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An Ode to the Court: The Millard North vs. Bellevue West Basketball Saga

Bellevue West's Jaden Jackson after cutting down the net in the 2024 Nebraska Class A boys state basketball championship!

In the heart of Nebraska, a high school basketball rivalry has unfolded with such intensity and emotion that it has captivated not just the local community but basketball fans statewide. The Bellevue West Thunderbirds and the Millard North Mustangs have, over the past five years, etched a narrative so compelling, it feels like the pages of a best-selling sports novel. This saga, filled with ups and downs, triumphs and heartaches, has showcased the sheer talent and spirit of young athletes, leaving an indelible mark on Nebraska's basketball history.

The chronicle began in 2020, amidst the global upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In a championship clash for the ages at a near-empty Pinnacle Bank Arena, the year featured Bellevue West's Chucky Hepburn, now starting at Wisconsin, and Millard North's Hunter Sallis, a Wake Forest standout and NBA prospect, among several other Division 1-level talents. Bellevue West, in a display of sheer willpower, overturned a deficit with a 16-0 run to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, winning 64-62. This game was more than a match; it was a testament to the resilience and determination of young athletes in the face of global uncertainty.

The following year, the burgeoning rivalry reached new heights as the championship game stretched into a gripping overtime, setting the stage for a historic moment. Millard North emerged victorious, clinching the game with an 84-78 win. This victory transcended mere triumph; it was a profound declaration from star-studded, senior-heavy teams embroiled in an intensifying rivalry. It underscored the Mustangs' unyielding spirit and marked a significant chapter in their storied competition. Notably, this victory in 2021 was especially momentous as it secured Millard North's first boys basketball state title, a landmark achievement that celebrated the culmination of years of dedication and hard work. Furthermore, this win represented a milestone for storied Millard North head coach Tim Cannon, securing his first state title and etching his name into the annals of Nebraska high school basketball history.

The triumph of 2021 set the stage for Millard North to continue their dominance into 2022, where they once again showcased their prowess and team synergy. In a display of resilience and strategic mastery, Millard North successfully defended their title, winning back-to-back championships. This 67-57 victory in 2022 not only solidified the Mustangs' status as a powerhouse in Nebraska boys basketball but also underscored the emergence of a dynasty under the guidance of Coach Cannon, further fueling the competitive fire of this riveting rivalry.

In 2023, Bellevue West, led by Creighton's Josiah Dotzler, who scored 16 points, reclaimed their glory with a commanding 64-41 victory over Millard North. This win was a redemption, a reclaiming of pride and a reminder of the cyclical nature of sports, where today's victors can be tomorrow's challengers.

The 2024 championship game added another chapter to this storied rivalry. Bellevue West, led by the stellar performance of Jaden Jackson, who scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds, secured their back-to-back championship, defeating Millard North 57-48. This victory was not just about the score; it was the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and an unyielding belief in team spirit.

Over the past five years, the basketball rivalry between Bellevue West and Millard North has been more than just a series of games; it's been an epic saga filled with unforgettable moments and thrilling stories. Bellevue West's impressive record of 130 wins against just 11 losses, including three state championships, highlights their dominance and resilience on the court. Notably, 5 of those losses came at the hands of Millard North, underscoring the razor-thin margin between triumph and defeat in their matchups. On the other side, Millard North has also shown remarkable strength, amassing 123 wins and 17 losses, with two state titles to their name. It's worth mentioning that 6 of their losses were against Bellevue West, illustrating the intense rivalry and high level of competition between these two teams. This back-and-forth battle has not only entertained fans but has also created a rich tapestry of memories that celebrate the spirit of high school basketball.

This rivalry has been a showcase of talent, with too many players to name who have gone on to shine at the collegiate level and beyond. It has been a testament to the power of sports to inspire, unite, and celebrate the human spirit. As we look back on these incredible five years, we are reminded of the beauty of high school sports, where young athletes not only chase their dreams but also create lasting legacies.

The Bellevue West and Millard North saga is more than just basketball; it's a celebration of youth, passion, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. Cheers to an insane five years that have left us all in awe, wondering if we'll ever witness anything quite like it again in Nebraska.


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