(KMAland) -- The KMA Sports Top 25 Team Countdown from the 2018-19 sports year continues today with another state basketball champion.
The Auburn boys basketball squad slides in at No. 9 following a dream Class C1 state championship run.
Coach Jim Weeks - well-known for his success at Beatrice - led this year’s Bulldogs and had them playing inspired basketball nearly immediately. Auburn rolled to a 9-0 start, including three wins over teams that would finish with 20 or more victories and claimed a Nebraska Wesleyan Holiday Tournament championship.
The Bulldogs suffered their first loss of the season days later to Ashland-Greenwood - in overtime - before quickly responding with five straight wins. Their next loss also came in overtime and in the semifinals of the East Central Conference Nebraska Tournament against Yutan.
Auburn faced just one more loss the rest of the season - a defeat to BRLD in the Grand Island-Heartland Classic. Entering the postseason with an 18-3 mark, Coach Weeks’ team began their dream run with 11-point wins over Falls City and Syracuse to win their subdistrict. They then rolled to a 26-point win over Fort Calhoun in the district final, advancing to state for the first time since 1985.
“They did a really good job in the offseason,” Coach Weeks told KMA Sports days before their state opener. “That’s really made the difference. We have no seniors so the kids did a great job in winning 21 games.”
Their state quarterfinal matchup with sixth-seeded Grand Island Central Catholic proved to be an absolute classic. The game wasn’t decided until Cam Binder’s game-winning follow shot at the buzzer gave the Bulldogs a 44-42 triumph.
“I was just thinking what moves I should do,” Binder told KMA Sports. “I didn’t do the right one, but I was just praying it would go in.”
“Somebody asked me how we come down from a big game like that,” Coach Weeks added. “We gave them a little butt-chewing about our press break in the locker room. We let them celebrate, but there’s a reason we need to practice tomorrow.”
The practice seemed to work, as they responded with a 59-46 state semifinal win over top-seeded Wahoo. Binder scored 18 points to join Josh Lambert (13 points, 11 rebounds), CJ Hughes (12 points) and Dan Frary (10 points) in double figures.
“Our guys don’t get too rattled,” Weeks said after the win. “We wanted to play at our pace, and we did. The biggest thing was we didn’t turn the ball over, and they didn’t get a lot of second shots.”
The next day - in their first state championship appearance in school history - Auburn and North Bend Central battled methodically in a defensive struggle. Binder delivered again, hitting a game-tying 3-pointer with about 1:40 to go and then splashing a go-ahead shot with 1.4 on the clock to clinch the state championship.
The Bulldogs finished the season with a 24-3 mark and their first state basketball title. Hear much more from our coverage throughout the season below.
Top 25 Teams of 2018-19
9: Auburn Boys Basketball
8: Wednesday, August 7th
7: Thursday, August 8th
6: Friday, August 9th
5: Monday, August 12th
4: Tuesday, August 13th
3: Wednesday, August 14th
2: Thursday, August 15th
1: Friday, August 16th