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12/24/2011 - From The Press Box: Winning The HAC Tourney On Holiday Wishlists for Lincoln Schools

Jeff Motz

Jeff Motz

If there is one thing any of the Lincoln basketball teams want for Christmas, it's likely going to be a Heartland Athletic Conference tournament championship.

Especially on the boys side.

Heading into the Christmas break, Southeast has picked up the No.1 seed in the upcoming HAC tourney Dec. 29-31 in Fremont.  The Knights have the best record among the city's Class A schools at 4-2 and will look to maintain a winning mark in the tournament.

Southeast's only losses have come at the hands of Norfolk and Omaha Central, two of the state's most powerful teams.  Perhaps the biggest win of the season, so far, may have been the overtime win in the season opener against Omaha Creighton Prep.

With that said, at this juncture, I think Southeast is clearly the favorite to win the city this year.  That's not to say that Lincoln High or the rest of the schools don't stand a chance.  Frankly, things are wide open.

Speaking of Lincoln High, I'm surprised at how the first month of the season hasn't been as smooth as expected.   They fell to a sub-.500 Southwest ball club by three points and had to perform a second half rally against East last week to defeat the Spartans, who have one win on the year. 

The Links arguably have the best guard trio in the city.  John Harris Jr., Deondre White and Demarius Lott have experience and ability.  What's the problem?   That's the question Lincoln High fans are probably wondering, especially if the Links want to compete for a city title and a shot at State.

Thursday night's boys game between Northeast and North Star was the warm-up act for their HAC tourney first round matchup.  The Rockets came back from being down 28-27 at the half to win 62-55 over the Navigators.  

Credit Northeast's Jordan Brown and Connor Deines for stepping up to have 17 and 15-point performances respectively.  In seeing the Rockets beat Columbus 59-36 just over two weeks ago, Deines had a 19 point game off the bench.  He may be the secret weapon for Coach David Mercer.

But in order for Northeast to prevail again over the 'Gators, they need to shoot the ball like they did in the second half of Thursday's game.   Free throws are key, too.  That's been one of the sticking points for Northeast this season.

On the other hand, North Star is likely to take Thursday's game video, find out the mistakes they made and work on them before their game with Northeast in Fremont.  Noah Housh turned out a 19-point performance in the losing effort.  If Housh, Kiefer Musiel and Deonte Holt are on their game, that could make the difference.

The girls portion of the tournament may likely come down to Southeast and Northeast.  Why?  Simple.....talent.

Iowa commit Alexa Kastanek and Nebraska commit Jess Shepard from Southeast against Kansas State recruit Brianna Craig and 6-2 sophomore Toni Tupper of Northeast.  If it happens, expect a great basketball game between two good programs.

In closing,  I want to wish my family, friends, players, coaches and fans of a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Looking forward to making 2012 another successful year! 

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