From Way Out West

The Newsletter heads east to Lincoln the next two weeks. Let's get you all ready for this weekend's girls state basketball tournament.

SPLISH SPLASH: The NSAA state swimming and diving championships took place last weekend at the Devaney Center. The Creighton Prep boys and the Omaha Westside girls were crowned team champions. (Harvest Sports / Dante Boelhower)

Headed East

Wrestling, check. Swimming and diving, check. It is now time for the Newsletter to head east to Lincoln for state basketball the next two weekends. We hope to share updates, FIND stories and share with you great content to help advance the story of prep basketball in Nebraska.

Thank you (!!) for reading and sharing. As always, if you enjoy the Newsletter we’d love it if you would share with your friends by forwarding this e-mail or sharing a link on social media. And, if you see us in Lincoln, come say hello. We’d love to chat.

DO NOT READ the Newsletter while driving to the state tournament. Eyes up, just like a good point guard.

SILVERHAWK SOLDIER: Lincoln Southwest’s Kennadi Williams attacks the basket against Omaha Westside in last Friday’s district final. (Harvest Sports / Andrew Placke)

The Girls Hoops State Tournament Primer

We take a break from this week’s girls hoops Power 20 to give you a primer on the six-class state tournament that begins today at 9:00 AM. Classes A, C2 and D2 will play today with classes B, C1 and D1 on Thursday.

We’ll have full first round coverage in a special Friday Newsletter, a finals preview on Saturday morning and then a full recap coming to your inbox on Monday. If you like basketball, we hope to have you covered the next two weeks.

Let’s dive into each class at the state tournament. We’ll try to be brief, but you know us. After all, we are in the word business.

Class A: Top-seeded and Power 20, No. 1 Millard West has been the overwhelming favorite since winning the Metro Conference championship over the Christmas break. They have done little to make others think otherwise with not a single Nebraska blemish on their 24-1 mark.

Coach Marc Krueger’s team is led by junior Neliegh Gessert at 18.7 points per contest with twin sister Norah at 10.5. The ‘Cats have been bolstered by the emergence of sophomore Kylee Paben’s 11 points and seven rebounds an outing. Yes, if that last name rings a Beatrice Orangemen bell, it should.

The Scorer: Pre-season No. 1 Bellevue West may be the scariest team in the tournament field for opposing coaches. After a 6-6 start, coach Dane Bacon’s team has won 12 in a row. One reason? The scoring and playmaking of Naomi White who has averages of 18 points and seven rebounds per contest.

The Grinder: Nebraska commit Kennadi Williams has seemingly willed her Silverhawks to the state tournament. In leading LSW to a 21-3 record, Williams has averaged 16.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 3.2 assists for coach Tim Barada.

The Rest of the Field: Omaha Central (18-6); Millard North (17-7); Lincoln North Star (19-5); Lincoln Southeast (18-6); Papillion-LaVista South (17-7). The Class A Bracket

TO THE RACK: Omaha Skutt’s Moly Ladwig attacks the basket against Norris on Tuesday night. The Skyhawks won the Power 20 contest 61-55. (Harvest Sports / Andrew Placke)

Class B: Second-seeded, top-ranked and Power 20, No. 2 Elkhorn North continues to be the favorite for a fourth consecutive state title behind Nebraska pledge Britt Prince and Colorado State signee McKenna Murphy; two of the top scorers in the state.

Despite their 22-1 record, however, the Wolves have plenty of chasers. The top of the list includes No. 2 Omaha Skutt (25-1), but No. 4 Waverly (18-4) is EN’s lone defeat this season; a 58-48 set back on January 26th. Still, the heavy lean here is that Elkhorn North and Skutt will meet for a third straight Class B final on Saturday afternoon.

The Scorer: What are we doing if we don’t put Prince here even though their is a load of young talent in the Class B field? An over 2,000 point career scorer. She’s the one you take your daughter to watch. A special talent.

The New Guy: “Weekday” Wade Coulter brings first-year school Gretna East (18-7) to Lincoln as the four-seed. They played just one Class B regular season game and it was against their first round opponent, Waverly.

The Rest of the Field: South Sioux City (16-9); Scottsbluff (16-9); Norris (19-5); Beatrice (19-5). The Class B Bracket

Class C1: Top-seeded and second-ranked Lincoln Christian (22-2) brings most of the pressure with them to the state tournament in a completely loaded field that could see any of the eight teams survive to Championship Saturday. And, the Crusaders get four-time defending champion North Bend (17-8) in the opening round on Thursday morning. After a 1-5 start, the Tigers have won 16 of 19.

Four teams have been ranked No. 1 during the season and current No. 1 Bridgeport (24-0) will face preseason No. 1 Minden (20-3) — the state volleyball champions — in the first round Friday morning.

The Scorer: Without big sister Ruthie, Olivia Loomis-Goltl comes to Lincoln one more time. Also a 2,000 point career scorer, the Bulldogs come unbeaten to Lincoln searching for that elusive state title. The opening game with Minden will be must-see basketball.

The Freak: Speaking of the panhandle, you’d do well to make sure you get to see Sidney’s Karsyn Leeling. The Nebraska track signee is one of the best athlete’s we have seen in the past year. A terror on the defensive end of the floor, she won the Class B high jump and triple jump last spring and finished second in the long jump.

The Rest of the Field: Adams Central (20-5); Broken Bow (19-4); GICC “The Ruby Five” (23-2). The Class C1 Bracket

Class C2: Second-seeded but top-ranked Crofton (25-0) has been a unanimous No. 1 from our coaches since the opening tip of the season. They have done little to put doubt in anyone’s mind. They have yet to allow 50 points in a game all season. Top-seeded Yutan (21-2) faces Niobrara/Verdigre (19-6) — with the state’s leading scorer Josilyn Miller — in the opener.

The Rest of the Field: Cross County (23-3); Bishop Neumann (18-6); Clarkson/Leigh (17-6); Oakland-Craig (16-5); Elmwood-Murdock (24-1). The Class C2 Bracket

Class D1: There seems to be clear separation from the top-three in this class and the rest of the field. Which probably means someone will surprise us. No.1 GACC (21-2, two-seed) has a win over top-seed Pender (25-1) — the defending Class C-2 champion — in overtime. GACC’s only two losses are to Crofton. And, third-seed Southern Valley (26-1) has been dominant and holds a season-opening win over Minden.

The Rest of the Field: Bancroft-Rosalie (17-6); St. Mary’s (22-2); McCool Junction (20-3); Centura (20-6); Elgin Public/Pope John (22-2). The Class D1 Bracket

Class D2: Defending champion Falls City Sacred Heart (20-4), volleyball champion Overton (25-1) and perennial power Wynot (20-2) had all had turns at the top of the coaches poll this season. They are the top-three seeds in the tournament as well. Wynot was joined by other tournament qualifiers Howells-Dodge (13-10) and Humphrey St. Francis (15-9) in the same sub-district.

The Rest of the Field: Paxton (17-9); Sandhills/Thedford (21-4); Plainview (18-6). The Class D2 Bracket

COACH K: Centura assistant coach Scott Korinek works with player Jenna Fanta during Friday’s district final win over Summerland. (Harvest Sports / Tony Chapman)

Centura’s Coach K

Scott Korinek would probably prefer we don’t write this story. No need to shine the light on an assistant coach, right?

Well, coach. Just sometimes.

And, especially now when he is back with the Centura girls for a ninth time this week at the NSAA girls state tournament.  This assistant coach is a key cog in the Centura machine.

The Centurions, defending Class D-1 champions, draw top-ranked and second-seeded Guardian Angels Central Catholic in the opening round at the Devaney Center on Thursday at 6:00 PM.

The Season: Episode Four

In a season of ups and downs, learning and growth, Heartland ended their season at sub-districts last week with a win over Superior and a season-ending loss to top-seeded Sandy Creek. Heartland coach Taylor Siebert is mic’d up for their win over the Wildcats.

Episode Four of The Season presented by Tom Dinsdale Automotive dropped last night.

FOREVER A TEAM: Alex Wilkins (near) and Kade Cook (42) set to check in for the Dragons at the Heartland Hoops Classic. (Harvest Sports / Andrew Placke)

Still Fighting

Boys district play also wrapped up last night and the 48 teams are set for Lincoln when plays begins next Wednesday. One of those teams will be Gretna, which just continues to put their head down and play. Despite losing their coach in December. And with the weight of a whole town on their back. Our profile if you missed it is here.