LINCOLN — On Thursday, the Sutton boys basketball team won its first state tournament game since 2003 — also the last time the Sutton won the state championship. For one Mustang, it's been a long time coming.
Senior Austan Rath has been on the varsity squad all four years of his high school career. As a freshman in 2010, he was on the team that lost 73-34 to the eventual state champion Ravenna in the first round of the state tournament. His sophomore year in the opening round, Sutton fell 48-38 to Lincoln Christian — the 2011 state champions.
But in 2012, Rath suffered a shoulder injury during the season. He tried to play through it but re-injured it, keeping him out of the district finals — was a 53-29 loss to the eventual state champions Ravenna that also kept Sutton from making the state tournament.
"That crushed me," Rath said Friday after Sutton defeated Hartington Cedar Catholic in the semifinals to reach this morning's Class C-2 state championship game at 9 a.m. at the Devaney Sports Center against Southern Valley. "I wanted to be out there with my teammates and get to the state tournament."
Sutton head coach Steve Spongberg knew Rath felt bad for not being able to be on the court, but Spongberg said Rath had no reason to feel that way.
"I was very appreciative of him trying to come back from the initial injury," Spongberg said. "I felt bad that we tried to use him in that situation, but I know he wanted to."
The injury kept Rath off the football field during the fall, but he was on the sidelines as a member of team, cheering the Mustangs on to a runner-up finish.
"I was on the team, but I didn't get to play. And that was really tough for me," Rath said. "I knew I would try and help them out in basketball, and I guess I did that a little bit."