A year to remember for Nebraska high school boys basketball culminates with the first All-Nebraska starting five from the Metro Conference.
Never before have all five players on the newspaper's top honor team been from the conference. The Metro started in 1964-65. The All-Nebraska team started 50 seasons earlier.
The first team is made up of all seniors. They are Akoy Agau and Tra-Deon Hollins from four-time state champion Omaha Central; Brett Dougherty from runner-up Papillion-La Vista; Cam Williams from third-place Omaha South and Connor Lusso from state qualifier Millard West.
“They're a testament to what went on in the conference and illustrated how tough the conference was,” Papillion-La Vista coach Jason Ryan said. “Even as early as our holiday tournament, when the quarterfinals got there we said those games could be a preview of the state tournament — and they were.”
Central, and Agau, also brought the state some rare national exposure:
» Agau's signing with Louisville after being courted by Georgetown and Florida.
» Central's validation of its invitation to the elite City of Palms Classic tournament in Fort Myers, Fla., beating the eventual Georgia 4A state champions before dropping a pair of three-point games to nationally ranked teams from California and Chicago.
» Central's victory over fabled Oak Hill Academy in a February showcase game that filled Grand Island's Heartland Events Center.
The Eagles then became only the second four-time state champions in Class A — Lincoln Northeast was the first, from 1995 to 1998.
Now Agau becomes only the fifth three-time All-Nebraska first-team selection. This year's honorary captain joins Ike Mahoney of Omaha Commerce (1919 to 1921), Ron Kellogg of Omaha Northwest (1980 to 1982), Antoine Young of Bellevue West (2006 to 2008) and Mike Gesell of South Sioux City (2010 to 2012).
“I don't know even where to begin,'' Agau said. “Like I've said before, I've been blessed to be with this group of guys and the coaching staff. We've had some fun times together, like getting to go to Florida. That's what I'll miss the most.”
Eight teams in the final Top 10 ratings were from the Metro Conference. The league's dominance of Class A was evident in the All-Nebraska selection process.
The next two players in first-team consideration also were in the Metro. Josiah Gustafson of Millard North, who was on the first team last season, missed the first month of this season to injury. Khyri Thomas of Omaha Benson is the only junior among the top seven.
“There's been some real talent in the Metro, and it shows in the teams,'' Central coach Eric Behrens said.
Also on the second team are two juniors from small schools, Rylee Reinertson of Class C-1 Gibbon and Adam Moon of Class D-1 O'Neill St. Mary's. Central senior KJ Scott fills out the unit.
Third-team selections are seniors Ryan Tegtmeier of Bruning-Davenport/Shickley, Nate Kuhl of Johnson Couty, Kevin Dineen of Omaha Creighton Prep, Noah Housh of Lincoln North Star and Michael Hadden of Class B runner-up Scottsbluff.
Nominations of coaches and observations of The World-Herald's sports staff determine the teams. All schools received nomination forms by email.
Hollins' value to Central was evident in the five games he missed during midseason with a high ankle sprain. The Eagles were 3-2 without him, losing to Papillion-La Vista and South.
“On this team, we didn't necessarily have a lot of depth, and Tra was so good in so many ways for us,'' Behrens said. “He was our leader in rebounds and steals, our best on-ball defender and was a shade under Akoy in scoring. Across five, six, seven categories, he was first or second for us. And it showed up when he was out.
“He averaged 12 points, and it wasn't just taking out those points, it was what opponents got when he was out. It was almost like a 20-point swing. Our other guys are good players, but it shows how good he is.”
Hollins in the next two weeks will consider his options. He could go to a junior college for basketball or take a Division II offer in football. Behrens said Hollins also is considering a year at an Eastern prep school.
“He can play either sport,'' Behrens said. “He'll have to decide where and which one he wants to play.”
|ALL-STATE HARLEM SHAKE|
|The state's hoops stars put on a dancing clinic in our All-Nebraska rendition of the "Harlem Shake."|
Lusso, a 6-6 Truman State recruit, set Millard West's career scoring records with 1,389 points and 735 rebounds. He, like Agau, was a four-year starter.
“Connor was much more consistent than he has been in the past. He had 12 double-doubles,'' Millard West coach Bill Morrison said. “His shooting percentage was up and his turnovers were down. He shot more free throws and was better from the line. And he probably was our hardest worker most of the time.
“When he kept his game simple, that's when he had his better games.”
Dougherty, a 6-6 Northwest Missouri State recruit, started the season with 20 points and 20 rebounds against Lincoln Southwest.
“He was outstanding from the get-go,'' Papio's Ryan said. “He led us in scoring and rebounding and improved defensively, too. He averaged 29 or 30 minutes a game. He changed a lot of shots, was more active on the floor and he was one of the best post players in the state, bar none.”
Williams, a 6-foot guard, played every position this season for Omaha South except center, Packers coach Bruce Chubick said, and averaged a team-high 17.2 points. He scored a career high 35 against Benson, including a 20-of-21 showing at the line.
“He wore a lot of hats,'' Chubick said. “His versatility and the offense he brought to the table were huge.”
Williams is likely to play junior college ball, his high school coach said, with a goal of getting to a higher level in two years.
“He worked hard on his shot and actually shot pretty good this year,'' Chubick said.
As for Agau, his high school coach laughed when asked for the last word of so many written over the years on his 6-9 star. Agau averaged a team-high 12.8 points, scoring 20 against Oak Hill in the Eagles' 70-63 win.
“I don't know if there ever will be a last word on him,'' Behrens said. “His legacy is to be the ultimate winner, and he never lost a game in the state tournament in four years. He always played his best games in our biggest games and never really was numbers- or stats-driven.
“It's a credit to him that he always was the ultimate team player.”
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