Most high school programs celebrate a trip to the annual Nebraska Girls State Championships basketball tournament with pep rallies, dinners and possibly even a parade out of town.
The three area teams competing in the Class D2 tournament may have had a celebration early in the week, but it’s all business until the final whistle at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln.
Take Wynot. The Blue Devils are seemingly annual visitors to the tournament and arguably not seemingly — they are.
“We know how much work it takes to get there, but we’re ready to put in that work,” Wynot coach Steve Wieseler said. “You can’t step on the court and expect to arrive in Lincoln.”
The 19-6 Blue Devils prepare for the trip throughout the season on the practice court and with a rugged schedule.
“We play in the Lewis & Clark Conference so our conference tournament is extremely difficult,” Wieseler said. “Many years that conference tournament has been tougher than the state tournament.”
It’s worth mentioning, Wynot has won the past two conference tournaments but also has amassed seven Class D2 championships and three runner-up trophies since 2010, only missing the trip in 2018.
“We’ve really played down the stretch here, so we’re ready for the challenge,” Wieseler said. “There were times through the season I wondered if this group had it, but we stuck together and we’re packing our bags.”
The Blue Devils won 10 of their final 11 games and are undefeated since entering the conference tourney.
A major hurdle for any Class D2 team headed to Lincoln will be Humphrey St. Francis.
Actually, wall may be a better word.
The Flyers are undefeated and will be looking to end their season and the career of St. Francis all-stater Allison Weidner.
St. Francis also brings an armload of state hardware with state titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007, as well as five runner-up trophies, including last season to the Blue Devils.
“I’m not saying the tournament will run through St. Francis,” Wieseler said. “But I bet you have to beat them at some point to win it.”
The Flyers will take on Sterling in the opening round Wednesday.
“We feel like we have had a good season and are playing fairly well right now,” HSF coach Bryan Reichmuth said. “Sterling is a good team and has played a very tough schedule. We opened with them last year, and it was a tough game. We’ll need to be ready.”
The final area team for D2 is the Chambers/Wheeler Central (CWC) Renegades.
The Renegades’ lone loss of the season was to Elgin Public/Pope John and they have won seven straight since that setback.
“We have played at a higher level this year,” CWC coach Laurel O’Malley said. “I think it has a lot to do with how they have matured as athletes and how well they understand and love the game of basketball.”
CWC will take on the Blue Devils in the opening round.
“Wynot plays such good defense and has so much experience this time of year,” O’Malley said. “We need to absolutely play our best 32 minutes.”
In addition to the three D2 powerhouses, two area teams will be competing in Class D1.
Hartington Cedar Catholic and Humphey/Lindsay Holy Family will arrive for opening-round games on Wednesday.
Cedar Catholic will bring an 18-7 record to the table after a tough season in the Mid-State Conference and an undefeated run in the postseason.
Coach Craig Wortmann will look to Brynn Wortmann to lead the Trojan offense as she enters the tournament averaging nearly 17 points per game.
Cedar Catholic made the tournament last season as well and finished as runner-up in 2010.
Coach Kandee Hanzel will lead Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family down to Lincoln.
The Bulldogs will take a 19-4 record along when they arrive.
H/LHF has won four straight after back-to-back losses to Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur Northeast and Clarkson/Leigh.
Addison Schneider paces the Patriot offense with nearly 20 points per game. Paige Beller averages just under 10 a game.