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Nebraska high school boys basketball Top 25 rankings (3/13/2024)

The final rankings of the season

Last week’s fun at Pinnacle Bank Arena included Bellevue West reasserting itself with a second straight title (third in five years), Skutt also winning two in a row and also making it three in five, and Wahoo overcoming back-to-back first-round losses for the 12th championship in school history. 

1. Bellevue West (27-1, Last Week #1) 

How the Thunderbirds won their second title in a row and third in five years shows how inevitable Bellevue West was this season. After averaging over 70 points per game, The T-Birds cracked 60 just once in three games and trailed at halftime in both the semis and final. But games are 32 minutes, and there simply isn’t a team in Nebraska that can find a way past Bellevue West in four quarters of play. Maybe next year – a common refrain from across the state.

2. Millard North (23-3, Last Week #2)

The Mustangs had their chance. The defense was doing its job. Millard North led Bellevue West at halftime of the Class A championship and the T-Birds had just 18 points at halftime. But the Mustangs were also 1 for 13 from three at the half and should have been up more. Millard North never found its touch and had its worst perimeter shooting night of the season, finishing 3 for 23. A second straight loss in the final and third in the past five years is frustrating, but the Mustangs are easily second-best.

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

Scoring droughts in the semifinals cost Westside an upset of Millard North and a shot at the title game. The Warriors scored just two points in the final four minutes then failed to produce any points in OT until more free throws with 30.9 seconds left. Westside had the ball for the final 10.4 seconds of overtime with a chance to tie or win, but a Kevin Stubblefield drive to the hoop deflected off a hoop and went the other way.

4. Omaha Central (17-9, Last Week #6)

A first-round matchup with North decided the three-game series between the two. The Eagles and Vikings split a pair in the regular season then drew each other again in Lincoln. The difference was Daleron Thomas and his 32 points. A poor third quarter was Central’s demise in the semifinals. The Eagles went from a slim lead to a 10-point hole to start the fourth.

5. Gretna (20-6, Last Week #4)

It ended in the first round but it was a season that won’t soon be forgotten in Gretna. The emotions from the tragedy of losing a coach, then rising above the emotions for a district title, make the 2024 Dragons a special group. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough against Millard North. The Mustangs knocked out the Dragons for the fourth state tournament in a row when Gretna squandered a 15-point lead.

6. Omaha North (21-4, Last Week #5)

Daleron Thomas was a heck of a player for North; too bad that he finished his career with Central and finished North’s 2024 season with a first-round state tournament loss. The Vikings couldn’t contain their former leader, gave up 32 to the senior guard and fell into an eight-point first-half hole they never found a way to escape. North’s losing skid at state stretches back to 1976.

7. Creighton Prep (17-8, Last Week #9)

Prep held Bellevue West to single digits in the first and the third quarters of last week’s state tournament opener, but it all sort of felt too good to be true. Surely, the T-Birds weren’t going to be held down all game. And eventually, the dam broke. Prep led 35-30 then gave up the final 11 points and managed just one point in the final eight minutes.

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

Southeast had won three of the past four against Westside but couldn’t find the formula for success in the first round of state. The Knights found themselves in deficits of 12 in the third quarter and 11 in the fourth but fought back to within three with 1:28 remaining before Westside scored the final eight points.

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

Pius is the first Class A team on the list that didn’t make the state tournament. The Thunderbolts had one of the better records in the class and earned regular-season wins over the likes of Southwest, Southeast, Skutt, Prep and Kearney. Four of the top six scorers and rebounders graduate in May.

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

Kearney returns two of its top three scorers last year while saying goodbye to senior Asher Endorf and four others. The return of Ben Johnson adds up to 36 points per game and makes for one of the most dynamic duos in Nebraska. The Bearcats are in the midst of a five-year state tournament drought and haven’t won in Lincoln since 2017.

11. Papillion-La Vista South (15-9, Last Week #11)

Fifteen wins have been just about the norm recently for Papio South. This year’s group had a solid start but faded in the middle of the season. The Titans lose three who played 20 or more games but also bring back over 50 points of the team average. Papio South beat Kearney in mid-February and had wins over Westview and Prep but went on the road for the district round due to a stretch of six losses in seven games.

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

Skutt took note of the majority opinion that another Skyhawk title was improbable. The team’s state tournament T-shirt with the word ‘rebuild’ on the front was a nod to those doubts. Midseason, those doubts looked more than reasonable. The Skyhawks hadn’t beaten any of the top teams in Class B and went on a three-game skid. But as surely as springtime winds in Nebraska, Skutt was gaining steam when it mattered most. The program’s championship pedigree came through again and silenced the doubters. Regardless of the personnel or the circumstances, we should all remember that lesson from the 2024 Skyhawks.

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

Class A has a two-team top tier, a second tier with about six or seven others then a middle tier of teams that are competitive but struggle to beat quality opponents. That was Bryan’s story the last two-thirds of the season. The Bears beat Westview twice and earned a victory over Southeast, but each of those three came in the first seven games. Bryan was 0-8 against teams above .500 the rest of the way.

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

The Silver Hawks will be looking for a new No. 1 after Braden Frager reclassified and graduates as the top scorer. Southwest was 1-7 against teams with a winning record and had an uneven performance record in those matchups. The Silver Hawks lost three by seven points or fewer and the other four by 15 or more.

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

North Star looked unmatched the first half of the season then seemed to find a rhythm when the calendar flipped to February. The Navigators took down No. 9 Pius, No. 8 Southeast and No. 17 Westview during an eight-game stretch that started on Feb. 2. Unfortunately, because of earlier losses, North Star’s district title game was at eventual champ Bellevue West.

16. Norris (24-3, Last Week #15)

Big things seem to be happening in Firth where Norris achieved its highest win total in nearly a generation. The Titans used a buzzer-beater at Roncalli last year to make state for the third time in four years. That was probably a season ahead of schedule. Advancing to this year’s Class B title game might also be a bit early. Norris returns everyone but one senior who averaged just about a point per game.

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

No one knew exactly what to expect out of the Wolverines in the second year of existence. They beat Central and Pius early and had tough games with Gretna, Kearny and North Star along the way. Westview is learning as it goes but gaining ground each time out. Tayvin Murphy is quickly becoming a superstar. If there’s a benefit to being a new school it’s that there were no seniors on the roster.

18. Crete (26-1, Last Week #13)

Intangibles are impossible to measure. Like, for example, did Skutt’s championship experience make the difference in ending Crete’s title hopes in the semifinals? That can never truly be known, but for the second day in a row, Skutt mounted a comeback for the win. Compare that to Crete’s failure to hold an eight-point second-half lead, and the fact that the Cardinals hadn’t won a state tournament game since 2007, and the difference seems obvious. Granted, Crete won in the first round, but the program also hadn’t been to the semis since ’07. The top three on the roster and six who played 20 or more games are seniors.

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

The Storm was 5-11 when it went on a seven-game winning streak and built some momentum for the postseason. Too many losses early on meant a tough district draw and a semifinal exit. However, Elkhorn South was much more competitive in the last month. Granted, it was against mostly lesser competition, but perhaps it’s a building block for four juniors who each played in 23 or more games.

20. Wahoo (23-5, Last Week Unrated)

Admittedly, Wahoo’s recent struggles as the top seed in the state tournament kept the Warriors out of the top 25 until they could prove it. Naturally, the year when Wahoo wasn’t the favorite, it found a way. There might not be a player in Nebraska who was more important to his team than Marcus Glock. The last few years there has been a larger supporting cast. That’s not to say that Glock’s teammates weren’t a factor, just that Glock was that good.

21. Elkhorn (17-5, Last Week #21)

Skutt wasn’t exactly on the ropes, but Elkhorn was enjoying an eight-point lead late in the third quarter at the first round of the state tournament. It looked like the Antlers were going to save the rest of Class B the trouble, but Skutt’s championship experience proved too much. Elkhorn couldn’t contain Skutt’s 6-foot-8 George Ziebell, who had 19 points and nine of those in the fourth.

22. Auburn (28-1, Last Week #19)

The Bulldogs don’t get the same level of attention as Bellevue West, Millard North or Skutt, but outside the larger classifications of basketball, nobody does it better. There should also be some appreciation for Maverick Binder. He didn’t achieve quite as much as his older brother Cam, but playing in four straight title games speaks for itself. It will be interesting to see if Auburn, recently based on defense, can continue its success into the shot clock era.

23. Omaha Concordia (26-3, Last Week #23)

Concordia was back at state for the third year in a row and won a first-round game for the second straight year. The Mustangs had no trouble dispatching Malcolm thanks to 6-8 senior Quientan McCafferty scoring 10 of his 18 in the first quarter. It was a 22-4 lead after the first eight minutes. In the semifinals, Concordia was doing a great job on Wahoo senior Marcus Glock, until it wasn’t. Glock had six at halftime then 18 more over the next two quarters. Specifically, the Mustangs couldn’t guard him without fouling. He hit 14 free throws in a row at one point. Concordia bounced back and beat Ashland-Greenwood by 15 in the third-place game.

24. Ashland-Greenwood (25-4, Last Week #20)

Hopes for a three-peat ended in the semifinals when Auburn exacted a measure of revenge. Ashland-Greenwood won each of its past two championships by getting past Auburn in the final game. It was three points in 2022 and 30 last March. This time, Ashland-Greenwood couldn’t maintain Maverick Binder. He scored the first 10 points of the second half and stretched the lead to 15. Still, it was a third straight year with at least one win in Lincoln.

25. Douglas County West (22-4, Last Week #24)

It was a short stay for the Falcons in Lincoln, but a year none will soon forget. Douglas County West was in its first-ever state tournament and pushed powerhouse Auburn to the brink after falling behind by 17 in the first half. It was a two-point game with 15.7 seconds left in the game. Nolan Asher stole an inbounds pass in the closing seconds but his shot came up short and was just after the buzzer. DC West won a record number of games and graduates four seniors including the two leading scorers.

--Nathan Charles | @SBLiveNeb