LINCOLN - The message echoed by the Ashland-Greenwood boys basketball team after their semifinal win was they were going to have to "out-Auburn" the Bulldogs in the state championship. For the second straight year, the Bluejays did exactly that as they knocked off Auburn 54-24 in the Class C-1 state championship game on March 11 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
This is the greatest defensive performance recorded in C-1 State Tournament history as they held the three teams they played in the state tournament to a combined 72 points.
“The coaches had mentioned that this could be a record towards the end of the game on the bench,” A-G Head Coach Jacob Mohs said. “These guys and our team really dug in defensively in the last couple of games at the state tournament. It’s hard to describe in a few words what they did. I feel like they bought in and they locked in their effort. They didn’t make many mistakes for three straight games and that’s mind boggling.”
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Similar to their first two games, the Bluejays jumped out to an early 4-1 lead with two buckets in the middle by Cougar Konzem. After that, Cade Bridges came up with a steal and made a layup, Brooks Kissinger hit a trey in the corner and Luke Clark knocked down a jumper to give A-G an 11-4 edge.
Dawson Theis found his way into the scoring log in the second quarter with a layup and Bridges came up with another steal that he converted into a layup. Back-to-back buckets from Dane Jacobsen put the Bluejays up by double digits at 22-12 at the break.
To start the third quarter, Kissinger put the moves on the Auburn defenders on his way to putting up four points on a pair of layups. Dane Jacobsen was then able to score in the lane and Drake Zimmerman dropped in four points on two free throws and a layup to extend A-G’s edge out to 32-16.
Closing out the third with four more points to put the Bluejays up 36-16 was one of their senior leaders Konzem.
In the fourth quarter, A-G continued to do what they did best throughout the entire tournament by playing tenacious defense. They held the Bulldogs to just eight points in the final frame which meant they held their opponents to under 10 points for eight straight quarters.
According to Konzem, the Bluejays were able to pull off their defensive feat because they were very good in the middle of the lane.
“We did it by taking away the paint and offensive rebounds,” Konzem said. “All three of those teams played really strong in the paint and were physical. We took it to them and didn’t let them do that.”
Besides the impressive defensive effort, A-G was also good on offense where they shot 55.6% from the field. They were also able to convert 11-16 at the line which was good enough for 68.8%.
“We took great shots,” Mohs said. “We harped on that along with our defense. As you get to these games where it’s win or go home, you have to take great shots and I thought we did a tremendous job in all three games of taking really, really good looks.”
Racking up 16 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double was Brooks Kissinger. The other starter from last season, Conzem, ended up with 13 points and three rebounds.
Both players agreed that the experience of winning the state tournament this year was greater due to the fact they are seniors.
“It was our senior year and it was our last game ever,” Kissinger said. “It feels really good to end it on a win, but also a state championship.”
Scoring six points were Jacobsen and Zimmerman. Bridges put up four, Ty Carey added three and Isaac Carson, Clark and Thies all finished with two.
The Bluejays end the year with a 27-2 record and are a combined 54-3 over the last two years. With the young talent coming up, it doesn’t seem like the winning will stop for A-G anytime soon.
“I know we have a real good group of freshmen right now who are coming up to continue the success of the program,” Konzem said. “Brooks' little brother is one and he is going to be really good and there are a few other guys.”