Omaha South's path to the 2012 Nebraska Boys Class A state basketball championship got swatted by the outstretched fingertips of
Omaha Central (Neb.)
junior Akoy Agau
at the Devaney Center Saturday evening.
The 6-foot-9 forward deflected and altered Packer shot after Packer shot, leading Omaha Central to its third-straight Class A crown and kept the Eagles winning streak alive at 36 wins with a 55-38 second half rally.
Agau, who now has 30 blocked shots in three state championship contests, posted a triple-double 16 points, 13 rebounds and 14 blocked shots during Saturday's championship final.
"(Having Akoy) allows our guards to really go out and be aggressive," Omaha Central coach Eric Behrens said. "They can go out and do things and be way more aggressive knowing he's behind them. He just changes so many shots, blocks so many shots, deters so many shots."MaxPreps Nebraska boys basketball playoff brackets
With the 17-point win Omaha Central became the first Class A team to cap an undefeated regular season with a state championship since Millard South went 25-0 in 1989. The Eagles also became the first school in Nebraska's largest classification to finish a season 30-0.
"Having a perfect season is great and all, but our main goal before every season is to win the state tournament," Agau said. "We were lucky enough to have an undefeated season. But we worked hard every day in practice – running hard, working hard on defense and improving every day. That's how we made this possible."
Central's win over Omaha South (Neb.)
marked the fourth time this season that Behrens, Agau and company upended the 20-10 Packers. Each of the three regular season wins was by 15 points or more.
But each time the two Omaha powers battled on the court in 2012, Behrens said the Eagles had something they had to prove.
"It's tough. It's tough," Behrens said of beating the same team four times in the same season. "You know, they say that to beat a team three times you gotta prove it and prove it again. And then you get here, and if they beat us once and we beat them three times ultimately they win. So we gotta reprove it, and we did. But this was the scariest one."
Saturday's championship win was the most stressful of the four Omaha Central-Omaha South confrontations for Behrens due to a 9-0 Packer run in the second quarter that turned a 15-13 deficit into a 22-15 advantage with 4:47 remaining in the first half.James Dumes
capped off the Packer spurt with a layup and the ensuing free throw after getting fouled on the play. Bruce Chubick's defense held the Eagles scoreless for just more than two and a half minutes during its run.
Agau ended the drought with a jumper and the eventual champions pulled to within 27-23 at the intermission. Omaha South maintained the lead until Darian Barrientos-Jackson
knocked down a 3-pointer with 3 minutes remaining in the third period to tie the game at 31-31.
Agau scored in the paint with 2:14 left in the third to give the Eagles the lead back. Tra-deon Hollins
then added a pair of layups to put Omaha Central up 37-31 going into the fourth quarter. The Eagles outscored South 18-7 in the final 8 minutes to secure the win.
After connecting on just eight of 29 field goals in the first half, the Eagles bounced back to make 11 of 23 in the second half. Behrens' defense held Omaha South to just 11 second-half points, including 3 of 22 shooting from the field over the final 16 minutes.
"We are bigger than they are and they were winning the boards in the first half," Behrens said. "They were winning the toughness plays, so we had to rechallenge our guys and they responded."
Agau said Central's first-half issues stemmed from the fact that they weren't finishing plays.
"We came into the locker room and decided that we needed to finish all of the simple plays that we had," Agau said. "That's something we really concentrated on in the second half."
Omaha Central's sixth championship in seven seasons began with a 56-52 win over No. 8 seed Omaha Bryan (17-10). Then the Eagles vaulted themselves into the championship game with a 67-47 win over the No. 4 seed Lincoln North Star (20-8).
Omaha South may have pulled off the upset of the tournament when it upended second-seeded Norfolk (24-2), 64-59 in overtime. The Packers then did in No. 3 seed Papillion-LaVista (23-4), with a 63-51 result.
The Eagles' 14-point average margin of victory in the state tournament was somewhat deceiving, according to Behrens.
"They've never been easy for us," Behrens said of the school's six championship in recent memory. "We've never won any of these that were easy, and they shouldn't be. If they were easy they wouldn't be worth anything. You want it to be tough because then it means something to you.
"They talk about tough South Omaha kids, right. We ran into two teams of them in this tournament and they were extremely tough – both of them. Give credit to coach (Tim) Cannon and to coach Chubick, they had their teams ready to play. They didn't back down."
Hollins added 10 points in the win for Central, while Deshun Roberts
and Kevin Scott
tallied nine and eight points respectively. Barrientos-Jackson added six points. Treston Mayo
led the Packers with seven points followed by Dumes' and Buay Tuach's
six points each. Tyler Hall
and Cameron Williams
each scored five points, while Kevin Harkins
tallied four points for Chubick's squad.
With Agau back for another season along with 70 percent of the Eagles' 2011-12 scoring, look for Omaha Central to stretch its win streak even longer, and to challenge for a fourth-straight championship next season. For now, however, the Eagles want to take some time to enjoy this championship run.
"It's amazing. It's amazing. It's a great feeling," Agau said. "It's great for our teammates and for the seniors to end with a win like this, and an undefeated season."