Just two days before the start of the Boys State Basketball Tournament, I pondered the thought of how it would fare attendance-wise through the weekend without any Lincoln teams competing. Little did I know that nearly 100,000 people would wander down to Lincoln for the three days of the tournament. Specifically, about 91,000 people total saw some of the most exciting state tourney games in recent memory.
Which brings me to my next point......move the Class A game to the grand finale time slot of Championship Saturday. Why? Simple. It's the oldest of all the classes in the NSAA classification system and it showcases the state's biggest schools with the top-notch talent we have to offer. Now, I'm not taking anything away from the smaller schools as far as talent goes.....but more the recognizable names are associated with Class A schools.
Josh Jones of Omaha Central, Antoine Young of Bellevue West, Ted Stessman of Creighton Prep, Joey Rousseau of Kearney, Norfolk's Brett Shively and Omaha Bryan's JC Hall were among the elite of Class A at this year's tournament. Jones and Young had a great duel in the title game, as the Eagles and Thunderbirds went overtime against each other for the second straight year. Central won their first back to back championship since the days of John C. Johnson and Clay Bullard in 1974 and 1975 and marked the first time the Class A title game featured the same teams in two years, since Lincoln Northeast beat Central in 1967 and 1968.
Do I need to prove myself anymore about moving the Class A game on Saturday to prime-time? If you think I should, then e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll respond to questions you might have about the lineup. Class A and Class B should be played later in the day in order to attract a bigger crowd and captivate a statewide audience.
For once in my young journalistic career, I can't find the words to describe high school basketball in Lincoln this year. The girls teams totally outshined the boys teams because the girls actually had four teams play for a shot at winning the hardware, but all fell short in the quarterfinals or semi-finals.
To me, this is the lowest point that basketball has been at in Lincoln since I've been alive. Never in my lifetime did I ever imagine that the capital city would be shutout IN ALL CLASSES. This leaves Lincoln area high school boys basketball at a crossroads for next season. I know, I know.....you're probably saying the wild-card system is to blame, or the district alignment wasn't fair, or the Omaha Shootout railroaded Northeast from playing team in Florida. In the end, it's about the teams you played and what games you should have one.
I point out Northeast as an example because, in my opinion, they should have beaten Lincoln North Star earlier in the season (the Gators won 56-55 in overtime) and they could have beaten Lincoln Southwest in the Heartland Conference Holiday Tournament. I'm not taking anything away from North Star or Southwest, but Northeast had a lot of their opponents in the palm of their hand and let them get away.
The Rockets finish in our Union Bank Top Ten as the ninth best team in Class A. Southwest is ahead of them at number eight, but for good reason. The Silverhawks went on a win streak through the final portion of the regular season all the way to the district championship game, where they came back and nearly upset eventual state champ Central. Credit Duane Baack for rebounding his team to upset teams like Northeast, Kearney and Bellevue West.
Folks, this is not the end of the world. It's the beginning of getting back on the road to dominance in Class A and, for that matter, Class B. Pius X and Norris proved to be pesky through the latter part of the season. Waverly, I thought, had a chance to really be a contender this year, but things just didn't pan out like they should have. Maybe next year.
Again, I still had a great time at this year's State Basketball Tournament. Full of excitement, drama and great story lines, including St. Edward's Shavontae Samuels coming from Chicago to northeast Nebraska and guiding the Beavers to their first ever D-2 Boys title. This is one of the more historic tourneys I've been associated with. I'm already making plans for next year.