Aurora senior class will go down as one of its finest

This was it.
Aurora was going to rid itself of a hindering monkey on its back by winning a Class B tournament semifinal game at Pinnacle Bank Arena, something the Huskies haven’t done in four years.
Baylor Scheierman just sent an electric charge through the PBA crowd with a high-flying slam dunk, the intensity in his eyes proving this moment was made for guys like him.
The slam came off a defensive steal by Kaleb Moural, who sent the ball up the floor to Scheierman giving Aurora a 50-47 lead with 2:20 to play.
The basketball gods giveth, and taketh away, too.
Omaha Roncalli hit a three to tie things up just 10 seconds later as the game went to not just one, but two overtimes where the Crimson Pride defeated the Huskies, 75-66.
It was another heartbreaking end to a basketball season that featured so much promise and expectation.
For this specific group of six seniors, the expectations couldn’t have been any higher.
The entire basketball team was coming off a state championship in football and looking for the double with basketball.
Scheierman, Cade Reichardt, Nick Hutsell, Jordan Stevenson, Rylan Willis and Trevor Cumpston -- despite coming up short in the Class B state basketball tournament -- will be looked back upon as one of Aurora’s best teams.
Combining football and basketball, this group of seniors lost a combined two games -- both of which came on the basketball floor.
Adding their 13-0 football record into the equation, the Huskies were 39-2 on the year, coming up one game short of qualifying for the state finals in both.
Aurora has won four consecutive Central Conference tournament titles, something that’s never before been done by any team.
The Huskies have qualified now for the state tournament in four consecutive seasons -- something that’s been done twice in school history. It was first accomplished from 1919-1924 as well as 1978-1981.
Over the last four seasons, Aurora made it to the semifinals three times and added up a 97-11 record on the hoops floor.
With all that pedigree on the floor, there was little doubt what the Huskies were capable of.
Even when Roncalli missed the final shot of regulation to send the game to overtime, the confidence in the Huskies was still high.
“We never went into a game knowing we were going to lose and I’m so proud of my teammates and myself,” Reichardt said.
Aurora had earned a pair of overtime victories earlier this season over Wahoo and Seward in the Central Conference tournament. Both of those came with Scheierman heroics, the latter being a last-second shot to win it.
Scheierman scored all eight of Aurora’s first overtime points and even took a defensive charge that, if called the other way, would have ended his day.
The Huskies had the ball for the last shot in the first overtime and Scheierman dished to Stevenson inside, but the shot wouldn’t go. Play on.
At this point, who was going to stay hotter on offense would win. Unfortunately, that was Roncalli.
Still, a Scheierman three gave Aurora a 63-59 lead with three minutes to play.
However, once Roncalli took a 68-65 lead with 1:21 to play, Scheierman couldn’t keep pace and the Huskies slowly dwindled.
“I was just trying to do everything I could to help my team win,” Scheierman said. “I wanted to get to that next game so bad. Coach (Tom) Leininger deserves it. We’ve been working together for four years and I’m going to miss him.”
It was quite some time before the doors of the locker room opened and the players began to trickle out. Scheierman and Reichardt were very emotional, the best of friends realizing they’d played their final basketball game together -- the sport they grew to love all those years ago.
What does being from Aurora and wearing that name across their jersey mean to those guys?
“It means everything. I grew up here and I’m glad to be as Husky,” Reichardt said.
“It’s not like the metro teams where you have 40 elementary schools and 30 middle schools,” Scheierman said. “We’ve been playing together since elementary school and that makes us a closer group than other teams.”
While winning a state title would have been nice, it’s still a cool deal to win the Class B sportsmanship award.
That award goes way beyond the students, the cheerleaders and the band. It shows the kind of place Aurora is.
The band sounded great, the cheerleaders had awesome halftime routines along with everything they do during the game and the Dog Pound was completely into both games. The sportsmanship award was truly deserved.
Another chapter of Aurora basketball history was written without a happy ending. But what a ride it was.

RICHARD RHODEN can be reached at sports@hamilton.net.

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