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Nebraska high school boys basketball Top 25 rankings (2/29/2024)

Teams seize district final opportunities

The most pressure-packed time of the year produced once again. 

Southeast won at Creighton Prep for the second year in a row, Gretna earned a tough win on the road, and two teams, Crete and Auburn, remained unbeaten. 

The state tournament begins next Wednesday with A, C-2 and D-2, then continues to Thursday with B, C-1 and D-1. 

Friday will feature semifinals, and champions will be crowned Saturday.

1. Bellevue West (24-1, Last Week #1) 

Bell West had no trouble with the district round, taking down Columbus 83-40 then North Star 75-61. Robby Garcia had 22 and shot 8 for 11 with five threes and eight rebounds against Columbus. Jaden Jackson had 25 also with five threes and five rebounds in the win over North Star. The T-Birds head back to state for the seventh year in a row. 

2. Millard North (21-2, Last Week #2)

Similar to the team one spot above, Millard North made easy work of its district opponents. The Mustangs are on a 10-game winning streak after dropping Lincoln High 95-45 and smashing Southwest 82-50. Perhaps the most impressive part about the recent level of play is allowing fewer than 60 points in nine of those 10. Millard North shot 68% with 12 threes against Lincoln High. Derek Rollins had 20 and 12 rebounds in the win over Southwest.

3. Westside (19-4, Last Week #3)

Westside looks like it has the best chance of any team to take out one of the top two during the state tournament. However, the Warriors are a combined 0-3 against the T-Birds and Millard North. They’ll have their chance back in Lincoln again for the third year in a row following an 86-38 win over Benson that included 21 points from CJ Mitchell and a 67-41 victory over Bryan with 19 and five assists by Kevin Stubblefield.

4. Gretna (20-5, Last Week #4)

Gretna had perhaps the most sentimental win of the district final round. Just about two months after former head coach Brad Feekin passed away, the Dragons went on the road and earned a gritty win in a tough environment at Kearney. Gretna had a solid second quarter and led by nine at the half, by eight to start the fourth, but needed a Kearney half-court heave at the buzzer to glance off the front of the rim to survive and advance. The Dragons are off to state for the third year in a row.

5. Omaha North (20-3, Last Week #5)

North, traditionally a football school, is back at state for the 15th time in school history and the first since 2015. Just like a home game against Papio South in January, North faced a huge deficit and found a way. This time, the Vikings were down 21, dug just about halfway out of the hole in the third, but still faced a 10-point deficit to start the fourth. That’s when the defense locked down, forced six turnovers, didn’t give up a field goal and allowed just two points at the line. Bobby Brown came up with a steal and with 35 seconds left to finally put North on top.

6. Omaha Central (15-8, Last Week #9)

It’s a good thing the guys on the roster and the coaches on the bench still believed because closing the regular season with four straight losses made Central look like it was on a march to the gallows. But while the Eagles finished the schedule with four losses in a row and five out of six, those losses were all to teams higher in the rankings, and the largest was by seven points. Central was competitive but not getting it done. That changed once the postseason started. Central made quick work of East 76-48 then put together a surprising blowout of Pius. The Eagles led by eight at the half then built on that by giving up just seven points in the third.

7. Lincoln Pius X (18-6, Last Week #7)

The Bolts gave up an 8-1 run in the first quarter, and a 9-0 run in the second and were playing from behind all night in the district final against Central. By the time the fourth quarter arrived, Pius’ state hopes hung by a thread while facing a 16-point hole. The Thunderbolts had one of their worst shooting nights of the season and earned the unfortunate distinction of “last team out” of state due to the loss and Gretna’s win at Kearney.

8. Lincoln Southeast (19-7, Last Week #11)

Southeast didn’t have a great February, closing the final stretch 2-3. Those three losses were all against quality opponents. Two wins over Papio and Columbus were both victories over teams at or below .500. Thus, there was some concern for the playoffs if Southeast could get past Papio again. But then the Knights locked it down on defense and won a grinder on the road at Prep. Jake Hilkemann’s turnaround fade away at the buzzer had the Junior Jays groaning again. Southeast won a similar game at Prep last year 47-42.

9. 10. Creighton Prep (17-7, Last Week #6)

Prep had the good fortune of hosting the district tournament, and the way Southeast had been playing, the Junior Jays seemed to be favorites. Instead, a buzzer-beater in overtime gave the Knights a second straight district title again over the Jays on their home court. Prep shot just 27% and 3 of 14 from long range. The Jays also needed a bucket with 2.2 seconds to go in regulation to force OT. Prep was denied state for a second year in a row – something that hasn’t happened in over a decade since the Jays missed state from 2012 to 2014.

10. Kearney (17-7, Last Week #8)

Mistakes on the offensive end and poor defense on the other turned a four-point Kearney lead after the first quarter into a nine-point hole at halftime. Jacob Webber sank back-to-back threes in the third quarter during a sequence that gave the Bearcats the lead, but Gretna scored 16 of the next 24 and had the difference up to 12 in the fourth. Kearney trailed by seven with less than a minute to go, hit a three and turned two steals into baskets but a game-winning half-court heave went off the front of the rim. The loss left the Bearcats the second team out of the wildcard berth into state.

11. Omaha Bryan (15-10, Last Week #10)

Bryan had enough to get by Millard West but couldn’t break a cold spell in the district final. The Bears shot 35% and went 1 for 14 from the perimeter in a loss to Westside. That poor percentage was despite collecting 10 offensive rebounds. Fourteen turnovers didn’t help the cause.

12. Papillion-La Vista South (15-9, Last Week #12)

Papio South had a halftime lead of 13 at Omaha North on Jan. 6 and extended that further at the start of the third quarter. But the lead was trimmed down to eight before the end of the period, and the Titans found themselves trailing in the fourth. It was an even bigger deficit in the district final – 21 points – but again Papio South couldn’t hold. Before long, it was the Titans facing a deficit and needing free throw misses to stay alive. North cooperated, but a game-tying three by Papio South hit the back iron.

13. Crete (25-0, Last Week #13)

Through a regular season, conference tournament and now a district tournament, Crete has won ‘em all. In a small classification with only a handful of teams over .500, the Cardinals' path to state included opponents that were a combined 21-28. Crete won its two playoff games by 13 and 40.

14. Lincoln Southwest (15-8, Last Week #14)

After the snow canceled a game at Omaha Central and Southwest had nearly two weeks off from competition, the Silver Hawks came out and went 9-2. However, the 14-7 record Southwest took to the postseason reflected just one win over a team above .500. That meant a difficult wild card seed and the Millard North district. If the Silver Hawks built some momentum against Millard South it quickly dissipated against a Millard North team that shot 57% and hit 16 threes in the district final.

15. Norris (22-2, Last Week #16)

Norris hasn’t faced a winning team in 18 days, and the Titans have taken advantage. The regular season concluded with wins of 13, 22 and 42 before a district tournament with more domination. Barret Boesiger had 20 points and four threes during a 79-43 win over Beatrice. He had six more triples in a 73-46 win over Gretna East and matched Chris Garner Jr. with a game-high 18 points.

16. Lincoln North Star (13-10, Last Week #17)

It started the way it ended for North Star. The Navigators had Bellevue West to open the schedule and had the T-Birds again in the district final. North Star lost 25 in November and 14 last week.

17. Skutt Catholic (17-6, Last Week #18)

Skutt lost to Pius, Omaha Central and Bennington all in a row to end January. The Skyhawks looked out of the conversation for favorites in Class B. That has turned around since the start of February thanks to wins over Norris, Elkhorn and Aurora. Skutt took care of business in the district round 75-50 over Roncalli, a team that was on this list to start the year, and walloped Hastings 84-50 for a seventh straight trip to state.

18. Omaha Westview (14-10, Last Week #15)

Westview had a great start in the district semis at North Star, led 12-4, but enjoyed just a one-point lead at the half. Nine straight points by the Navigators at the start of the fourth was too much to overcome.

19. Auburn (26-0, Last Week #19)

Because of the recent dynasty, every Auburn team is compared to the ones of the past. We’ll find out next week how this one stacks up to its predecessors. Despite the perfect record, one of just three left in Nebraska, it was only good enough for third in the final C-1 wildcard standings. That means a potential second-round matchup with reigning back-to-back champ Ashland-Greenwood in the semifinals.

20. Ashland-Greenwood (24-2, Last Week #20)

The reigning champs head to Lincoln having won 13 in a row and with double-digit wins in all of those but one. Most impressive about that span is nine of the 13 against teams above .500. The Bluejays handled business to the tune of 66-31 over Louisville, 51-43 against Wahoo and 59-39 against Minden.

21. Elkhorn (17-4, Last Week #21)

Elkhorn lost two in a row before the district tournament but didn’t have any trouble with Mount Michael, Gretna East and Gross, winning by seven, 26 and 21. The Antlers are one of just two teams, Lincoln Lutheran the other, that has defeated Ashland-Greenwood.

22. Elkhorn South (12-12, Last Week #22)

The Storm might have found some momentum late in the season. But it was too little, too late. Elkhorn South’s early-season struggles meant a three-seed in the district tournament and a loss to Papio South. The 65-40 loss to the Titans was a surprising margin considering how the Storm had been playing.

23. Omaha Concordia (24-2, Last Week #24)

Concordia looked ready to roll through the postseason before an upstart Scotus team with Cinderella on its mind led the Mustangs at halftime. It was just a one-point lead, but the fact that Concordia had just 15 at the break was a bit of an eye-opener. The Mustangs quickly found their form and won by 20, qualifying for state for the fourth year in a row.

24. Douglas County West (22-3, Last Week #25)

DC West ended nearly 20 years of waiting by using defense to hold Cozad to single digits in three of four quarters. Senior Ryker Wohlers scored 13 and had 14 rebounds in the victory for his second double-double of the season.

25. Scottsbluff (19-6, Last Week Unrated)

Scottsbluff led Seward in the district final by eight in the third quarter but was suddenly trailing in the fourth. The Bearcats responded with a four-point play and two threes that put them in position to seal it late. Scottsbluff finally did with a steal and a 49-46 finish that prevented Seward from having a shot at a tie.

--Nathan Charles | @SBLiveNeb