LINCOLN — It was Luke Christen’s birthday Saturday, but he was the one delivering a present.
That was a first state basketball title for Mullen, which captured the Class D-2 championship with a 29-28 win over Mead at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Christen, a 6-foot-1 junior, made a basket inside with 6.5 seconds left to put the Broncos ahead. The Raiders had one final chance, but a long 3-point attempt by Zach Pickworth was off the mark at the buzzer.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Christen said. “It feels great that the coaches rely on me in a situation like that.”
Points were at a premium in the game, especially in the fourth quarter.
The teams combined for 10 points — six by Mead and four by Mullen.
“If you told me we were going to score four points in the fourth quarter and win, I’d have told you no chance,” coach Rusty Moore said. “To win three close games in three days shows the resiliency of our kids.”
The Broncos won their first title the hard way. They defeated Humphrey St. Francis 45-44 in the first round and beat Riverside 54-52 in the semifinals.
“To win three games at state by a total of four points is something,” Moore said. “It’s crazy.”
Leading 25-22 entering the fourth quarter, Mullen slowed the pace even more. The Broncos got a pair of free throws from Tell Spies to open a five-point advantage, but a pair of turnovers helped Mead get back in the game.
JT Haag sank a fast-break layup, and Josh Quinn followed with another basket with 1:38 left to bring the Raiders within 27-26. After Mullen’s Samuel Vinton missed a shot inside with a minute left, Mead had a chance to take its first lead since the first quarter.
That happened when Quinn drove the lane and rattled in a layup with 16 seconds left, putting the Raiders up 28-27.
That set the stage for the birthday boy as Christen sank the basket to give Mullen its first state championship in 14 appearances.
The Raiders had to settle as the runner-up for the second straight year.
“It was a great season for us,” Mead coach P.J. Quinn said. “It’s hard to get that close two years in a row, but we can’t let tonight color our whole season.”
Spies led the Broncos with eight points and eight rebounds. Brode McIntosh had six points, while three players, including Christen, had four.
Mead’s Quinn led all scorers with 14.
“This has been our goal since day one,” Mullen senior guard Lance Moore said. “To have the trophy in my hand, it’s a great feeling.”
Mead (19-7)................8 4 10 6—28
Mullen (27-2)..............8 11 6 4—29
Me: JT Haag 1-1 0-0 2, Josh Quinn 5-8 4-4 14, Zach Pickworth 1-10 0-0 2, Evan Halbmaier 1-7 0-1 3, Dylan Taylor 3-10 0-0 7, Jacob Felty 0-1 0-0 0.
Mu: Brode McIntosh 3-9 0-0 6, Lance Moore 2-9 0-0 4, Daniel Young 1-4 0-0 3, Luke Christen 2-4 0-1 4, Samuel Vinton 1-4 2-2 4, Kayden Licking 0-1 0-0 0, Joe Vinton 0-1 0-0 0, Tell Spies 2-4 4-6 8, Koby Walker 0-1 0-0 0.
3-point goals: Me 2-10 (Pickworth 0-3, Halbmaier 1-4, Taylor 1-3), Mu 1-9 (McIntosh 0-2, Moore 0-4, Young 1-2, Licking 0-1). Rebounds: Me 25 (Taylor 10), Mu 29 (Spies 8). Total fouls: Me 11, Mu 14. Turnovers: Me 8, Mu 9. Field-goal percentage: Me .297, Mu .297. Free-throw percentage: Me .800, Mu .667.
All-Class: Logan Strom, Norfolk; Ayo Akinwole, Papillion-La Vista; Kanon Koster, Kearney; Jaxon Simons, Wahoo Neumann; Dru Kuxhausen, Scottsbluff.
Class D-2: Lance Moore, Mullen; Josh Quinn, Mead; Noah Valasek, Riverside; Brode McIntosh, Mullen; Jalen Wieseler, Wynot.