AURORA, Neb. — The York Dukes and Aurora Huskies have turned in some heavyweight bouts against each other on the basketball court in recent years. This season, the Huskies have had the Class B defending state champ Dukes’ number with two wins on York’s home court back on Dec. 14 and in the Central Conference title game Jan. 26.
On Tuesday night, as the snow fell outside the Aurora Sports Complex, the two rivals met for a third time — this encounter to decide the champ of the B-6 subdistrict, and the No. 2-rated Huskies continued the trend with a 55-51 win.
Aurora had to fend off a No. 5-rated York squad that turned an 18-point deficit in the third quarter to just one, 48-47, with 2:35 left in the fourth quarter.
But the Huskies played enough keep away in the final moments and went 5 of 6 at the free-throw line down the stretch to seal the victory, its 24th of the season. York drops to 20-4 and will likely host a district final at York High School on Saturday due to its wildcard points. The time and opponent for that game is to be determined.
Aurora led 24-16 at the break and took advantage of sloppy play from the Dukes to start the third quarter. Turnovers plagued the York offense, and the Huskies started the second half on a 12-2 run that bumped their lead to 36-18 at the 4:15 mark. During that stretch, Cade Reichardt scored six consecutive points.
York fans have gotten to know Reichardt well this season.
Although Aurora’s 6-foot-6 Baylor Scheierman rightly draws much of the high school basketball buzz in the state, it’s been his teammate Reichardt — a 6-foot Concordia University basketball pledge — that has really hurt the Dukes in the two previous meetings.
In the first game on Dec. 14 Reichardt scored 16 points, all of which came in the first half, and was a big reason Aurora shot out to a 39-23 lead at the half that night. Then in the Central Conference title game, Reichardt scored a game-high 22 points to power the Huskies to their fourth-straight conference championship.
“We get stagnant sometimes and we don’t get the movement and we don’t get in good positions,” York head coach Scott Lamberty said of the poor third-quarter start. “I hate to say that we freak out with the ball sometimes, but sometimes that’s what it looks like. But as soon as we relaxed as the game went on, then they free-flowed and things went.”
The tide started to turn with around four minutes left in the third. York’s offense and defense came to life, and the Dukes ended the third on a 13-2 run that included two 3-pointers from senior point Jeb Lucas and another from senior Brady Danielson. York made eight 3s in the game, and the long-range shot helped the Dukes trail just 38-31 heading into the fourth.
“We shot it with rhythm, and that was the biggest thing,” Lamberty said. “I think Jeb hit one in transition, and he’s really good in transition and fills that role to shoot the ball. He got one of those to start it.”
Danielson led the team with 18 points while both Lucas and senior Garrett Snodgrass had 11.
“Offensively we just didn’t move the ball very well and we didn’t shoot the ball with any rhythm,” Lamberty said. “As the game went on we relaxed. Once one shot fell, we relaxed and played but by then we were down by 16.”
Midway through the fourth York scored 10 unanswered points that got it to within one point, 48-47. During that run, Snodgrass scored an old-fashioned 3-point play while Danielson had five points and senior Reid Hoffmann two from a couple free throws.
But Aurora made its free throws down the stretch, with Scheierman, who scored a team-high 18 points, going 4 of 4 at the line.
Aurora’s zone defense is quite long, longer than most other teams York plays. Because of that, the Dukes don’t get as many open looks as they’re used to, according to Lamberty.
“We need to relax and play, good things happen when you relax and play,” he said. “We moved the basketball when we did that and did a better job of cutting to open spaces. We do that most every game, but for some reason their match-up zone is a little different and it slows us down just a half step.”
York (20-4)..............11 5 15 20 — 51
At Aurora (24-1)........16 8 14 17 — 55
York scoring: Brady Danielson 18, Jeb Lucas 11, Garrett Snodgrass 11, Reid Hoffmann 7, Wyatt Cast 4.
Aurora scoring: Baylor Scheuermann 18, Cade Reichardt 16, Nick Hutsell 10, Nathan Boerkircher 4, Jordan Stevenson 4, Kaleb Moural 2, Ryan Willis 1.