Four elite teams. Two buzzer-beaters. One packed house. On March 11, 1989, the stars aligned and produced an epic doubleheader.
Walk faster, the clock is ticking.
Forget the main doors, they’re locked. Throngs of fans — maybe 500 — arrived too late. They stand on the concrete ramp outside the Devaney Center, hoping someone in the capacity crowd will leave. They’re out of luck.
Come this way, we’ll sneak in the side door. Follow the noise, down this hallway, past a locker room, over the threshold that separates white tile from wood floor — the calm and the storm.
Look, we saved you a spot on the bleachers. Hurry. Nebraska high school basketball’s greatest night has already started.
When it’s over, March 11, 1989, will produce two classic championship games, both culminating in court-stormings. It will secure Millard South as one of the state’s all-time best teams. It will fuel Wahoo to chase the longest winning streak in Nebraska history.
It will make heroes of two scrawny sophomores. And a goat of an all-state senior. It will represent a scrapbook memory for a father and a son. And the end of the road for a coach and his star. It will mark a turning point in the way the game is played.
Shed your jacket. Careful, don’t drop it between the bleachers.
“There was so much sound energy. It was like you could feel your organs shaking.”
Lincoln Pius X forward Kelly Hendricks
Moments ago, Wahoo trailed Pius X by 16 points with six minutes to go. They were down nine with a minute left. Down six with 20 seconds left.
Now Wahoo’s Troy Glock rushes up the floor and hits Bernie Inbody for a 30-footer. Bang. Now Inbody steals the inbounds pass at mid-court. He finds Glock, who takes one dribble and — with four seconds left — launches from the top of the key.
Get on your tiptoes. Crane your neck. See the ball smack the top of the white square, bound against the front of the rim, ricochet back to the glass, then drop.
Absorb a sound that — 24 years later — coaches and players on both sides call the loudest they’ve ever heard.
"The place just exploded," Wahoo coach Mick Anderson said. "It was like the roof just blew off."
"There was so much sound energy," Pius forward Kelly Hendricks said, "it was like you could feel your organs shaking."
Back in the locker room, the exact place you’d go during a tornado, Millard South is stretching, dribbling, itching to start the season’s final game against Columbus — the Indians’ chance to become Class A’s first undefeated team in 29 years. They hear the roars getting louder and louder. Now they feel the rumble.
"What the heck happened?" all-state center Brian Nielsen says.
An assistant coach opens the door and breaks the news.
* * *
Open your program. Let’s cover a little background before the action heats up again.
Go to page 9. See the list of all-time state championship games.
Look at that one in 1971: Lincoln East 74, Papillion 72. They called it the "Miracle on Vine." In ’87, Norfolk beat Lincoln Northeast on a last-second shot.
But there’s a reason we returned to ’89, a reason this tournament shattered attendance records and produced four hours of drama unmatched before — or since.
Basketball across the country is on fire. Magic’s Lakers are chasing a third straight NBA crown. Air Jordan is taking flight. Danny and the Miracles just culminated a memorable run of Final Fours. The new 3-point shot is revolutionizing offensive strategy.
In Nebraska, the top two classes feature collision courses. A year earlier at Devaney, Millard South edged Columbus in a Class A semifinal. The next night, Wahoo rallied from nine down to beat Pius, winning on a last-second layup.
Pius started the ’89 season No. 1, Wahoo No. 2. Millard South started the season No. 1, Columbus No. 2. Nothing has changed.
Following tradition, the NSAA saved its best for last, scheduling the Class B and A championship games for 7 and 9 p.m. The last four teams to take the floor on March 11, 1989, are a combined 92-1 — Columbus has the lone loss.
En route to the Devaney Center, Millard South’s Matt Kelly has two sleeves of Thin Mints in his lap. He’s wearing cowboy boots, khakis with snaps at the bottom and a black Nike turtleneck — hey, it’s the ’80s!
When the Indians exit the interstate in Lincoln, they put in a cassette tape — Whitesnake. They crank up their favorite pre-game song — "Still of the Night."
They walk into Devaney, drop their bags in the locker room and head out to watch the first half of the Class B game. Dale Ribble opens the door from the main concourse, looks up and sees the crowd stretching all the way to the top.
His hands start sweating.
* * *
Pius has waited 365 days for another shot at Wahoo. All season, the Thunderbolts eyed Wahoo’s scores in the papers. The determination shows. First possession, Pius beats the 1-3-1 zone and Ed Easley gets a layup.
Next possession, two offensive rebounds and another Easley score, 4-0.
This is their ticket. Get the ball inside. Handle Wahoo’s full-court pressure and punish them on the glass.
Coach Tom Seib returned four starters from the ’88 runners-up. All are seniors. Seib will say it’s the best group he ever coached — that includes the ’92 state championship team.
"On most teams, you can find weaknesses," Seib said. "There just wasn’t anything. Nothing bothered them. Nothing got under their skin."
Yet Pius almost didn’t qualify. In the district final, it trailed York by 10 in the fourth quarter. Point guard John Boudreau led the comeback and — with two seconds left — completed it with a baseline jumper.
Ed Easley of Lincoln Pius X finds Wahoo’s Randy Hoffman, No. 50, blocking his path to the basket. Wahoo prevailed in overtime, the 38th victory in a 114-game winning streak.
The star, however, was Kelly Hendricks. The 6-foot-4 forward led Pius in scoring as a sophomore and junior. Hendricks was there in ’87 when Pius lost to Aurora in the finals. He was the one who missed a desperation 35-footer against Wahoo in ’88.
The morning of the ’89 championship game, his family went to buy tickets at Devaney, leaving him and his sophomore brother to get to Pius for Mass and a walkthrough. One problem: Hendricks lost his car keys. He looked and looked and, 25 minutes later, found them in his basketball shoe. He was late to the chapel.
Ten minutes into the game, Hendricks is late again — he hasn’t scored. But when Jason Glock hits a turnaround to put Wahoo ahead 17-11, Hendricks takes over. He scores nine points in a span of four minutes.
A 15-footer. Then a putback. Then a jumper in traffic.
"Boy, is that pretty," said Jeff Schmahl, calling the game for KOLN.
Pius scores the final 16 points of the half. Hendricks and Easley have as many (17) as Wahoo’s entire team.
In the locker room, Warriors coach Mick Anderson — in a moment of motivation (and perhaps desperation) — makes a prediction:
This will be one of the greatest comebacks ever.
* * *
Anderson had heard the rumors. He didn’t think much of it.
In 1985, Wahoo hired a new superintendent, Richard Glock. Allegedly his sons were serious players. They’d come from little Axtell, Neb., scooping the driveway so they could shoot in gloves and coats.
The basketball gods hadn’t been kind to Wahoo. The program was suffering through a 37-year state tournament drought. In nine seasons, Anderson had a losing record.
But the first time he saw the Glock boys, he knew he’d acquired "a couple dandies."
Troy, a ninth-grader, jumped immediately into the starting lineup. Jason, a seventh-grader, jumped into the best youth program in the state.
“There’s no other word to describe it than miracle.”
Wahoo forward Jason Glock
In the mid-’80s, a few dads in town started "Wahoops." They dedicated time to fundamentals. They shepherded teams to tournaments in Omaha, Lincoln, Sioux Falls. They challenged the perception that basketball opportunities were better in the cities.
In most Class B towns, junior-high kids were playing half a dozen school-affiliated games a year. Kids in Wahoo were playing 20 or 30 outside of school. They were learning the same drills and schemes Anderson taught at Wahoo High. Wahoops became a model for small towns across the state.
It didn’t aid Mick Anderson’s ’87 state tournament team. Or his ’88 state champs. But by ’89, his sophomore class had played as much organized basketball as any 16-year-olds in the state.
Jason Glock, who averaged 21 points a game in ’89, was the best of those sophomores. Anderson also had a pair of sharpshooters — Bernie Inbody and Ryan Eddie.
"Those two little twerps coming off the bench, they looked like they were about seventh-graders," KOLN’s Schmahl said. "I’m pretty sure they hadn’t started shaving yet."
In the second quarter, Inbody had checked in and attempted two 3s. Boudreau blocked both. A fitting image for how the game was unfolding: Pius was too strong, too mature. Late in the third quarter, the Bolts extend the lead to 16.
"All the hard work was finally gonna pay off," Boudreau said.
At the two-minute mark, the Thunderbolts own a 57-45 lead. A few Wahoo fans head for the doors.
"I’d have probably left, too," Anderson said.
Coach gives his sophomore shooters one more chance.
First possession, Ryan Eddie buries a 3. 57-48.
Second possession, Jason Glock hits a jumper. 57-50.
COURTESY OF EVERETT INBODY
Wahoo’s Bernie Inbody celebrates after winning the Class B title. His late 3-pointer and steal helped send the game to overtime.
After a pair of Hendricks free throws, Jason rebounds an Eddie miss, scores and draws Easley’s fifth foul with 55 seconds left. Whoa. 59-53.
Most impartial fans in the capacity crowd urge on the Warriors. They are the public school from the small town. They are the underdogs.
The noise intensifies when Pius turns it over on the inbounds pass. But Eddie misses a 3. Troy Glock misses a 3 — every jumper he takes is short. Hendricks grabs the rebound and draws a foul with 36 seconds left. He pumps his fist.
Then he misses the 1-and-1. Troy feeds Jason for a layup, 59-55. Wahoo calls its last timeout.
"I don’t think it ever crossed my mind during that six minutes that, hey, we’re gonna win," Jason Glock said. "We just kept playing the game."
The events of the final 28 seconds will later earn recognition from ESPN’s "Scholastic Sports America." In 2013, they may have landed on SportsCenter’s Top 10.
“Everything happened so fast,” Troy Glock said.
Pius inbounds to Boudreau. He beats the pressure and, two passes later, Tom Burt’s short turnaround connects with 20 seconds left. 61-55.
"At that point, I really thought we had won," Hendricks said. "I just remember this incredible feeling of elation in my entire body."
Bernie Inbody, wary of getting another 3 getting swatted, spots up 30 feet from the rim. He releases it over Boudreau’s outstretched arm. Boom. The crowd erupts. 61-58.
"Oh my gosh," Schmahl thought, "I can’t believe he’s even shooting from there."
But with only 11 seconds left and no timeouts, Wahoo is still in a bind. Pius can take a few seconds to grab the ball and another five to throw it in.
Kelly Hendricks — who doesn’t normally take the ball out — is standing under the rim when the ball drops through the net. Instinctively, he catches it. He takes three steps to the baseline, turns and sees Boudreau sprinting toward the Pius basket, 50 feet away. He’s open!
"As I’m throwing the ball," Hendricks said, "I’m thinking, ‘I should call timeout.’ "
Millard South’s Matt Kelly looks for an opening as Columbus’ Steve Scheidegger defends. Scheidegger, a 6-foot-4 two-time all-stater, finished with 18 points.
He cocks his arm and fires it like a football — 10 feet short of his teammate. Inbody intercepts it, passes to Troy Glock, who takes one dribble and lets it fly.
Backboard, rim, backboard, in.
"There’s no other word to describe it than miracle," Jason Glock said.
"It’s almost like you’re in a dream state," he said. "I’m still in disbelief."
Wahoo had scored 31 points the first three quarters. It scores 30 in the fourth. Seib tries to refocus his players, but they are shaken.
On the second possession of OT, Ryan Eddie drills an open 3 from the left wing. Wahoo never trails again.
Just before the buzzer, Hendricks dribbles down the court and swishes a meaningless 3. He drops to his knees and buries his head in his hands.
By the time officials clear the floor and present the trophies, the Class A game is more than 30 minutes behind schedule. The Warriors’ only disappointment: They aren’t sticking around to see the Class A finale.
"Refresh my memory of how that game ended," Jason Glock said.
* * *
We’ll get you a piece of a pizza and a malt in a second. But this is a good time to point out that 1989 is an era of short shorts and long hair (at least in the back). An era when officials called the game tight and players moved the ball with the pass, not the dribble. An era before everyone had wireless Internet and 134 channels. High school basketball gripped communities big and small. Look around, seemingly half of Columbus is here.
The Discoverers jog onto the floor for warm-ups. A roar. Here comes Millard South. Another roar.
The guitarist in the Columbus pep band breaks into "Smoke on the Water" as Schmahl interviews Wahoo players under the east basket. He just told Troy Glock, who scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half, "This is one game that people will talk about for 20 or 30 years."
Another showdown is about to start.
The night before, Columbus shut down undefeated Alliance 72-62, holding the Bulldogs under 80 for the first time all year. In its semifinal, Millard South trailed Lincoln East 48-43 with 4:52 left. "We had them nailed to the wall," Spartans coach Paul Forch said.
East didn’t score again.
It was vintage Millard South. The defending champs were as savvy as they were skilled. The five starters were the same five who started on Millard South’s 17-0 freshman team in ’86.
Columbus’ Steve Scheidegger, who averaged 19 points a game, was a four-year starter for Al Schnabel.
Six-foot-6 center Brian Nielsen is the returning all-stater, a 19-point scorer. Matt Kelly is a versatile 6-foot-4 forward. Scott Bream, the World-Herald athlete of the year, is the defensive specialist — "still the fastest white kid I’ve ever seen," Kelly said.
But Millard South is Dale Ribble’s team. He’s the one who dreamed of winning a state championship for his dad, Larry. He’s the one who organized the summer pick-up games. He’s the one who has a key to the gym. He goes in every day before school to shoot. Sometimes late at night, he comes back and the janitor, Carl, rebounds for him.
The Indians were good in ’88, going 21-4. They are great in ’89. Blowout after blowout. Benson coach Terry Shelsta called them "the greatest passing team I’ve ever seen in high school."
At the Metro tournament, Millard South beat everyone so badly they declined to cut down the nets. They wanted the ones at Devaney.
* * *
The wait. The crowd. The stakes. The competition.
It all conspires to overwhelm Columbus. Early in the second quarter, the Discoverers have seven turnovers and three field goals.
Nielsen buries a turnaround baseline jumper from the left block — his patented shot. Kelly’s putback pushes the Indians’ lead to 17-10. Columbus is in trouble.
Then Steve Scheidegger takes over.
As important as Ribble is to Millard South, Scheidegger is even more valuable to the Discoverers. The 6-4 two-time all-stater can do everything: shoot, rebound, dribble, pass.
He’s the youngest of four Scheidegger sons; he grew up fighting for things. And Columbus coach Al Schnabel saw brilliance in him early. In the fall of ’85 — the same year Troy Glock started for Wahoo — Schnabel took a chance. He pulled Scheidegger out of the Columbus middle school, naming him the first ninth-grader in CHS history to play varsity. Then he doubled down and started Scheidegger.
Columbus’ Chris Roth brings the ball upcourt while Millard South’s Joe Groat, right, and Matt Kelly trail. Roth tied the Class A state championship game at 45 with 17 seconds to play.
It rankled the ninth-graders. It rankled the juniors and seniors he bypassed in the rotation. Scheidegger spent nights after practice crying, wondering how to fit in.
Sometimes Schnabel recognized the kid’s vulnerability and protected him. Sometimes he let him endure. They leaned on each other. They bonded.
By Scheidegger’s junior year, it was his team. In the second game of the season, Columbus traveled to Norfolk to face its bitter rival, the defending state champs. Scheidegger had 35.
Just a week ago, Grand Island pushed Columbus to overtime in the ’89 district final. Schnabel shared his instructions before the extra period. Then Scheidegger called his teammates together and made his own demand.
"Give me the ball and get the (expletive) out of the way."
Now he’s dominating at Devaney. Scheidegger hits back-to-back 3s, then finds Mitch Slusarski on the break with a one-handed bounce pass. Then he scores in the paint.
At half, Millard South leads 24-20. That’s about the time Jeff Schmahl recognizes the game’s potential.
"Everybody was still talking about the Pius game. So I think that that game kind of eclipsed the first half. But then the energy in the building really picked back up. Kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh, here we go again.’ "
Columbus spends the second half nipping at Millard South’s Nikes.
The Indians are up two with 90 seconds left when Kelly finds Nielsen on the baseline, 45-41. Columbus is in trouble.
Schnabel calls timeout. Give me the ball. Scheidegger comes off a pick, takes two dribbles, rises and sinks a baseline 15-footer — he has 18 points.
Millard South’s Brian Nielsen dunks over Columbus’ Mike Mueller, No. 34, and Chris Roth.
A Millard South turnover gives Columbus a chance to tie. This time, Scheidegger — with Scott Bream in his arm pit — gives it up to forward Chris Roth. With 17 seconds left, Roth swishes a jumper. 45-45.
Timeout, Millard South. Seven seconds left. Larry Ribble calls a play — Pepsi — to get Nielsen the ball on the block.
Columbus extends the zone to exert pressure. Ribble catches near half court and spots a seam. He takes three dribbles to the left elbow. Both Discoverers at the bottom of the zone shift toward Nielsen on the left block, leaving Matt Kelly open on the right block. Ribble glances at him, then back to Nielsen.
"As soon as Dale looked away from me," Kelly said, "I knew he was gonna pass it to me."
"When you play together as long as we did," Dale Ribble said, "you can draw up a lot of things. But basketball is such a game of feel — having to play the game rather than playing plays."
At the same hoop where Glock double-banked his 3 two hours earlier, Kelly scores off glass with three seconds left. 47-45. Millard South students are on the court before Columbus’ desperation heave lands.
Amid the mayhem, Ribble finds his coach.
"My dad and I knew we wanted to share that moment together. That may sound corny, but it’s true."
Amid the mayhem, Kelly climbs a ladder and snips the net, holding it up to the crowd. On the way home, sometime around midnight, a member of the Millard South convoy calls Sweet 98 and makes a request:
"We are the Champions."
Millard South starters Joe Groat, left, and Scott Bream, No. 33, celebrate atop the shoulders of their fans after winning the 1989 Class A state championship at the Devaney Center. With the victory over Columbus, Millard South became Class A’s first undefeated team in 29 years.
* * *
The next morning, Jason Glock wakes up and wonders: Did that really happen?
Wahoo, sporting a new trophy and a 38-game winning streak, returns home to a community suddenly addicted to winning. Whatever the drug they consumed that night, whatever produced the sound in that arena, they want more.
Millard South's undefeated 1989 state championship basketball team.
The grass-roots youth program — Wahoops — explodes. Kids who watched the championship game pick up their basketballs and dream of being Troy Glock.
The next year, Anderson prints practice jerseys highlighting the fourth-quarter deficit. The message is clear: Anything is possible.
The sophomore class, led by future Husker Jason Glock, never loses another game. And Mick Anderson never again receives underdog cheers at the state tournament.
When Ogallala finally upsets Wahoo in the ’92 Class B semifinals, the Warrior win streak is 114, third longest in the national record book.
At Pius, the ’89 defeat leaves a bitter taste. In the ensuing weeks, players and coaches dissect every movement — every decision. Hard to do when you don’t dare watch the game tape. Like spurned boyfriends, they demand to understand why. They find no easy answers.
Why didn’t Easley stay out of foul trouble? Why didn’t Burt dribble away from defenders to waste clock? Why didn’t Boudreau come back to the ball instead of going long? And most of all, why did Hendricks throw the pass? He took the loss the hardest.
Pius assistant Russ Uhing tells Hendricks, if you take the blame, you need to take the credit for all the wins. His response: Nobody remembers the wins.
That summer, Hendricks shows up for the Nebraska Coaches Association all-star game. Alphabetical order dictates room assignments. Who does Hendricks draw? Troy Glock.
They choose the same college, too. Both make varsity as freshmen at Nebraska Wesleyan, along with Columbus’ Chris Roth.
But sophomore year, Hendricks quits basketball and accepts a full-time job with a telemarketing company. During the day, he goes to class. At night, as the Plainsmen battle Midland and Doane, he oversees a staff of 20 to 30 callers. He has a 401(k). He entered college in pursuit of medical school, he said. The job allowed him to get through Wesleyan debt-free.
His coaches and teammates at Pius wonder if one night at Devaney ruined Hendricks’ love for the game.
Meanwhile in Kearney, Class A’s two biggest stars — Brian Nielsen and Steve Scheidegger — become teammates.
Occasionally, Nielsen pokes his new buddy about the ’89 state final. Until one day when Scheidegger speaks up.
"OK, say everything you need to say now and shut the hell up."
* * *
Matt Kelly was at Devaney doing camera work for the Big Ten Network a few weeks ago. He had some downtime before tip-off.
He started wondering if there were anything still around from ’89. A chair? A banner? The hoop on the east side?
"I wondered if I could finagle a way to get that rim."
Saturday night at 8:45 p.m., the Devaney Center will host its 212th and last boys state championship game.
Kelly knows the jitters and the fears. He also knows the rewards. He’d love to pull aside every player on the court and remind them to soak it up.
"Next to the birth of my daughter, that’s the best night of my life."
For the losers, Nebraska high school basketball’s greatest night is harder to cherish. It still gnaws at them. But ask any of them, "Would you have rather lost in the semifinals?" The answer is no. Even for Hendricks.
"Obviously, I wish I would’ve never thrown that pass," said Hendricks, now an orthopedic surgeon in Kansas City, where he coaches his daughter’s basketball team. "But I would do it all over again. ...
"That’s the most public failure in my life. And I hope it remains that way, because if that’s the biggest thing I do wrong, then I’ve done OK."
It’s funny, all the main characters walked away from March 11, 1989, with different memories. Hendricks remembers losing his keys. Kelly remembers Thin Mints. Dale Ribble recalls "Smoke on the Water." But every single one still hears the sound when Troy Glock’s shot went in. And the Pius point guard remembers what he did next.
In seventh grade, John Boudreau’s team started 18-0, then lost the final game of the season. He declined to congratulate his opponents.
This time, as Wahoo fans storm the court, Boudreau has tears in his eyes when he fulfills a promise to himself. He finds the hero, reaches out and shakes his hand.
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