights

March 10, 2019

LINCOLN - Based on how the two finished the sub-district final, it’s probably only proper they meet once again, this time with the D-1 state championship on the line.

Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family, a 61-43 winner over Paxton in Friday’s second Class C-1 state semifinal game will meet Fremont Bergan, a 56-39 victor over Elm Creek in the early contest.

The two are familiar foes, perhaps more so in girls athletics. Bergan swept H/LHF in the D-1 state volleyball championship and eliminated the Bulldogs from state basketball in a down-to-the-wire affair last week in the first round.

But the boys have their own history between them.

The Knights claimed a 56-54 sub-district win on Feb. 21 at David City Aquinas.

The largest lead for either side was seven points. Bergan tied the game at 53 with a minute remaining. H/LHF made one of two free throws then fell victim to a game-winning 3-pointer with 13 seconds left in regulation.

Regardless. the Bulldog’s second-place standing in D-1 power points moved them on to a district final where they dismantled Axtell 63-36.

The win meant the first state trip for two programs that combined six years ago. Humphrey and Lindsay Holy Family each have a state title between them but had yet to find a way to Lincoln together until this season.

Bergan, on the other hand, has raised a trophy as recent as 2014 and has four boys state championships in its history.

“We are on a wave. This is a special group. I’m not going to have to say much. These guys are going to be read,” H/LHF coach Joe Hesse said after knocking off No. 1 Paxton. “They want to play Fremont Bergan again. They want to get after them. It definitely left a bad taste in our mouth.

“I think tomorrow is going to be a really fun championship game.”

Turner Beller scored 14 points while Jason Sjuts had 12 and Tyler Sjuts 11 in a losing effort for an H/LHF team that had won four straight before running into Bergan.

The Bulldogs shot just 16 of 49 that night (33 percent), went to the line 26 times and converted 16 and had 11 offensive rebounds but also 19 turnovers.

They’ll face a rematch against a group that took down No. 3 Fullerton 73-64 on Thursday and No. 8 Elm Creek 56-39 on Friday morning.

Though Bergan lost eight games during the regular season, the Knights play in the rugged Centennial Conference that includes mostly C-1 programs.

Bergan is one of three Centennial teams that qualified for state. Grand Island Central Catholic and Boys Town both lost in the C-1 first round.

“It’s going to be Round 2. They know what we’re going to do. We know what they’re going to do,” H/LHF junior point guard Bret Hanis said Friday in what became a familiar refrain from members of the program. “We’re just going to go out and fight, just like every game.”

Hesse calls Bergan “the best team in our class” with several featured difference makers.

Riley Lindberg, a 6-4 senior who plays down low, had 13 points in Friday’s win and 10 on Thursday. Riley Frickenstein, a 6-3 senior Hesse calls “the best in our class,” had 31 then 24.

Dre Vance, a 5-11 senior Hesse considers an All-State caliber player, scored five then 17.

Five of Bergan’s losses this year have come by a combined total of 22 points. The only time the Knights have been blown out is in losses to Class B state tournament team Omaha Roncalli (63-48), Class C-1 state finalist North Bend (59-44) and to Class C-1 Wahoo Neumann (63-42).

“We’ve played them once already, we know what they’re going to do, they know what we’re going to do,” junior Tyler Sjuts said. “We’re just going to see who comes out on top.”

Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sports@columbustelegram.com