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02/09/2014 - From The Press Box: Benson Is Looking Good Rounding Out Regular Season
 Omaha Benson is the real deal, period.

Watching them play Feb. 1 at Lincoln Northeast, Benson overcame a slow first half and exploded on a 21-9 third quarter run that essentially put the game away and gave the Bunnies a 63-42 win over the Rockets.

What set the tone was the first play of the third quarter when Danny Barfield threw an alley-oop to 6-10 center Thik Bol, who caught and did a two-hand reverse dunk in mid-air.

My thought at the time, we're off to the races.

Nothing against Northeast's style of play, of course, because they kept it close in the first half and got Benson's all-state guard Khyri Thomas into early foul trouble.  But they were out-matched, size-wise.

The Rockets got great help from senior forward Connor Springman, who had 15 of the 20 Northeast points at halftime.   But Thomas continued to make plays and capitalized on three dunks of his own to spark the Bunnies.  

This weekend, Benson flexed their muscle again by upsetting previously top-ranked Omaha Central and fifth-ranked Omaha South.  Thus, is why the Bunnies are No. 1 in this week's Union Bank Boys Basketball Class A Top Ten.

Lincoln Southeast is No. 3 and had an impressive showing by defeating Lincoln North Star 77-58 Thursday night and Lincoln High 74-56 on Friday night, both games slated to be highly competitive and decided by close margins.

It should come as no surprise that our site focuses on providing coverage of Lincoln area schools, but as we head into the final two weeks of the regular season, you'll need to know these Metro teams because they are flat-out good.

In a conversation I had with some close friends this weekend about the caliber of basketball talent in Lincoln, the common theme based on their observations for the "lackluster" talent level in recent years has been centered on extra schools.

That may be true to an extent.  However, Southeast boys and girls have regrouped into respectable programs.  Northeast's girls team is solid and in the hunt for a run in Class A.  Lincoln High has been decent in recent years with their boys program.

But consider this.  In 2002, when Lincoln Southwest opened up, Southeast had their boys and girls basketball teams playing in state championship games.  The Southeast football program dropped off the radar screen after winning 2002 title for the next few years when Southwest's football program took off.  Many of the kids who were underclassmen at Southeast made the switch to Southwest to start a new tradition.

When Lincoln North Star opened up in the fall of 2003, word on the street was that any hidden talent leftover at Lincoln High and Northeast planned to go to North Star.  It certainly affected enrollment numbers at both schools, but the Links and Rockets still had teams go to the state football playoffs and boys and girls basketball tournaments.  

Northeast won the girls title in 2005 and finished runner-up in 2006, after embarking on a 48-game win streak.  The Rocket boys made three-straight trips to the state tournament in 2004, 2005 and 2006, with great talent.  Lincoln High last had their girls basketball team in the dance in 2004, but the Links have been regulars off and on at the boys tournament the last ten years.

Like in the mid to late 1990s in Omaha, the caliber of talent in Lincoln is not on the same level with many Metro teams.   Lincoln teams dominated during that time period, but a shift was happening in the early 2000s that put teams like Bellevue West, Central and Creighton Prep on the map again.

Believe what you want in this never ending debate.  Really, there's no right or wrong answer.  It could be due to a couple of new schools that you don't see as much dominance by Lincoln teams or the talent level is not like what it used to be.

But some of the teams in the past 10 years have proven everybody wrong.
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