Cam Binder did it again.
Auburn’s sophomore sensation delivered his second game-winning dagger of the state tournament, this time a side-step 24-footer that fell through the net with three seconds left, propelling the Bulldogs to a 30-29 win over North Bend Central in the Class C-1 boys state title game Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Binder’s game-winner came two days after he nailed an 18-footer at the buzzer in Auburn’s opening-round win over Grand Island Central Catholic.
So, what was going through the 6-foot guard’s mind?
“I knew I had to shoot a three,” Binder said with his team trailing 29-27 at the time. “I didn’t want to give them a chance in overtime with our big guy (Josh Lambert) out with fouls. I’ve been working on those types of shots for years.”
Binder, who finished with a game-high 14 points, scored the final six of the game for Auburn. His double-clutch three off a flare screen tied the game at 27 with 1:40 left.
North Bend reclaimed the lead at 29-27 when sophomore Breckin Peters drove and finished a short jumper in the lane with 23 seconds left, setting up Binder’s heroics.
Auburn coach Jim Weeks, who won his fourth state championship — the previous three coming at Beatrice — was proud of his team, which does not have a senior on the roster.
“It was a slugfest,” Weeks said. “At the end of the game, you have a star that makes two big shots. You know we have a lot of selfless guys. They’re young guys … they don’t have to get ‘theirs,’ so it’s a lot of fun.”
Early on, it looked as if Auburn might run away. The Bulldogs raced to a 12-2 lead after CJ Hughes converted a layup at the 1:14 mark of the first quarter.
But the Tigers would crank up the defensive pressure and finally took their first lead of the game at 23-22 with 5:20 left in the fourth on a Benjamin Rolenc layup.
Tigers coach John Baehr said his guys were confident once they grabbed the lead, but Binder just made a spectacular play at the end.
“We felt they’d come out and run a high ball screen or high flare,” Baehr said. “We wanted to make him take as tough a shot as we could. Sometimes great shots happen. He (Binder) made a great shot.”
Binder’s two threes were the only three-pointers Auburn made all game. North Bend’s Tanner Wietfeld smothered Binder the majority of the game with his defense.
Binder didn’t hesitate to say frustration had set in before his pair of late makes.
“Very frustrating,” he said. “But I’m blessed to make that shot. I made the big ones and that’s what I’m happy about.”
With the final buzzer sounding after a desperation North Bend heave missed its mark, the large contingent of Auburn fans erupted in celebration.
So, what does a first-ever state championship mean to the Auburn community? Binder put it best.
“It means everything. At the time it makes grown men cry.”