FILE PHOTO: Basketball

After guiding the Hastings High School boys basketball team to its first state tournament appearance in 16 years, Lance Creech decided it was time to hang up the label of “coach” and focus on being “dad.”

Creech is stepping down after going 81-78 in seven years with the Tigers. That included an impressive 21-4 campaign this year which included that state appearance and an overtime loss to Class B runner-up Omaha Roncalli in the first round.

This season’s team included a strong corps of seniors, including Creech’s son Connor. Being able to follow his son’s college career starting next season at Western Nebraska Community College was a big part of Creech’s decision to step down.

“It’s just time,” he said. “(Coaching) has been 25 years of my life. I’ve missed a lot of time with my children, and now that my youngest son is going off to college, that’s 95% of the reason. That’s why I started coaching high school instead of college.

“I’ve spent a lot of time coaching as a high school assistant, college assistant, college head coach and high school head coach.”

The former Hastings College head coach has compiled a career record of 270-288.

It was a decision that Creech has been thinking about for some time.

“It was always on my mind over the last year, I think,” he said. “I feel the program is in a pretty good spot. I know we’re losing a lot of players – a lot of good players – but I think the team can still play at a high level.”

The Tigers put together their most productive season since going 18-5 and advancing to the Class B semifinals in 2004.

Creech’s final game came in the Bob Devaney Sports Center with only immediate family of the team allowed in the building due to the coronavirus concerns.

“The season obviously ended in an awkward situation with not only what’s going on in the country but also ended abruptly in overtime,” he said. “We were down 13-1 and kept fighting to make it a game.”

Creech’s final season coaching Hastings High was a memorable one.

“We had four losses this year by a total of 18 points,” he said. “One was to a state champion (C-2 champ BRLD), one to a state runner-up (Roncalli), one to a third-place team (Adams Central in C-1) and one to a state qualifier (Mount Michael Benedictine).”

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