Norfolk's boys basketball team and MLB's Kansas City Royals have a common bond, they won their second major championship 30 years after winning the first title.
Saturday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Panthers won the Class A championship 68-49 over a bruised and banged up Papillion-LaVista team, giving Norfolk their first boys basketball title since 1987.
The Panthers utilized their ability to attack the basket in the second half and pulled away. Papio tried to counter with outside shots that couldn't fall and 6-8 junior forward Ed Chang was dealing with an ankle sprain he suffered in Friday night's win against Kearney.
Ayo Akinwole led the Monarchs with 16 points, while Chang finished with 10. UC-Davis recruit Logan Strom finished with 12 points and 17 rebounds, while Lane McCallum added 18 points and Christian Eisenhower scored 11 points in the win for Norfolk.
Like the Royals, the Panthers ended the 30-year drought.
Here's something to consider. Since 1961, there have been six non Omaha and Lincoln teams that have won the boys Class A basketball title.
Grand Island-1999 and 2002
Mathematically speaking, that's about an average of 12 to 13 years when a greater Nebraska school wins Class A.
Lincoln High was the last Lincoln team to win Class A in 2003. Since then, the Metro Conference has dominated with Bellevue West (three titles), Omaha Central (seven titles), Creighton Prep (two titles) and Omaha South (one championship).
For Norfolk coach Tony Siske, this is only the beginning of what could possibly be a run of Panther teams to state. He rebuilt Scottsbluff into a power (leading them to a 2012 Class B title) and has continued the rebuilding process at Norfolk that Ben Ries started before he became the school's athletic director.
Overall, the basketball season was full of highs and lows. Next year looks to be promising. The question remains, will Lincoln be back with more power in the boys basketball race?
FAREWELL TO KEN AND RYLY JANE HAMBLETON
Two of the state's best prep sports writers with more than 80 years combined at the Lincoln Journal Star are putting away their keyboards to enjoy retirement.
Ken and Ryly Jane Hambleton have been fixtures at local sporting events for a long time. I never thought the day would come where I would be sharing press box space with both of them at various gyms, football and baseball fields around southeast Nebraska.
As a kid, you'd read the sports section and see an article written up by Ken about a Class B game or a baseball game between Nebraska and Oklahoma State. Ryly Jane had been the head prep sports writer for over 30 years, rated football, boys basketball and baseball teams during that stretch run.
Both covered the Northeast basketball teams I played on during the '90s, sometimes printing my name, if I was part of a key play or some other contribution.
Eventually, as a broadcaster, I got to share press box space with them, hoping I would never be intruding or bothersome while they were trying to work. Never a problem with both of them.
I truly thank the Hambletons for their professional courtesy over the years and always great to talk sports with them before ballgames. Ryly Jane paved the way for women sportswriters in the state. Her knowledge of prep sports in Nebraska is quite remarkable. I've even served with her on the media advisory panel for the Nebraska School Activities Association the last two years.
The stories they share of covering various high school teams, Nebraska football, baseball, Nebraska Wesleyan athletics and so forth could keep my attention for hours.
Now they are trading in their laptops/tablets/keyboards to enjoy retirement. Golf and travel, watching the Cubs at Wrigley Field are what Ken and Ryly Jane Hambleton are likely to be doing in the years to come.
Congratulations on a great run at the Lincoln Journal Star and may you enjoy many years of enjoying life!
BASEBALL SEASON IS UPON US
It may not feel like it's time to play baseball, but it's already here. Starting Thursday, we'll carry the first of 13 games during the regular season on LincolnPrepSports.com.
You can join me for the play-by-play of Lincoln Northeast and Waverly from Lawson Park in Waverly. First pitch is at 5 o'clock.
Hard to say which Lincoln team may shine from the others. We'll have our first Union Bank Baseball Top Ten sometime early next week.