YORK, Neb. — Friday night at York High School was the setting for a top-10 showdown in Class B boys basketball between Central Conference rivals — the Seward Bluejays and York Dukes — separated by only 28 miles.
York, led by seniors Brady Danielson and Garrett Snodgrass, controlled the game from the tip and improved to 18-3 with a 61-45 win.
Danielson, a Northern State basketball signee, scored 27 of his game-high 29 points in the first three quarters while Snodgrass, a Husker football recruit, helped keep Seward at bay in the final quarter by scoring seven of his nine points.
After Danielson weaved through traffic and sank a buzzer-beating midrange floater at the end of the third that gave his team a 42-32 edge, York went on to own the last eight minutes of the game by outscoring the Bluejays 19-13. The Dukes had a good showing at the free-throw line to seal the win, going 9 of 11.
Danielson’s big night was the main reason the Dukes won, but it wasn’t just his scoring that got the job done. His man-to-man defense and playmaking were keys because they got others involved in the action. Senior point guard Jeb Lucas scored 10 points and hit a couple of 3-pointers while Reid Hoffmann added eight and Wyatt Cast five.
“It’s one of those special nights where you have a top-five matchup, and you need every one of them, and he’s going to bring you every one of them,” York head coach Scott Lamberty said of Danielson’s performance. “But he passes the ball so well, too, that other guys get involved. We always say that we’re at our best not when he’s shooting eight or nine 3s a game, but when he’s getting to the basket off the dribble and getting to the paint, because then he’s getting easier shots and everyone else is getting easier shots.”
Seward boasts a talented roster packed with athletes who will play at the next level. Among them is Nate Lliteras, a 6-foot-7 forward that is committed to play basketball at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, and Kelly Vyhnalek, another 6-7 forward who will stay home and play for Concordia University. Lliteras and Vyhnalek aren’t the only two talented Bluejays — Brett Meyer will play both baseball and football at Doane University, and Joseph Krause is a Northwest Missouri State football commit.
But Lliteras was held in check by York’s stingy man-to-man defense and scored only six points. Meyer was the top scorer for the Bluejays with 11 points and provided some perimeter shooting with three 3s. Vyhnalek chipped in with eight points and two triples.
Although Seward showed it can score from behind the arc, the Bluejays didn’t get much inside the arc Friday night.
“They are very big, and the thing is all their bigs can still shoot the 3,” Lamberty said. “But we have enough length that we can contest a lot of that. They didn’t score in the paint much. We wanted to make sure we got in the gaps and took away the paint, and the kids did a pretty good job of that.”
York started quickly, leading 16-9 after the first quarter. Danielson scored eight of those 16 and drained a couple of 3s.
Seward settled down in the second stanza and outscored York 14-10 to cut its halftime deficit to 26-23. But the Dukes started to run away in the third as Danielson poured in nine points while Lucas chipped in with five. Seward managed only nine points in that third period.
It’ll be a quick turnaround for defending state champ York, which will play the team it beat in last season’s state semifinals, Bennington (16-4), at 5:45 p.m. Saturday at the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island as part of the 12th annual Heartland Hoops Classic.
“I’d rather have the night off and rest a little bit,” Lamberty said with a smile. “But it’s a big game in a fun environment. It’s a game we want to go win because it’s a huge win point-wise, and for us it’s a mindset. It’s a quick turnaround, but that’s what’s going to be done in Lincoln if you’re lucky enough to get there, and we have a lot of work to do before we even think about that.”
Seward (15-5).................9 14 9 13—45
At York (18-3)...............16 10 16 19—61
Seward: Brett Meyer 11, Joseph Krause 10, Kelly Vyhnalek 8, Derek Holtorf 7, Nate Lliteras 6, Bryson Janousek 3.
York: Brady Danielson 29, Jeb Lucas 10, Garrett Snodgrass 9, Reid Hoffmann 8, Wyatt Cast 5.
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