LINCOLN -- MaNaPe Cleveland and D’Von LaPointe made sure that Winnebago will get its chance to avenge a loss to Wahoo in last year’s state boys basketball tournament.
The fourth-ranked Indians (23-6) defeated Broken Bow 69-55 Friday morning in a Class C-1 semifinal game at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The win sets up a rematch of last year’s semifinal, won by Wahoo 55-52. This year, the meeting will decide the C-1 championship, starting at 9 a.m. at PBA.
Cleveland and LaPointe provided the offense as Winnebago held off a spirited challenge by No. 7 Broken Bow. Cleveland scored 27 points while LaPointe added 25. Together, they were too much for Broken Bow (23-4) to handle.
LaPointe was 11-for-18 from the field while Cleveland made 10 of 17, including a 5-for-8 effort from beyond the arc. Maurice Scott added 10 points.
“He stepped up big time today,” Winnebago coach Jeff Berridge said of Cleveland. “Yesterday, he was kind of frustrated with the game but today he came up big. That’s what we need. One game at a time, somebody is going to have a big game and MaNaPe had it today.”
While most of Cleveland’s damage was done from outside the lane, LaPointe dazzled with his driving and ball-handling skills. Several shots came after quick, acrobatic moves to the basket.
Winnebago’s defense focused on Broken Bow point guard Padyn Borders, who scored 22 points in a first-round win over Boone Central/Newman Grove. Borders scored nine in the first half, but Winnebago’s disruptive defense held him to just four in the second half. LaPointe drew the assignment of stopping Borders.
“He’s a really good player,” LaPointe said. “Guarding him was a big challenge. I buckled down and we tried to contain him.”
Winnebago never trailed after sprinting to an 8-0 lead in the game’s first two minutes. Broken Bow rallied from a 14-point hole in the second period and pulled to within five points early in the final quarter on a three-point play by Kevin Linn, who scored a team-high 22 points. Winnebago restored order with a 9-0 run to seal the win and set up the school’s third state championship appearance.
The Indians’ win snapped a string of two consecutive losses in the semifinal round, to Elmwood-Murdock in 2016 and to Wahoo last year.
“It means a lot to the seniors to get back to the championship game,” Berridge said. “They’ve had this goal for a long time and we finally got over the hump and made it back to the championship game. We’ll give Wahoo the best we’ve got.”