Omaha Skutt wins their first-round game against Waverly, 73-41.
12 months ago, coach Kip Colony watched his Skutt SkyHawks team score just five first-quarter points on the way to a crushing loss in the NSAA Class B championship game. Since then, #2 Skutt has been the class of Class B, with a perfect 23-0 NSAA record this season, including winning the three games in their division tournament by an average of 43 points. For Colony and the SkyHawks, there was only one goal for this tournament- to bring a first state championship to Skutt. Standing in their way in the first round Thursday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena was an upstart #7 Waverly squad looking for a historic upset.
Waverly won the opening tip, but within seconds it became clear that the Vikings were overmatched in size, speed, and skill. From the first possession, Skutt ran an intense full-court press defense, forcing multiple backcourt violations in the opening minutes as Waverly struggled even to attempt a shot. By the time that first shot, an Anastyn Harms 3-pointer, fell, the Vikings were already staring at a 14-3 deficit. By the end of the first quarter, Skutt had put the rest of Class B on notice and silenced any doubters in the arena with a commanding 24-3 lead.
Whatever adjustments Waverly head coach John Cockerill made before the second quarter clearly had some impact, as the Vikings immediately began showing signs of life with a 5-0 run. Waverly managed to dig in and make several key stops on defense and found plenty of opportunities at the free-throw line, drawing eight fouls in the first half. As a result, the Vikings outscored Skutt 18-12 in the second quarter, as the SkyHawks seemed to let off the gas for long stretches of the game. However, Waverly still had more work to do, as Skutt took a comfortable 36-21 lead to halftime.
After the second quarter, Skutt reminded everyone in attendance why they’re one of the favorites to win the Class B championship after halftime. The SkyHawks demonstrated excellent ball movement to start the quarter, expertly cutting up the Waverly defense for 22 points in the frame. Guard Molly Ladwig took control with 11 points, including three 3-pointers, to stifle any momentum Waverly may have had after halftime. On defense, the SkyHawks targeted Harms and center Parker Christiansen with frequent double teams, daring another Viking to beat them and building a 26-point lead by the end of the third quarter.
Despite facing a nearly 30-point deficit, Waverly kept playing hard, even knowing their season was coming to an end. Skutt’s suffocating defense stayed locked in until the last few minutes, with both teams seemingly energized by the crowd and refusing to slow down until any hope of a comeback was completely gone. Colony and Cockerill both went deep on their respective benches for most of the quarter, though, as the starters saw little action in the final five minutes. By the 2:30 mark, a “thank you, seniors” chant broke out in the Waverly student section as Vikings players embraced each other on the bench in a bittersweet end to a successful season. Skutt refused to run up the score, instead running out the clock on a 73-41 first-round victory that didn’t feel as close as the 32-point final margin indicates.
For Waverly, it’s a frustrating end to a solid year, their second straight first-round exit from the playoffs. However, with only three graduating seniors, the Vikings will have a strong chance to return to the playoffs next year. It was all business for Skutt tonight, as Waverly was simply the first obstacle on their march to the championship. The SkyHawks are back in action Friday afternoon against the #3 Sidney Red Raiders at Pinnacle Bank Arena, with a chance to avenge their finals loss a year ago on the line- and if tonight is any indication, Kip Colony’s squad could do just that.