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12/14/2008 - From the Press Box: Larsen picks up 500th win, Lincoln boys teams dominating

Jeff Motz

John Larsen has achieved what only a few high school girls basketball coaches have ever done in the state of Nebraska.  Larsen became the newest member of the 500 win club Friday night, after number one Lincoln Southeast beat North Platte 59-41.  He's right behind South Sioux City's Kelly Flynn and the state's all-time leader Ken Cook of Freeman (formerly Adams).

For Larsen, it could be the cherry on top of the whip cream to a coaching career that's given him nine state championships, several district titles and super-state players since he took over as head coach in 1979-80.  The dynasty he's built up at Southeast is quite remarkable and continues to bring excellence to the athletic department.  

For years, Larsen along with Chuck Mizerski in football, and Ted Larson in Track and Field and Cross Country helped shape the all-sports championships Southeast would receive.  Swimming and Diving championships also were part of that success.

But Larsen's achievements are certainly worthy of him being in the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame.  I would imagine he'll get a few more nominations from here on out, if he already hasn't.  

When you think of high school basketball success over the years in Lincoln, three schools come to mind.  Northeast and Lincoln High in boys basketball and Southeast in girls basketball.  It's hard to pinpoint which of Larsen's championship teams are the best.  He had some tough teams in the mid 1990s and last season's title team was very tough, too.  You'll have to be the judge on that.

Lincoln boys basketball is back?

Is it too early to say that boys basketball is back on the scene in the capital city?  It's never gone away, but hasn't been the hot bed for tough teams like in years past.  But I'm convinced it's back.  

Lincoln Southwest (4-0) came from down 22-9 at halftime to beat 3rd ranked Lincoln High 39-37 Friday night.  The Silver Hawks were scoreless in the 1st quarter and didn't score until two minutes into the 2nd quarter.  Saturday night, Southwest took care of Columbus easily, winning 59-36.  The week before, they decimated Papillion-LaVista and beat pre-season number one ranked Omaha Creighton Prep by four, without two of Prep's top players.  

I'm convinced that Southwest could make a pretty good run this season, but could face some trouble with other high-powered Lincoln teams.  

East High has bounced back as a contender and could very well be among the cream of the crop.  The Spartans won the Great Nebraska Shootout, by beating Southeast.  They disposed of Kearney Friday night, but lost to Papillion-LaVista South.  With Tyson Clark, Drew Sankey and Reece Schwartz, East will be tough to beat.

Speaking of Southeast, the Knights had an impressive win over North Platte Friday night.  I left the Prasch Center fully convinced that Jeff Smith's squad is highly competitive and will try to make every game up tempo as possible.  They're aggressive on defense and move the ball around well on the perimeter.  

Northeast and North Star are enjoying great starts to their respective seasons.  The Rockets picked up two road wins over the weekend, beating Columbus 52-41 on Friday and Millard South 45-43.  North Star continued on the winning track, picking up a 51-48 overtime win at Norfolk.  

Lincoln High has hit a rough patch to start the season.  The loss to Southwest Friday and North Platte a week ago didn't help matters.  Perhaps finding a key point guard to fill the shoes of Josh Riser is the solution.  On paper, Lincoln High is very talented.  Don't expect them to stay down for long.
Coming up next week, I'll have a preview to the Heartland Conference Tournament.

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