It’s weeks like these you wish you had more than eight spots in each poll. I see about a dozen teams in each class that can challenge for a spot in a district final and others that I think can end their season in Lincoln.

This past week saw a lot of movement at the top of each poll, with some the product of games played and others more of a judgment call on my part. Let me show you what I mean.

After Tuesday’s games, one may be inclined to have Lutheran High Northeast, Clarkson/Leigh and Howells-Dodge from 2-4 in Class C in that order, but I just don’t think I can put the Jags too low after the fight they put up against Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family, which was better than what either the Patriots or Eagles did. Keep in mind, it’s extremely tight at the top, and conference tournaments will hopefully paint a clearer picture, but for now, I feel pretty solid on where each team stands.

There isn’t any other significant movement in Class C, but I think Wakefield, Elkhorn Valley, O’Neill and North Bend Central can make a strong case to be in.

In Class D, I have Ainsworth overtaking Wynot at No. 2 because of a tougher schedule. The Bulldogs also have a conference where all the other teams are in either C2, C1 or B. That said, I think Wynot can take that spot back depending on how it fares in the Lewis & Clark tournament.

The rest remains the same. Impressive win by Elgin Public/Pope John at Stuart. Both will be teams to watch in the Niobrara Valley Conference.

Speaking of the Niobrara Valley, the team at the top of Class D is familiar with trips to Lincoln. O’Neill St. Mary’s has made an appearance in the big dance the past two years, and four of its starters are seniors who played on both of those teams.

Now with those seniors, including a first-team all state player in Aidan Hedstrom, having gotten plenty of experience, they’re going into each day with a clear vision and giving it everything they have to make it a reality.

“They know what their goal is,” coach Luke Bulau said. “They’re taking it game by game, but it’s one of those things where they’re really hungry to get back there.”

The experience of the core shows itself in the leadership exhibited this season. Early in their careers, they would often be hesitant to say something when a teammate messed up. Now, they won’t be afraid to call a teammate out on something.

“They know that it’s not personal,” Bulau said. “When somebody calls the other guy out, it’s just because we want to get better.”

Although finishing with the first-place trophy in Lincoln is the goal, there are plenty of things to stay focused on beforehand. The Niobrara Valley conference tournament gets underway in two weeks. It includes Class D No’s. 4 and 6 in Elgin Public/Pope John and Stuart, as well as Class C2 Elkhorn Valley, which is 11-2.

“Those teams are probably putting a target on us, and they want to come after us,” Bulau said. “So we’ve just got to take it game by game, and hopefully the rest will take care of itself.”

CLASS C

If there was any doubt that Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family should be No. 1 in Class C, it’s gone now. This team bent, bent and bent again against a relentless Howells-Dodge team on the road but never broke. Sizewise, the Bulldogs can match up with anyone in the state, especially in the interior with so many options. Their week ahead includes games against Madison and Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur Northeast.

I’m not sure you can really be too hard on Howells-Dodge after that game. The Bulldogs’ size made things really uncomfortable for the Jaguars in all facets. Just getting the ball from one player to another cleanly looked hard for the Jags. Even then, they were right in it up to the final possession, which tells me they’ve still got so much to give. They close out the week with games against Tekamah-Herman, Pender and Battle Creek.

Lutheran High has now emerged as yet another area team with what it takes to make a trip to Lincoln. That much is clear after an upset win over the Clarkson/Leigh Patriots. A team that usually relies a lot on guys like Keaton Ranslem down low got lots of help from Trystan Scott from the field. Another tough test awaits on Friday when the Eagles host Norfolk Catholic.

Clarkson/Leigh missed too many opportunities against the Eagles. This team can beat anyone in the post with Carter Hanel under the hoop, but you can’t go 2 for 12 from 3-point range against a team as good as Lutheran High, let alone some of the better teams in Class C1.

Games against Twin River, BRLD and Wisner-Pilger are ahead.

Norfolk Catholic’s defense continues to have the Knights dreaming bigger than they have in almost 10 years. The Knights allowed an average of 36 points against Crofton and Pierce this past week to boost their Mid-State Conference standing. I can’t wait to see what unfolds between them and Lutheran High on Friday.

It’s crazy to think that a 15-1 Wayne team is here in the sixth spot this week. The Blue Devils used a buzzer-beater to top North Bend Central and then scored a combined 147 points in wins over Boys Town and Crofton. If this is to prove that their offense has started to figure things out, that’s a terrific sign going forward. What better way to test that momentum than on Friday night against an all too familiar opponent in ...

Hartington Cedar Catholic? The Trojans bounced back from a loss to Dakota Valley, South Dakota, with a win over Pierce. Cedar Catholic will be hungry to avenge its loss to Wayne in the Northeast Nebraska Shootout final back in December, and it’ll have home court advantage this time. Major Mid-State implications in this one.

Laurel-Concord-Coleridge seemed to struggle a bit with Hartington-Newcastle in a 50-47 win on Tuesday. Games like these are ones the Bears need to win by more considerable margins, especially with C2 and the Lewis & Clark Conference becoming increasingly competitive. They’ll rack up a few miles this coming week when they face Battle Creek and Osmond.

CLASS D

Not long after my interview with Bulau, St. Mary’s went on to beat Santee 93-65. It’s an impressive win against a Warriors team that is usually the one scoring all the points. The Cardinals are beating teams by roughly 24 points a game. This week's games include home tilts with Winside and Creighton.

Even in a loss at O’Neill, Ainsworth seemed to control things for a majority of the game. It’s especially impressive when you consider the Bulldogs almost pulled off the upset without Trey Appelt, who’s averaging 9.4 rebounds a game. All five starters are capable of scoring in bunches in many ways, even against teams in higher classes. They’ll take on the role of road warriors this week, as they travel to North Central on Thursday and Class C1 Ogallala on Saturday.

Wynot won games against Niobrara/Verdigre and Creighton this past week. The Blue Devils have scored at least 60 points in nine of their past 11 games. They’re off to a great start, but I don’t see many teams on the schedule that have really tested them outside of Cedar Catholic and Crofton. The Lewis & Clark Conference will give us a much better feel for this team. Before that, they face Plainview on Friday and Ponca next Thursday.

Elgin Public/Pope John stayed busy with wins over Winside and Stuart. The Wolfpack are now winners of nine straight since falling to Elkhorn Valley back in December. It’s thanks in large part to a defense that’s allowed just 43 points a game in that stretch. On Thursday, they’ll host Plainview before traveling to take on West Holt on Friday.

Humphrey St. Francis is underway in the Goldenrod Conference tournament this week and won its opening-round game against Central Valley in the quarterfinal round on Tuesday. Regardless of results, this tournament is a great opportunity for the Flyers to improve, especially with tough D1 teams on the other side of the bracket. Next up for the Flyers is a semifinal bout with Spalding Academy on Friday.

Stuart was able to bounce back from its loss to the Wolfpack with a 53-20 win over Sargent Twin Loup on Monday. This Broncos team relies quite a bit on its play in the post but is shooting just 39% from the field as a team. They’ll head west on 275 on Thursday to face Valentine, then start a touch stretch of games with a home bout against Santee.

Walthill is a little bit like Wynot in that we need to see how it does against better teams. Walthill has taken care of teams like Madison and Winside but has lost to conference opponents like Winnebago and Wakefield by big margins. This week's slate includes games against Homer, Ponca and Tri County Northeast.

Wausa showed that it can hang with a lot of teams even in a 56-48 loss to Elkhorn Valley on Tuesday, which they led by one going into halftime. Only two of the Vikings’ five losses have been to Lewis & Clark Conference teams, and they’ll have to keep it low if they want a high seed in the tournament coming up. Games against Tri County Northeast on Thursday and Winside on Friday will be great opportunities for that.

GAMES TO WATCH

Friday: Norfolk Catholic at Lutheran High Northeast; Wayne at Hartington Cedar Catholic; Santee at Stuart; Humphrey St. Francis at Spalding Academy.

Saturday: Ainsworth at Ogallala.

Monday: Wayne at Wahoo; O’Neill at Hartington Cedar Catholic.

Tuesday: Norfolk Catholic at O’Neill.

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