From Alliance to Auburn, Monday was about punching tickets to the boys basketball state tournament.

It just so happens that at the two games I attended, Alliance and Auburn were the winners. A good day to be a Bulldog. Just ask Joel Baker of Alliance and Cam Binder of Auburn.

Baker’s third 3-pointer of the fourth quarter, and the second in the final minute, lifted Alliance past Class B No. 9 Elkhorn Mount Michael 58-57 in the District B-8 final.

Binder broke Auburn’s school record with 40 points, outscoring Fort Calhoun on his own, in a 63-37 win over the Pioneers in the District C1-3 final at Weeping Water.

Alliance-Mount Michael was the first postseason game for the Knights’ Archbishop Bergan Gymnasium, aka the Palace and the Jim Kane Court. A virtually full house of 500 — more could have sat in the five rows of bleachers on either side and the six-row sets in the corners — watched a very intense game.

Mount Michael, which finished 18-8 with its all-sophomore starting lineup, led by eight in the first half, 10 with 4:23 to play and five with 1:18 left after a basket by Kaleb Brink, who had a team-high 16 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. The glass was where it looked like the Knights had the winning edge.

But Baker, whose father is Alliance coach Michael Baker, stepped up with 3-pointers on either side of a Mount Michael turnover. His second one, with 26 seconds left, ended the scoring.

Mount Michael took timeout with 7.9 seconds left. But never got off a shot. Brad Bennett, who had 14 points, lost the ball on the way up to the basket and the ball ended up with Alliance’s Mason Hiemstra at the buzzer.

“This is what you expect between the eighth and ninth seed, one play,’’ coach Baker said. “I can’t say enough about our guys’ fight. We were down and our guys made plays.”

His son had back surgery in September for a herniated disc from a weight-lifting injury.

“He’s had a rough year,’’ coach Baker said of the 5-foot-10 junior. “He hasn’t been himself. For him to make those kind of shots in this stage, how good is that?”

“It’s been a rough ride, but it’s paid off,’’ Joel said. “I know that bus ride home is going to feel a lot sweeter now that we won this game.”

Mount Michael coach Derrik Spooner said his team “will ride and die with Bradley Bennett any day.”

“A lot of guys got us here, but offensively we’ll live with him with the ball at the end of the game every time,’’ he said. “Seven seconds left, we said go make a play for us and see what he can do. They had a good defensive stop.”

The Knights can learn from the loss, “you can sulk on it,’’ the coach said. “I hope it hurts, it hurts for a while. I hope you can see you’re close, but we’ve been close and close doesn’t mean anything. It’s good to have these games and learn from it, and we have a lot of guys coming back, but we want to get over the hump.”

Alliance (19-6)............................11 18 8 21—58

At Elkhorn Mt. Michael (18-8)......16 12 16 13—57

A: Joel Baker 19, Bradyn Palmer 13, Mason Hiemstra 12, Trevor DuBray 6, Reece Jensen 5, Corbin Stark 3.

EMM: Kaleb Brink 16, Brad Bennett 14, Kyle Pelan 13, Joseph Choiunard 10, Airan Lopez 2, Parker Hotovy 2.

Auburn 63, Fort Calhoun 37

Binder got Auburn over its hump — a 34-year absence from the state tournament — by breaking the school record of 39 set by Trent Jones in 2007 and tied two seasons later by Grant Cole, who’s the Bulldogs’ girls coach and was at the game.

Binder made six 3s and was 15 of 18 at the line, making his final 12 in the fourth quarter.

“He rushed it a few times, but, boy, he was on,” said Jim Weeks, who’s in his third year at Auburn after winning more than 400 games at Beatrice before a stint as Doane Tigers coach.

“He felt a lot of pressure coming into the game.”

If Auburn’s drought was long, consider Fort Calhoun’s. The Pioneers haven’t been to state since winning Class N in 1923. Class N is correct and so is 1923. Almost 100 years. When they knocked off Boys Town, which made it to state by beating Kearney Catholic, in a subdistrict final, they were hoping for another upset.

They didn’t lead, however, after the first quarter and were in severe foul trouble. The Schwarz brothers, freshmen Zane and Carsen, picked up their fourth fouls in the third quarter and fouled out in the fourth.

Zane tried to pick up Fort Calhoun by scoring the first two baskets of the second half to cut the deficit to eight, and Weeks took a timeout. While his message was to stop him on the offensive end, Auburn junior Josh Lambert took him out of the game by drawing a foul as Schwarz tried for a block on the ensuing possession.

Auburn (21-3)..................12 15 16 20—63

Fort Calhoun (15-10).......8 7 8 14—37

A: Cam Binder 40, Calvin Hughes 6, Daniel Frary 2, Josh Lambert 10, Ryan Dixon 1, Hayden Hall 2, Cade Patzel 2.

FC: Tyler Strauss 4, Zane Schwarz 10, Grant Halford 11, Carsen Schwarz 3, Cole Halford 2, Michael Shirley 4, Kaden Therkildsen 3.

Class A wild card

Not so fast on Gretna getting the only Class A wild card with a 15-4 record and playing only one Class A game, its district loss to Lincoln Northeast.

The Dragons, with losses by Eastern Midlands Conference foes Elkhorn, Blair and Norris in Class B district finals, have dropped to fourth in the NSAA point standings.

Points leader Bellevue West is in as a district champion. The Dragons need Omaha Creighton Prep to defeat Omaha Bryan and Kearney to beat Lincoln North Star to go to state.

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Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Phone: 402-444-1041.

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