That’s right. You can crown the school on the south side of town, Bishop Neumann, champion of Class C-1 and Wahoo basketball.
The Cavaliers unleashed a ferocious defense in the first eight minutes Saturday, raced to a big early lead and never trailed in beating crosstown rival Wahoo 68-47 at Pinnacle Bank Arena to claim the school’s first state title since 2003.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s a pretty good feeling,” said sophomore Ben Simons, who led Neumann with 21 points. “We see those guys every day and we’ll have bragging rights next year.”
Neumann (22-6) got off to a roaring start by causing a flurry of turnovers with its 1-3-1 zone defense. A three-pointer by Connor Loos gave the Cavaliers a 16-2 lead less than five minutes into the game.
“The last three or four games, they had that look in their eyes,” Neumann coach Mike Weiss said. “That look that says, ‘We’re going to play together, let’s push it, let’s play some defense.’ You could see that confidence in them.”
Wahoo, the defending state champion, trailed 19-8 after one quarter and 28-20 at halftime. A three-pointer by Josh Langemeier cut the Neumann lead to five points, 28-23, to open the third quarter. But as it did all game, Neumann answered. Zach Ahrens countered with a three-pointer to start a 10-0 run, capped by another three from freshman Noah Vedral, for a 38-23 lead.
Back-to-back baskets by Collin Nadrchal and Jake Scheef brought Wahoo to 45-39 with 6:17 to play. Neumann didn’t blink and erupted on a 17-2 blitz, with seven points from Simons, to finally put the Warriors away.
“I think knowing the fact that it’s Wahoo, it’s the state championship and it’s the last game of the year, that had something to do with it,” Simons said. “That’s how I had my motivation.”
The Cavaliers led by 20 points, 63-43, with two minutes to play when both teams emptied their benches and the “South side!” chant started in the Neumann student section, which caused Weiss to turn to the fans and break into a big smile.
“As good as they were, as much fun as they were having, I couldn’t help but look at them and smile,” Weiss said. “It’s for the kids and the team and the school.”
Wahoo (22-6), which got 21 points from junior Jake Scheef, committed 23 turnovers, shot poorly from the foul line (5-of-16) and could never solve Neumann’s defense, a man-to-man team that played mostly zone Saturday.
“They’re athletic, they have quick hands and they’re relentless,” Wahoo coach Kevin Scheef said. “They answered every run we made. I was feeling good cutting it to six, but then Ben Simons hits that three from the corner. That was huge and that got them started on that run.”
Neumann outrebounded Wahoo 36-23, including 15 offensive rebounds. Senior Austin Woita contributed 13 points, 11 rebounds and six steals in his final game in a Neumann uniform.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world, beating Public in the state championship,” Woita said. “It’s everything I ever dreamed of, and it came true."