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01/18/2016 - From The Press Box: There's Still Hope For Northeast, East and North Star Boys
 Midway through the basketball season and many teams are starting to pull away from the rest of the pack.

Omaha South is a prime example, after coming to Lincoln on Saturday and beating Southwest 77-36 to improve to 13-0.  The Packers, last season's Class A runner-up, seems to have all the pieces in place to win their first state basketball title since 1990.

In Lincoln, the sleeper so far this season (believe it or not) has been Northeast.

After some early suspensions of players for disciplinary reasons and minor setbacks (losses to Millard West, Creighton Prep, Fremont, Lincoln Southeast and Kearney), the Rockets may have turned the corner.

Northeast (8-5) re-enters the Union Bank Class A Top Ten, after upsetting previously 8th-ranked Lincoln East on Friday and Omaha Central at the Ed Johnson Gym on Saturday.  Central was ranked No. 7.

Both wins are key for Coach David Mercer's team, who is in search of its third-straight post-season bid.  Junior Trace Tupper has shown a vast improvement from his sophomore season.  The 6-9 junior is averaging around 15 points and 11 rebounds (numbers reminiscent of former center Mike Hahn).

Freshman Malcolm Helmstadter-Whitlow, who seems to have picked up the same skills as older brother Payton, has been another big impact.  Junior Tyson Shadegg has comeback into mid-season form to help Northeast in big game situations and junior guard Talon Little is just as much of a help factor for the Rockets.

The win over East and Central helps Northeast's chances a great deal with only a month left in the regular season.

East, on the other hand, has suffered three straight losses and needs a win to help boost their confidence to where it was at when they won the Heartland Athletic Conference title a few weeks ago.

The Spartans are still a dangerous team and can't have the occasional off nights if they want to be playing in March at Pinnacle Bank Arena.  Guys like Clay Reimers, Pete Ackerman and Jordan Janssen need to stay productive just as they have for much of the season, while the guards Nate Netz and Hunter McPhail need to keep out of foul trouble.  Both are very important components to East's offense. 

This week, it gets more challenging for East.  They play at Millard South Friday night and host Kearney on Saturday.  Neither one will be cakewalks, but East has the capability of playing well in big games.  

Another surging team to keep an eye on is Lincoln North Star and for good reason.  The Gators, who rallied to beat a winless Bellevue East squad 58-49 Thursday night, made the trip to Norfolk and upset the Panthers 69-61 on Friday.

North Star, with help from three-point specialist Logan Cale and South Dakota recruit Triston Simpson, managed to knock off a Norfolk team with size, experience and quickness.

Omaha Bryan and Grand Island are up next for the Gators, which helps in further boosting confidence.  Both Bryan and G.I. are under .500 on the season.

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I'll take the technical foul for a cross up of web streams on Saturday afternoon.  

You may have noticed toward the tail end of the Omaha Central/Lincoln Northeast girls game that the stream of the Seward/Waverly girls game was coming through from

A mishap with the streaming software on the computer used at the Waverly game site had accidentally put that game on's mobile feed and fouled (no pun intended) everything up.

You could hear all of the Waverly/Seward boys game, but the Central/Northeast boys game was phased out on the mobile feed.

We re-aired the LNE game Saturday night as an "instant classic" and went off without a glitch.  

Thanks to those of you who shared concerns via Twitter @LNKPrepSports.
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