Overtime was commonplace in the 104th Nebraska boys' state basketball tournament and Bellevue West finally found overtime to be a joyous experience.
The Thunderbirds held off Omaha Westside for the Class A crown with a 56-50 victory. Bellevue West lost in overtime in 2006 and 2007, both times to Omaha Central.
"We haven't had good fortune in overtimes here previously," said Bellevue West coach Doug Woodard. "Overtime is a flip-of-the-coin kind of thing."
The Thunderbirds were No. 4 in the preseason ratings, entered the tournament in that spot and now move to the top with a 21-6 record.
"Probably, we were not the odds-on favorite," Woodard said with a grin. "But If you played this tournament three different weeks, you're probably going to get three different winners. A lot of years, if you play it 10 weeks, the same team is going to win it eight of them. There's nobody like that this year."
The T-Birds' overtime game was one of nine in the 54 games played. Six were decided in one overtime, Beatrice needed two to outlast York in a Class B semifinal, and Norfolk and Omaha South went three overtimes before Norfolk prevailed.
"It was a very open tournament, as shown in the vast majority of the games by the smallness of separation," said Woodard. "We were fortunate to play this week because next week, you know, heck, we may not even have got out of the first round."
Woodard could look back on what could have been a pivotal moment in the game with a degree of humor. Westside stretched its lead to 47-41 when Kevin Metoyer made two free throws after an intentional foul and then drained a 25-footer with 4:48 left in regulation.
"I didn't necessarily agree it was an intentional foul but he (the official) said it was clear to him and he probably has a better look," Woodard said with a smile. "And he's not as biased as I am."
The lessons of an entire season were necessary for Bellevue West to earn its championship, according to Woodard.
"We don't win that game a month ago. We certainly don't win that game earlier this year," he said.
The other state champions — Omaha Skutt in Class B, Bishop Neumann in C-1, Archbishop Bergan in C-2, Randolph in D-1 and Bancroft-Rosalie in D-2 — finish in the top spots in their classes.
Skutt was seventh in the preseason ratings, Neumann and Bergan both started and ended the season at the top, Randolph was unrated before the season and was seventh entering postseason play. Bancroft-Rosalie was fifth in the preseason ratings.