LINCOLN - It wasn't decided until the buzzer, but once the verdict was in, the judge decreed, "Get thee to state, York."
The Duke boys downed Seward Tuesday night in Lincoln, 57-55, in the championship of the B-4 District.
The Bluejays played a gritty, never-give-an-inch game the whole way, but still came up two points short after their last of nine threes went in at the buzzer.
The Bluejays obviously heard about Duke junior Ty Danielson's 35 points the night before in the B-4 semifinal. They weren't going to let Danielson beat them from the field and proved it by getting physical with No. 34, who took advantage of all the whistles and skewered the Bluejays with 18 makes in 21 free throw attempts. From the field the Seward 'D' stifled Danielson, holding him to three total field goals, two of which were from three.
The Dukes started slow and had their fans on the edge of the Lincoln Northeast gym's seats.
York coach Scott Lamberty said Seward "went with a little different lineup" than the Dukes were expecting. The Jays chose "a lot of quickness and a lot of 3-point shooters," Lamberty said.
The result was a lead of 10-4 for the Jays after one period.
"We went smaller" with the York lineup "and did better in the second quarter," said Lamberty.
The second period went to the Dukes 17-13. Of York's total points in the period, nine came on 10 free throw attempts by Danielson to make it 23-21 Seward at intermission.
The Dukes went ahead 24-23 at 7:35 of the third on a three from Jonah Otte, who scored eight on the night. York needed another three, this time by Danielson at 5:30 of the third, to get the lead back, 29-27. Danielson scored on a drive at 2:07, drew the foul and converted the three-point play to give his team a 35-31 lead. But then came two last gasp threes by the Jays, the second right at the buzzer, to lead 37-35 themselves and set the stage for a dramatic fourth.
Danielson ended up with a game-high 26 points despite Seward's best attempts on defense. What did the junior have to say about the in-his-shirt guarding?
"It's Seward," he said, "they bump and grind me. But the other guys" came through. "Ryan Dolan hit a big three to really turn it," Danielson said. "Credit goes out to my teammates for this one. I relied on my teammates. All year they've been there, even the nights when I'm scoring they're helping, too. I knew my teammates would be there."
And they were.
The fourth period was a see-saw affair with three ties until a Jared Miller free throw at 4:50 put the Dukes up one, 42-41. That was the opening act for that monster three to which Danielson referred.
Dolan pulled up and drained the shot that was like a lightning bolt. Dolan's perfect stroke finally gave the Dukes a little separation at 45-41.
Seward coach Mark Cidlik knew it was large and called timeout immediately, but York was never headed from there to the end. The closest Seward could get was within three two different times before the Jays got an academic, too-late three at the final horn.
Miller scored 11 for the Dukes, who won on 12 field goals, four of them from three, and that Jay-slaying 29-39 at the stripe. Seward's bottom line was 14 field goals, nine from three, and 18-25 free throws.
The contest was the second nail-biter between these Hwy 34 rivals. The Dukes survived a 38-35 game against the Jays on Feb. 8.
"Survived" was the word Lamberty chose to describe how his Dukes came up with the district championship and their first berth at state since 2008.
"We were able to get enough stops at the end and we hit a bunch of free throws," which really poured in after the Jays put York in the double-bonus early with their physical approach to the game.
The Jays end their season 8-14 while the Dukes improve to 19-5 going into the Class B State Tournament's first round on Thursday of next week.
Seward (8-14)........10 13 14 18 - 55
York (19-5)...............4 17 14 22 - 57
Seward (55) - B. Sloup 3 (3) 0-0 9, B. Trevino 2 2-2 6, J. Dexter 2 (1) 2-2 7, B. Klenke 0 9-14 9, T. Barnes 4 (3) 5-7 16, A. Holtorf 1 0-0 2, C. Stevenson 2 (2) 0-0 6. Totals - 14 (9) 18-25 55.
York (57) - J. Miller 4 3-6 11, C. Zumpfe 0 4-6 4, R. Dolan 2 (1) 0-0 5, E. Neville 0 3-4 3, J. Otte 3 (1) 1-2 8, T. Danielson 3 (2) 18-21 26. Totals - 12 (4) 29-39 57.