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01/02/2016 - From The Press Box: Packers Take Charge In New Ratings

 Omaha South enters the new year as the outright No. 1 team in the Union Bank Class A boys basketball ratings.  With good reason.

The Packers are undefeated at 9-0 and cruised to the Metro Conference title Thursday with a 54-32 win over Creighton Prep, who edged South last March for the Class A title.

One difference this year for the Packers has been Nebraska commit Aguek Arop.  The 6-6 junior was a perfect 7-7 from the field and 1-2 from the free throw line to score 15 points in the win over the Junior Jays.

Arop has certainly rebounded (no pun intended) from a year ago, after he suffered a season ending knee injury during the first game of the season.

Division I football prospect Noah Fant, who committed to Iowa, is another weapon in Omaha South's arsenal.  Fant may be one of the better power forwards the state has seen in a while.

Karlon McSpadden ranks toward the top for guards.  He proved to be the key force out front last season and has carried it over to this year in helping the Packers stay perfect.

Millard South is ranked No. 2 based on the Patriots nearly pulling off an upset in the Metro semifinals against Omaha South, losing 55-51.  Watch out for them!

Prep and Papillion-LaVista are right behind, while Norfolk is No. 5, despite winning the Greater Nebraska conference tourney.

Lincoln East, with a huge 71-58 win over previously unbeaten Fremont in the Heartland Athletic Conference championship, is No. 6 with an 8-1 record.  It's the best start for the Spartans since 1998-99, when they won the LPS Holiday tourney.  Clay Reimers continues to thrive and younger players like Jordan Janssen continue to improve.

Fremont come in at No. 7 still within reach of moving up the rankings.  By the way, the Tigers play East High again next Saturday (Jan. 9).  Veteran powerhouse Omaha Central is No. 8, while Lincoln Northeast enters the top ten at No. 9, despite finishing fourth in the HAC tourney.  

The Rockets, who lost to Lincoln Southeast 52-47 in the third place game, claimed a 70-62 win over the Knights a week before.

Kearney is ranked at No. 10.  The Bearcats upset Prep the first week of the season and still have great potential with younger talent.

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Tragedy struck the communities of Ravenna and Kearney just before Christmas, when Paul Beranek passed away from a battle with cancer.

Beranek, who coached the Ravenna boys basketball teams to four Class C2 state titles, lost his cancer battle Dec. 22.  He was 55-years-old.

Beranek, who grew up in Lincoln, was an art teacher at Ravenna.  Basketball and art were two passions, in addition to family.  Beranek had the chance to coach his three sons, Drake, Riley and Connor, all of whom played on state championship teams.

Paul Beranek showed up to Ravenna in 1983 and spent over 30 years as an art teacher and coach.  It wasn't until 1990 that he took over the Bluejays program, after serving as an assistant.

It would take a few years for Coach "B" to build up the program.  It paid off in 2005, when Ravenna won the C2 title.  The Bluejays even went toe-to-toe with Class A champ Bellevue West the following season.  Ravenna led 31-13 at one point, but Bellevue West roared back and won 63-61 to end the Bluejays' 41-game win streak before more than 3,000 fans.

Ravenna basketball was on the map again. 

Personally, I never met Paul Beranek but hearing stories from other coaches and players about the type of person he was..... I wished I would have had the chance to interview him just to meet one of the top coaches the state has ever seen.

Drake Beranek, now the head coach at Kearney, is following in his father's footsteps as a coach and his future looks very promising.

For the rest of this season and beyond #BStrong!

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