Lincoln East remains a solid team in the early stages of the boys basketball season, hanging by a thread to win at Kearney on Friday night, before returning home Saturday to beat Elkhorn South.
The Spartans (4-0) are proving early their schedule is challenging, but are able to find ways to win in big games.
East's 45-44 win at Kearney came from a very poor shooting performance, but good defense helped and a 10-0 third quarter scoring spurt helped down the stretch.
Hayden Barrett happened to be in the right place at the right time. The East senior tipped in a missed layup from Sam Griesel with 1.5 seconds left that sent those Spartan fans who made the two-hour trip west into a frenzy.
Yes, there is no question that East is THE favorite to win the city and if they win their third straight Heartland Athletic Conference Tournament title later this month, will move up in the rankings.
BUT.......let's consider teams like Lincoln North Star, Lincoln Southwest and Lincoln High into the fold of teams that could make runs in the HAC tourney, when it starts on Dec. 28.
North Star has won their last three games, after losing the season opener to Elkhorn South. The Navigators have a great player in Donovan Williams, who poured in 33 points in a 66-59 win over Lincoln High last Thursday night.
Southwest improved to 2-2 after a 54-46 win at home against Millard West on Saturday night. What's interesting to note about the Silver Hawks is they have depth and experience (similar to football).
Southwest opened up the season with a 66-60 win over No. 5 Millard North, but fell to top-ranked Creighton Prep 51-44 and Papillion-LaVista South 79-68. Upsetting Millard North and hanging with Prep may help the Silver Hawks garner some votes to consider a top-ten spot when the new rankings come out in January.
Lincoln High has experience that may be starting to pay off. The Links also upset No. 5 Millard North and got a win over Papillion-LaVista South before dropping games to No. 4 Bellevue West and North Star.
Let's bring in No. 10 Lincoln Pius X, who has earned wins over Millard West and Lincoln Southeast in the first two weeks, but have fallen to No. 3 East and No. 9 Millard South. Still, I think the Thunderbolts are very worthy of being contenders for most of this season, regardless of they are ranked or not by next month.
Disappointments? There is no question that Lincoln Northeast and Southeast were going to feel massive growing pains this year.
First, the Rockets lost ALL but one of their veteran players either to graduation or transfer. Through four games, basketball tradition rich Northeast is the complete opposite of where they were a year ago (3-1).
Some juniors and seniors on this year's team, who may have been strictly on the JV last season, are getting their first taste of high-level competition and will continue to find ways to improve and adjust. Plus, there are talented sophomore newcomers that may adapt to a higher level through the season.
Northeast hasn't seen this kind of start to a boys basketball season in a long time, if ever. The Rockets last dismal season was a 3-15 finish in 2002-2003 before the massive turnaround midway through the following season and a district run into the state tournament.
Secondly, Southeast is going through adjustment under a new coach and system. First-year coach Jonah Bradley (a former Norfolk and Nebraska Wesleyan basketball player) has the knowledge and wherewithal to turn the Knights back into a winning program.
Ultimately, Bradley would like to get Southeast back to State and hopefully bring home a boys basketball crown, which has eluded the Knights on five occasions between 1978 and 2003.
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