LINCOLN — North Bend Central couldn't get much momentum — let alone the lead — in the first three quarters of Saturday morning's Class C1 championship game against Auburn at Pinnacle Bank Arena here.
So when the Tigers finally took their first lead with 5 minutes, 22 seconds left, it seemed like the tide had finally turned.
The same was true when North Bend grabbed a 27-24 lead after an easy basket by John Emanuel off a Breckin Peters assist with 1:57 left.
And it certainly appeared that way when Peters scored a driving layup with 23 seconds left for a 29-27 lead.
What happened next nullified all of that momentum.
In a game where Auburn didn't hit a 3-pointer over the first 30 minutes — and both teams struggled mightily shooting — Cam Binder hit a step-back 3-pointer in front of his team's bench with 1.4 seconds left and the Bulldogs beat the Tigers 30-29.
It was the game few expected to be played at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
First, there was Auburn, which stunned a shorthanded second-seeded Wahoo team to begin Friday's semifinals. Then North Bend followed suit by controlling previously undefeated and top-seeded Ogallala from start to finish to end a 92-year stretch between championship game appearances. North Bend was in the finals for the first time since 1926.
It was a game for those who appreciated defense because the teams combined for 58 field-goal attempts. North Bend finished 11 of 33 (33.3 percent) from the field, including just 2 of 9 from 3-point range. Auburn hit 10 of 25 (40 percent).
Tanner Wietfeld led North Bend with eight points, while Jaxon Wietfeld added seven and John Emanuel had six. Binder had a game-high 14 for Auburn, and Josh Lambert had seven before he fouled out with more than three minutes left.
The Tigers never got to within a bucket of the Bulldogs until a Chase Ruzicka steal led to Austin Endorf finding Jaxon Wietfeld for a wide-open 3 with 6:23 left. A minute later, Endorf spun in the lane and found Rolenc for easy two for North Bend's first lead and the swings in momentum.
John Emanuel put the Tigers within a possession to end the first half, and he won a staring contest in the process.
Emanuel stared down Bret Baltensperger as he dribbled and drained the clock down to less than 10 seconds. He took a jab step one way, cut the other to break away from Baltensperger, and got himself open for a driving layup just before the buzzer for a 16-14 deficit at the break and also end a 4½ minute scoring drought.
It didn't look good early on. The Bulldogs started with a 12-2 lead after Cam Binder scored on two layups in a span of three possessions, the latter one of those coming with 1:19 left in the first quarter.
North Bend missed five of its first six shots and finished the first quarter 2 of 8 from the field. In comparison, Auburn was 5 of 10 from the field and scored 10 of its 12 first-quarter points in transition, including a pair of 3-point plays.
North Bend answered with its own transition offense. Jaxon Wietfeld dropped in a layup, and then he got a steal that led to a Ben Rolenc putback to put the Tigers within 12-10.
Auburn hit four straight free throws to maintain its lead for the rest of the first half but did not make a field goal in the entire second quarter.
North Bend 6 8 4 11 — 29
Auburn 12 4 4 10 — 30
NORTH BEND CENTRAL (25-4): 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. Totals: 11-33 5-12 29.
AUBURN (24-3): Cam Binder 5-12 2-3 14; Calvin Hughes 1-4 0-0 2; Brody Darnell 1-1 1-1 3; Daniel Frary 1-3 1-2 3; Josh Lambert 2-5 3-4 7; Ryan Binder 0-0 0-2 0; Bret Balensperger 0-0 1-2 1. Totals: 10-25 8-14 30.