Friday’s game between O’Neill and Grand Island Central Catholic proved to be a contest of two teams with completely different seasons in 2016, yet battling with a lot of unknowns as they entered this year’s campaign.

In the end, the hosts were able to keep one of the B-4 district championship plaques at home. But they'll have to share it.

O’Neill wasn’t looking for a hero, but that didn’t stop Justin Appleby from playing the role. The 6-foot-1 sophomore scored seven points in the final minute as the Eagles overcame a 50-41 fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Pierce 56-54 in the Class C1-4 district final.

O'Neill earned its first berth in the Mid-State Conference tournament final at the free-throw line, while Pierce earned its first appearance in the final since 2012 with defense.

The O’Neill boys, with an inside-outside scoring attack, scored 44 first-half points to take control early in the championship game of Stanton’s Holiday Basketball Tournament Tuesday night. The Eagles then scored 21 more points--including a 19-2 run--in the third quarter to cruise to a 76-50 win over the host Mustangs.

The first team to force Pierce's starters to play more than one half of football, O'Neill didn't fare much better than the Bluejays' first two victims in a 47-0 loss here Friday.

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