After 14 weeks, the high school basketball ranks have been whittled down to 48 boys teams and 48 girls teams, and this year, they’ll all compete for a state title in the same week.
Because of the Big Ten Wrestling Tournament, the boys and girls state basketball tournaments have been combined into one six-day, 92-game extravaganza. Games will alternate from class to class and boys to girls at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Devaney Center and multiple Lincoln high schools throughout the week, culminating with six championship games on Friday and six on Saturday.
All 14 Class A games will take place at Pinnacle Bank Arena with the girls going first on Monday.
Top-seeded Millard South is the only team in the entire state who made it to the state tournament without a blemish on its record. The Patriots are 26-0 and they won the Metro Holiday Tournament without Omaha commit Cora Olsen in the lineup.
Millard South’s high-powered attack features four double-digits scorers in juniors Mya Babbitt (18.0), Khloe Lemon (15.7) and Olsen (11.8) and senior sharpshooter Megan Belt (11.1).
The Titans will take on No. 8 Bellevue West, led by Northern Iowa commit Taryn Wharton (13.9 points, 3.1 steals and 3.0 assists per game), in the first round. The Thunderbirds pulled off an upset over Lincoln Pius X in the districts final thanks to a game-winner from sophomore Dani Coyer.
On the other side of that half of the bracket, No. 4 Omaha Central features an explosive quartet of seniors Aaniya Webb (18.8 points per game), Northern Colorado commit Aniah Wayne (14.4 points per game) and Texas A&M volleyball commit Ital Lopuyo (10.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game) and sophomore Inia Jones (9.4 points and 4.5 assists per game).
The Eagles will face No. 5 Lincoln Southwest, led by senior forward Freddie Wallace (12.1 points per game) and sophomore guard Kennadi Williams (11.3 points, 3.3 steals and 2.9 assists per game), Coach Amy Williams’ daughter. The Silver Hawks beat the the Eagles 60-46 in the regular season (Central’s other two losses were against Millard South).
On the bottom half, No. 2 Fremont will face the wild card, Lincoln Pius X. Iowa commit Taylor Kissinger is looking to cap off her record-breaking career with a state title. She’s putting up 21.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game while shooting 42% from 3 on almost nine attempts per game. Sophomore McKenna Murphy (12.0 points per game) and seniors Sarah Shepard (10.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game) and Macy Bryant (9.9 points and 66 rebounds per game) play big roles as well.
Pius, led by another Markowski in junior Adison (12.7 points per game) handed Fremont one of its two regular season losses in double-overtime in the season-opener, though the Tigers avenged that loss in the HAC Tournament championship.
The final first-round matchup will pit No. 3 Lincoln High against No. 6 Bellevue East. The Links, coached by former Husker Dominique Kelley-Johnson, feature a trio of double-digit scorers in J’unti Franklin (13.4), Brian Robinson (12.2) and Kiana Wiley (10.0).
A pair of upperclassman set the tone for the Chieftains in junior Mya Skoff (17.8 points per game) and senior Riley Jensen (13.6 points per game).
The boys will tip off at PBA on Tuesday, starting with No. 1 Millard North against No. 8 Elkhorn South in the afternoon.
Creighton commit Jasen Green (17.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.2 blocks, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game) and fellow senior David Harmon (15.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game) have the reigning champions right back in the mix and looking to repeat despite losing three Division I players from last year’s team.
Senior Henry Burt (12.4 points per game) and junior Alec Noonan (11.6 points per game), the son of former Husker football player Danny Noonan lead the way for an otherwise deep and balance Storm squad. The Mustangs won their regular season meeting by 10 points.
The sophomore backcourt of Landon Pokorski (16.9 points and 3.5 assists per game) and Alex Wilcoxson (13.0 points per game, 44% from 3) lead the way for No. 4 Gretna, which has wins over five of the other seven state qualifiers including their first-round opponent, No. 5 Omaha Central.
The Eagles earned the wildcard after falling to Elkhorn South in the district finals. Loyola commit Jayden Dawson (17.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.1 steals per game) and PJ Davis (16.3 points per game) form one of the highest-scoring duos in the state.
Game three, tipping off the evening session on Tuesday, features No. 2 and 2020-21 state runner-up Bellevue West against No. 7 Lincoln Pius X. Junior point guard Josiah Dotzler (15.3 points, 4.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game) leads a deep and talented Thunderbird squad. The duo of South Dakota State commit William Kyle III (11.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game) and sophomore Jacob Arop (8.7 points and 6.5 rebounds) adds an inside presence to an otherwise perimeter-oriented team.
Pius goes 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7, 6-foot-7 in its starting frontcourt with North Dakota State commit Sam Hastreiter (14.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game), South Dakota State commit Jack Hastreiter (11.3 points per game) and Washburn commit Brady Christiansen (10.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game). Senior sharpshooter Jared Bohrer is averaging 11.0 points while shooting 41% from 3. Bohrer dropped 30 when Pius played Bellevue West in the regular season, but the Thunderbirds flirted with triple digits in a near-30-point win.
Tuesday’s nightcap is a rivalry game featuring No. 3 Omaha Westside against No. 6 Omaha Creighton Prep. Junior Tate Odvody (15.6 points per game) leads the way offensively while the senior trio of Reggie Thomas (11.8 points per game), Payson Gillespie (9.9 points per game) and Chandler Meeks (9.8 points and 3.0 assists per game) provide plenty of firepower as well.
Omaha commit Luke Jungers is playing the best basketball of his career for a Junior Jays team that has been ravaged by injuries to key players this season. The 6-foot-9 forward is averaging 16.5 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 55% from the field and 47% from 3. Senior guard Martel Evans (12.6 points per game) and junior Joey Rieschl (10.1 points per game, 41% from 3) add backcourt production. Westside blew out Prep during their regular season meeting, but the Junior Jays have played Bellevue West, Millard North and Omaha Central close since then.
Most of the Class B games will take place at Pinnacle Bank Arena, starting with the boys at 9 a.m. on Monday. The field includes the reigning state champion in No. 6 Beatrice, though top-seeded Skutt looks to be the heavy favorite.
Players to watch:
- No. 1 Omaha Skutt: senior G James Gninefou (15.0 PPG), junior F Jake Brack (14.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG), junior G J.J. Ferrin (12.8 PPG)
- No. 8 Blair: senior G Luke Ladwig (14.6 PPG, 3.0 APG)
- No. 4 Platteview: junior G Connor Millikan (28.3 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.4 SPG, 1.0 BPG)
- No. 5 Bennington: senior G Austin Holtz (17.8 PPG)
- No. 2 Omaha Roncalli: senior G Jake Orr (13.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 5.1 APG, 2.7 SPG), senior guard Austin Schwarz (13.1 PPG)
- No. 7 Waverly: junior G Preston Harms (12.9 PPG), junior G AJ Heffelfinger (12.5 PPG)
- No. 3 Scottsbluff: senior G Austin Thyne (15.7 PPG, 4.9 APG), senior G Tyler Harre (14.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG), junior guard Kellon Harris (13.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG)
- No. 6 Beatrice: senior G Elliot Jurgens (14.9 PPG5.6 RPG, 3.3 APG)
Led by then-freshman phenom Britt Prince, Elkhorn North won the state title in its first year of existence last season and returns to the state tournament as the No. 1 seed after handing Omaha Skutt its first loss of the season in the subdistrict finals.
Players to watch:
- No. 1 Elkhorn North: Britt Prince (24.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 4.6 SPG, 4.4 APG)
- No. 8 Waverly: senior F Abbie Carter (9.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG)
- No. 4 Norris: senior F Delaney White (12.5 PPG)
- No. 5 York: junior F Anna Briggs (9.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.2 BPG)
- No. 2 Omaha Skutt: Peyton McCabe (17.8 PPG, 3,0 APG)
- No. 7 Blair: senior G Makayla Baughman (11.7 PPG)
- No. 3 Hastings Adams Central: senior guard Libby Trausch (15.3 PPG)
- No. 6 Beatrice: sophomore guard Addison Hatcliff (9.8 PPG)
Reigning champion: No. 4 Auburn (has won three in a row).
- No. 1 Wahoo: sophomore G Marcus Glock (13.6 PPG)
- No. 8 Fort Calhoun: sophomore G Grayson Bouwman (17.5 PPG), senior F Carsen Schwarz (13.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 3.2 APG)
- No. 4 Auburn: sophomore G Maverick Binder (11.8 PPG)
- No. 5 Omaha Concordia: senior G Zac Kulus (14.2 PPG, 3.7 APG)
- No. 2 Ashland-Greenwood: senior G Cale Jacobsen (16.8 PPG, 6.4 APG, 6.2 RPG, 4.0 SPG)
- No. 7 Ogallala: Jeron Gager (17.4 PPG)
- No. 3 Kearney Catholic: senior G Brett Mahony (17.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.8 APG)
- No. 6 Wayne: senior G Tanner Walling (11.0 PPG)
- No. 1 Lincoln Lutheran: sophomore G Jenna Luebbe (7.6 PPG)
- No. 8 BRLD: senior forward Jordan Snyder (17.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.8 BPG), señor G Alyssa Bucholz (13.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.7 SPG)
- No. 4 Broken Bow: senior G Kya Scott (10.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG), senior G Kailyn Scott (10.3 PPG, 3.0 SPG)
- No. 5 Gothenburg: junior F Ellarey Harm (9.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG)
- No. 2 North Bend Central: junior F Kaitlyn Emanuel (14.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.3 SPG)
- No. 7 Malcolm: junior G Alyssa Fortik (16.3 PPG, 3.2 SPG, 2.9 APG)
- No. 3 Grand Island Central Catholic: junior C Lucy Ghaifan (14.1 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 2.1 SPG)
- No. 6 St. Paul: senior G Olivia Poppert (17.8 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 2.2 SPG)
- No. 1 Freeman: junior F Carter Ruse (20.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.3 SPG)
- No. 8 Amherst: sophomore F Tayje Hadwiger (12.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG)
- No. 4 Grand Island Central Catholic: senior G Isaac Herbek (16.3 PPG), senior F Marcus Lwory (14.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.6 APG), senior C Gil Jengmer (11.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG)
- No. 5 Doniphan-Trumbull: senior G Ethan Smith (12.3 PPG, 2.5 APG)
- No. 2 Hartington Cedar Catholic: junior F Jaxson Bernecker (14.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG)
- No. 7 Norfolk Catholic: senior G Brennen Kelley (13.4 PPG, 2.3 SPG)
- No. 3 Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family: senior F Jacob Sjuts (15.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.8 SPG), senior G Jacob Sjuts (12.0 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.8 SPG)
- No. 6 Howells-Dodge: senior G Blake Sindelar (20.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 6.8 APG)
- No. 1 Hastings Ct. Cecilia: senior G Bailey Kissinger (17.2 PPG, 2.7 SPG)
- No. 8 Elkhorn Valley: senior F Carney Black (14.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2.2 SPG)
- No. 4 Crofton: senior F Ella Wragge (12.2 PPG)
- No. 5 Ponca: junior G Ashlyn Kingsbury (12.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.7 APG)
- No. 2 West Point Guardian Angels Central Catholic: senior G Sophia Hass (9.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.0 SPG, 3.8 APG)
- No. 7 Oakland-Craig: junior G Chaney Nelson (15.7 PPG), junior G Sadie Nelson (13.0 PPG)
- No. 3 Bridgeport: junior C Ruthie Loomis-Goltl (19.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.5 BPG), sophomore G Olivia Loomis-Goltl (19.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.8 APG, 3.6 SPG), sophomore G Brooklyn Mohrman (12.6 PPG, 4.4 SPG).
- No. 6 Sutton: junior C Alivia Huxoll (10.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.1 SPG)
- No. 1 North Platte St. Patrick’s: senior G Jack Heiss (20.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.4 SPG, 2.8 APG)
- No. 8 Nebraska City Lourdes: senior F Blake Miller (15.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG,2.1 SPG), senior G Beau Lee (13.0 PPG)
- No. 4 Elgin Public/Pope John: junior G Paiton Hoefer (14.7 PPG), senior F Colton Wright (13.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG)
- No. 5 Burwell: senior G Dillon Critel (25.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 3.3 SPG), senior F Carter Mann (15.5 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.0 BPG)
- No. 2 Dundy County-Stratton: senior G Mark Nelms (13.5 PPG, 3.0 SPG)
- No. 7 Mead: senior G Tyler Pickworth (13.9 PPG)
- No. 3 Loomis: senior G Quinn Johnson (24.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG), senior G Shay Swanson (11.4 PPG, 5.3 APG, 3.7 SPG)
- No. 6 Riverside: senior G Tony Berger (21.7 PPG), senior G Trent Carraher (16.0 PPG, 2.5 APG, 2.2 SPG)
- No. 1 Elmwood-Murdock: senior F Alexis Bacon (11.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.3 APG)
- No. 8 Hartington cedar Catholic: junior G Makenna Noecker (19.1 PPG, 2.7 SPG)
- No. 4 Shelton: junior G Makenna Willis (9.4 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.6 SPG)
- No. 5 Niobrara-Verdigre: sophomore G Josilyn Miller (19.6 PPG, 4.1 SPG)
- No. 2 Fremont Bergan: junior G Kaitlyn Mlnarik (12.7 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.3 SPG)
- No. 7 BDS: junior F JessaLynn Hudson (10.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG)
- No. 3 Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family: senior C Addison Schneider (18.1 PPG, 13.9 RPG)
- No. 6 Nebraska Christian: senior F Molly Griess (13.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.4 SPG)
- No. 1 O’Neill St. Mary’s: senior F Aidan Hedstrom (19.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.9 APG), junior G Isaac Everitt (12.1 PPG)
- No. 8 Shelton: sophomore G Riley Bombeck (15.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.7 SPG), sophomore G Ashton Simmons (14.8 PPG)
- No. 4 Wynot: senior F Charlie Schroeder (15.6 PPG, 8.5 RPG)
- No. 5 Osceola: junior G Isaiah Zelasney (16.6 PPG, 2.8 APG, 2.2 SPG), sophomore F Kale Gustafson (15.7 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.5 APG)
- No. 2 Falls City Sacred Heart: senior G Jakob Jordan (11.6 PPG, 4.3 APG), senior F Brogan Nachtigal (11.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG)
- No. 7 Mullen: junior G Clayton Moore (19.6 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.7 SPG), senior G Trevor Kuncl (15.9 PPG, 3.3 SPG)
- No. 3 Hyannis: senior G Liam Kostman (18.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.5 SPG)
- No. 6 Lincoln Parkview: junior G Viktar Kachalouski: 15.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.7 APG, 3.4 SPG), senior F Michael Ault (14.9 PPG)
- No. 1 Falls City Sacred Heart: senior F Erison Vonderschmidt (12.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG)
- No. 8 Wynot: senior G Karley Heimes (12.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 3.9 SPG)
- No. 4 Anselmo-Merna: senior G Jaide Chandler (13.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.4 SPG), junior C Shaylyn Safranek (13.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG)
- No. 5 Sterling: junior G Macy Richardson (17.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.9 SPG, 2.5 APG), senior G Dakotah Ludemann (12.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.6 APG, 2.4 SPG)
- No. 2 Humphrey St. Francis: senior C Kaylee Stricklin (14.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG)
- No. 7 Diller-Odell: freshman G Myleigh Weers (20.7 PPG, 3.4 SPG, 3.2 APG)
- No. 3 O’Neill St. Mary’s: sophomore F Mya Hedstrom (13.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.2 SPG)
- No. 6 Crawford: senior G Natalie Barry (14.3 PPG, 4.1 APG, 3.5 SPG)
More to come for the other classes.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.