LINCOLN — The first 30 minutes of Saturday’s Class C-1 state title game was forgettable for Cam Binder.
But the final two? Those are ones the sophomore guard — and the town of Auburn — will remember for years after Binder’s deep 3-pointer with three seconds to play gave the Bulldogs a 30-29 win over No. 9 North Bend Central for Auburn’s first state basketball championship.
Binder, who was frustrated after hitting just three of his first 10 shot attempts Saturday, found the ball in his hands with Auburn trailing 29-27 after North Bend sophomore Breckin Peters put the Tigers on top with a jumper from the lane with 25 seconds left.
Guarded closely by North Bend senior Tanner Wietfeld, Binder received a pass with 7 seconds left, took two dribbles and a sharp step to his right, clearing space to take a 24-footer that splashed through the net.
“I knew I had to shoot a 3 because I didn’t care, I had to win,” Binder said. “I didn’t want to go into overtime and give them a chance to win with our big guy out (6-foot-7 Josh Lambert). So I just took what they gave me.
“I’ve seen Cam make that shot a hundred times in practice. He works on it every day for hours,” said Auburn sophomore Dan Frary. “I knew it was going in.”
North Bend had one final chance after a timeout with 1.4 seconds left, but John Emanuel’s half-court shot was well off the mark.
The game-winner was Binder’s second 3-pointer of the quarter after hitting a near-mirror shot with 1:40 left to tie the game 27-27 when he also was guarded by Wietfeld, who had hounded Binder all game. Binder scored 40 points in the district final and averages 20 per game, but had scored just eight points before his final two threes.
“The first one, I probably could’ve gotten up a little quicker and made it a tougher shot,” Wietfeld said. “But, that last one? That was a good shot. I mean, I don’t know what else I could’ve done.”
Wietfeld scored a team-high eight points for North Bend (25-4), which was making its first appearance in a championship game since 1926.
Binder’s heroics wiped away what would have been a bitter loss in Auburn’s first-ever appearance in the state final. The Bulldogs led 12-2 with 1:18 left in the first quarter, but scored just 12 more points over the next 23:38.
Auburn shot 10 of 25 for the game, while North Bend made 11 of 33 field goals and missed seven of its 12 free throw attempts.
“They played us as good a defense as anybody all year, obviously,” Weeks said. “Cam scored 40 in the district final, and we scored 30 (as a team Saturday). We didn’t say before the game the first team to 30 wins. It was just a grinder.”
It was Weeks’ type of game. The coach, famous for his teams’ deliberative offensive style, won his fourth state championship after coaching Beatrice to Class B titles in 1998, 2005, and 2008.
But it was a first for Auburn, coming in Weeks’s third season at the school. Weeks told his players to appreciate the moment because you never know if you’ll get the chance to win another state title in a C-1 field that’s competitive every year.
Even if the Bulldogs don’t, Binder said Saturday is day the town of Auburn can relive with pride. From the side step, to the follow through, to the walk up the ladder to cut down the nets, he has a memory that carries meaning for an entire community.
“It makes grown people cry, and I’m sure there’s plenty of grown people crying out there right now,” Binder said. “It means everything. It’s just a blessing to be on this team.”
No. 8 Auburn (24-3) 12 4 4 10 — 30
No. 9 North Bend (25-4) 6 8 4 11 — 29
A: Cam Binder 5-12 2-3 14, Josh Lambert 2-5 3-4 7, Calvin Hughes 1-4 0-0 2, Brody Darnell 1-1 1-1 3, Dan Frary 1-3 1-2 3, Bret Baltensperger 0-0 1-2 1
NBC: John Emanuel 3-10 0-0 6, Austin Endorf 0-3 0-0 0, Tanner Wietfeld 3-5 1-2 8, Jaxon Wietfeld 2-8 2-4 7, Ben Rolenc 2-3 0-0 4, Breckin Peters 1-4 0-2 2, Chase Ruzicka 0-0 2-4 2
3FG: A 2-4, NBC 2-9; Team Fouls: A 14, NBC 21; Fouled out: A-Lambert, NBC-Endorf; Technicals: none; Turnovers: A 14, NBC 11; Rebounds: A 23, NBC 22; FG%: A 40%, NBC 33%; FT%: A 57%, NBC 42%.