Yutan vs. Auburn, 2.01

Auburn's Dan Frary (14) rebounds the ball against Yutan on Friday during the East Central Nebraska Conference boys semifinals at Southeast Community College.

Jim Weeks has a pretty complete boys high school basketball coaching resume — three Class B state championships, three Class B state runner-up finishes and 15 state tournament appearances while at Beatrice.

Weeks, however, will be experiencing a first in his career this Saturday — coaching a team in the Heartland Hoops Classic. This will be the 12th annual boys basketball festival at Grand Island’s Heartland Event Center that not only brings together intriguing Nebraska matchups that break through geographical and class barriers, but games of national significance as well.

Week’s Auburn team (13-1, ranked No. 9 in Class C-1) will take on C-2 No. 1 BRLD at 10:45 a.m., the second of eight games on the docket Saturday.

“We could never get it to work for Beatrice to play here when Coach Weeks was there,” said event organizer Tino Martinez, the Grand Island Central Catholic boys basketball coach.

“He was always a huge supporter of the event, and we’re happy we could get Auburn here this year,” added Martinez, whose C-1 No. 10 Crusaders will take on C-1 No. 5 North Bend Central in game No. 5 at 4 p.m. "With the young team they have, we’re hoping to have them back in the future.”

Led by sophomore standout guard Cam Binder, Auburn will be facing a BRLD team that has just one senior on its squad. The Wolverines’ foundation is built on sophomores Lucas Vogt and Dylan Beuter and juniors Will Gatzemeyer and Jaxon Johnson.

Martinez began putting together the 2019 field for the classic more than a year ago. Every team playing on Saturday has met or exceeded expectations so far this season. Thirteen of the 14 teams in the seven Nebraska matchups are currently ranked.

The only one outside the top 10 in its respective class is Cozad (16-4), which was ranked in Class C-1 until two weeks ago.

“It has really worked out well in terms of getting unique, high-profile matchups,” Martinez said. “All of these teams are having outstanding seasons.”

Three of the four semifinalists at the Class B state tournament last year will be at Heartland Events Center on Saturday.

Defending state champion, No. 6 York, will play No. 8 Bennington (game No. 6, 5:45 p.m.) in a rematch of last year’s semifinals. Last year’s state runner-up, No. 5 Omaha Skutt, will take on C-1 No. 3 Adams Central (game No. 4, 2:15 p.m.), while No. 2 Aurora will go across class lines to face C-1 Cozad in game 3 (12:30 p.m.).

Another top 10 Class B team, No. 7 Hastings, faces C-2 No. 4 Freeman in the nightcap at 9:15 p.m. The day begins with a D-2 matchup between No. 3 Riverside and No. 7 Loomis at 9 a.m.

The showcase contest at 7:30 p.m. matches Sunrise Christian Academy from Wichita, Kansas, against Wasatch Academy from Pleasant, Utah, ranked nationally No. 11 and 12, respectively, last week by USA Today. Sunrise, which beat Oak Hill Academy last year in Grand Island, is led by one of the top recruits nationally in the 2020 class, 7-foot junior N’Faly Dante, who has scholarship offers from Kansas and Kentucky.

Another KU recruiting target at Sunrise is 6-2 senior guard Grant Sherfield, who also has a UCLA offer.

Wasatch counters with 6-10 senior Tristan Enaruna, who has scholarship offers from KU, Texas Tech and Creighton, as well as 6-4 senior Marvin Williams III, who is headed to Minnesota next season.

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Sports reporter

Ron Powell is a longtime prep writer for the Journal Star. He covers high school football, boys basketball and track as well as state college football and Husker and professional tennis.

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