LINCOLN — The near-capacity crowd at Devaney Center showed up to see Akoy Agau roam the paint for Omaha Central in the Class A main event Saturday afternoon.
But those who took in the undercard saw two less-heralded, but not less-important big men lead their teams to the first state titles in school history.
Spencer Kucera of Southern Valley and Wynot’s Nathan Wieseler rolled out of bed Saturday morning and battled pressure situations, foul trouble and officials’ leeway for their opponents. And by the end of what would normally be lunchtime, both wore big grins and the nets that mark them as state champions.
Kucera, a 6-foot-9 senior, was all the offense Southern Valley could muster for more than 18 minutes in the C-2 title game against Sutton. From the 2:03 mark of the second quarter to the end of regulation, Kucera had all eight of the Eagles’ points with the game headed to overtime tied 29-29.
On Southern Valley’s first possession in OT, Kucera’s pass led to a basket. Then he blocked two shots in the final minute as the Eagles held on for a 38-34 win that gave Southern Valley its first state championship.
Kucera finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. With him clogging the middle, Sutton shot 25 3-pointers, making five.
“He just changes the game plan for everybody,” Eagles coach John Miller said.
The mismatch comes at a price, Kucera said. He often towers over the opposing team’s tallest player by five or six inches, which he thinks prompts officials to let the man guarding him get away with more physical play.
“I’ve been getting hammered all year, pinched, poked, scratched, pushed in the back, it was bad,” Kucera said. “It’s definitely hard. I do the best I can, but sometimes that stuff gets to you. Especially the pinching. Oh my God, I can’t stand that.”
In the next game, Wieseler got the Blue Devils off to a quick start with seven points in the first quarter of the D-2 title game against Spalding/Spalding Academy before going scoreless in the second and third quarters.
Wynot’s 6-8 center picked up his fourth foul with 1:02 left in the third with his team trailing by seven. He was on the bench as the Blue Devils went on a 13-2 run.
“It was frustrating, just knowing you can’t do anything for your team,” Wieseler said. “You just have to sit there and cheer, try to get them back in the game any way you can.”
Wieseler found the way with his defense. Tied 51-51 in the closing seconds of overtime, Spalding/Spalding Academy’s Mike Glaser pulled up for a 16-footer.
Wieseler, fully extended, blocked it and grabbed the rebound. He finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and two steals, the final steal coming after the Knights grabbed an offensive rebound trailing by three in the final minute of the second overtime.
The Blue Devils held on 57-56 for the team’s first boys state title, and Wieseler was the final Wynot player to cut down the net. He gleefully swung it around above his head as the crowd chanted “Tater,” a nickname Wieseler got from working in the garden with his father when he was younger.
Two hours earlier, Kucera made the final climb up the ladder for his team, leading to a humorous sight when several young Southern Valley student managers were having difficulty cutting their piece of the net.
Kucera called them off the ladder and proceeded to make quick work of the last half of the net.
“They were trying to just cut the end of it and wouldn’t pull it tight, so I told them I’d get them a piece of it,” Kucera said.
It was no problem. He’s used to doing a little extra for the team.
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