With the 2022-23 season now in the books, Northeast and North Central Nebraska is in a rare spot.
This is the first season since 2009 that the area did not come away with a boys state basketball champion. That year, Humphrey St. Francis lost the Class D1 title game to Mead, and Ewing lost the D2 final to Sterling.
This year, Wynot entered the D2 bracket as the No. 1 seed and reached the finals but came up short against Parkview Christian. Hartington Cedar Catholic had the next best finish as Class C2’s third-place team. Five other teams qualified but were eliminated in the first round.
It almost feels like a given that at least one team from the area will win it all every year. It’s still a bit difficult to realize no one did. There were great area teams this year with great players, great coaches and great strategies implemented to win. This year, there were other teams that were just better. It happens.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything for area teams to be proud of. Many of them reached state after facing a lot of adversity at some point in the season, whether it was injuries, a losing streak or what have you. Others surpassed expectations or made history. Two teams reached state for the first time ever. Many of those listed in these final ratings, and more considered, also have a lot to look forward to.
The Class C ratings remain unchanged. Laurel-Concord-Coleridge, Wisner-Pilger, Lutheran High Northeast and Summerland all received consideration.
Class D sees some movement. Wynot remains No. 1 as the area’s lone finalist. Santee jumps to No. 2 after its strong finish to the season. Bancroft-Rosalie leapfrogs Howells-Dodge after beating it on the road in their subdistrict final. Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family takes Elgin Public/Pope John’s spot at No. 8 after beating it in a subdistrict final on the road. The Wolfpack received consideration along with Creighton and Wausa.
Pierce won its subdistrict, then took care of business against Columbus Scotus in the district final to advance to state. The Bluejays were unable to overcome the firepower of Omaha Concordia in the first round.
This season’s deep run was yet another notch in the belt of an accomplished senior class that’s done a lot in many varsity sports over the course of their careers. Replacing those seniors next year will be a tall order, especially when it comes to Abram Scholting and Ben Brahmer.
Hartington Cedar Catholic coasted through its subdistrict bracket and district final, then beat Elkhorn Valley to reach the state semifinals. It was there that it was topped by Freeman, the eventual champions of Class C2. The Trojans bounced back to win third place over Tri County.
The team checked off a lot of boxes on the way to its best finish to a season since 2013, when it also placed third in C2. Cedar Catholic will have a lot of turnover as most of its rotational pieces, including four of its five starters, were seniors.
Wayne reached its subdistrict final before losing to Winnebago. The Blue Devils were able to grab a wild-card spot but lost in their district final to Central City.
The Blue Devils may not have reached the expectations they set for themselves on a yearly basis, but there’s a lot to be proud of in coming out of a tough Mid-State Conference to be not only one of its better teams, but being one game away from state. Four of the team’s top five scorers were seniors, but given the identity the Blue Devils have established over the past few years, there’s reason to believe they can remain successful.
Elkhorn Valley coasted through its subdistrict before punching its first ever ticket to state with a win over Summerland in its subdistrict. The Falcons then fell to Cedar Catholic in the first round.
This season was a huge step forward for Elkhorn Valley as a program. To be able to build off a 20-win season by going to state a year later is impressive, not to mention winning the Niobrara Valley Conference and its subdistrict along the way. A lot of offensive production leaves with Brendyn Ollendick, Carter Werner and Dawson Hansen, but everyone else is coming back.
O’Neill eked out a win over Boone Central in its subdistrict semifinal, then was unable to beat Pierce in the final. The Eagles came up just short of a wild-card spot and saw their season come to a close.
The Eagles held their own in a tough Mid-State Conference and were one break away from playing in a district final. Though it’s surely not the end result they were hoping for, it’s something to hang their hat on. This also marks the end of the road for Landon Classen, who will leave O’Neill as its all-time leading scorer. Drew Morrow will be a force to be reckoned with next year, but there will be holes to fill.
Boone Central got better as the season went on but was unable to keep that momentum going in the subdistrict semifinals.
The Cardinals were competitive in most of the games they played. As the season went on, the team got better at closing out some of those games that they may not have been able to earlier in the year. Boone Central loses Alex Christo and Ryan Drueppel, but everyone else is coming back next year. The Cardinals will surely be looking to make noise as the Mid-State Conference begins to open up.
Norfolk Catholic rolled through its subdistrict and punched its second straight ticket to state. Once in the quarterfinals, the team came back from an early deficit to lead No. 2 Amherst by as many as 10 points. However, the Broncos were able to force overtime and win it there.
The Knights went cold at the wrong time, and that won’t get you far in the state basketball tournament. Though the end for them was tough, this year’s group of seniors will be remembered for being an integral part of a boys basketball resurgence on West Madison Avenue. As for the underclassmen, they have a chance to build off of that success with a great system in place.
Wakefield hosted its subdistrict and won it but lost to Tri County in its district final on the road.
The Trojans’ first appearance at state since 2019 ended up being just out of their reach this year, but they did make it back to a district final for the second time in three years. Wakefield will have reworking to do as their top three scorers are all seniors.
Wynot made it all the way to the Class D2 championship game and held a nine-point lead over Lincoln Parkview Christian in the first quarter. However, a two-quarter stretch that saw the team shoot 2 for 32 from the field was too much to bounce back from and the Blue Devils lost 52-49.
The Blue Devils gave Parkview Christian by far the toughest game it’s seen all year from a Class D2 opponent. That in and of itself is an impressive feat. Now comes the task of using this game as a lesson to stick together and close games out. Outside of starter Colin Wieseler and bench player Jude Krie, everyone’s coming back next year. Not only could lessons be learned, but expectations will be high.
Santee bounced back from a double-overtime subdistrict final loss to Stuart with an overtime win over Mullen in the district final to punch its first ever ticket to state. In the quarterfinals, the Warriors found themselves down 13 to Shelton at halftime, then rallied to take the lead. With Santee up one with seven seconds left, a technical foul on a dead ball changed the tide of the game as Shelton moved on and Santee’s season came to an end.
A lot has been said about the technical foul, and it did objectively change the tide of the game against the Warriors. Putting that aside, this was a great season for them, and they’ll surely look to make trips to Lincoln far more common than before. Replacing the production of Austyn Saul, the state’s leading scorer with 27.1 points per game, as well as the athleticism of Nunpa Torrez and Marquis Tuttle, will be a tall order. However, if the depth is strong, they’ll be right back in the thick of things next year.
Bancroft-Rosalie appeared to have positive momentum after beating Howells-Dodge on the road in the subdistrict D1-5 final. However, the Panthers dropped their next game, a district final to Ansley-Litchfield in Albion, to end their season.
The Panthers were one of the most complete and talented teams in the area throughout the season. Unfortunately, they tended to be their own worst enemy at points throughout the season. That was the case in the district final as well. There will be a lot of production to replace as starters Elliott Nottlemann (15.3 points per game), Braylon Snyder (9.2 ppg) and Mason Dolezal (9.9 ppg) all will be graduating
Howells-Dodge bounced back from its loss to the Panthers with a dominant win over Bridgeport in its district final game. The Jaguars then were hit hard by the Johnson-Brock Eagles in the first round at state, losing to the eventual D1 champions 56-26.
The Jaguars maintained their status as a team you can count on being in Lincoln most years. However, they did not shoot consistently enough as a team to be able to win the biggest games. The team plans to work on that a lot over the offseason.
Stuart upset Santee in their subdistrict final but fell to Paxton in their district final game.
It may not have been what the Broncos thought they could accomplish after beating Santee, but there’s a lot to be proud of. A relatively young team made it to the program’s first district final since 2019. Top scorers Schuyler Mustin (20.7 ppg) and Anthony Heiser (8.4 ppg) will be tough to replace, but everyone else will be back for another run.
Humphrey St. Francis gave Osceola a good game in its subdistrict semifinal but ultimately fell to the Bulldogs 63-60. Due to results around D2, the Flyers came up just short of a wild-card spot for a district final.
The season may not have ended in a state tournament appearance as many have come to expect from St. Francis, but the team made great strides as the season went on, eventually taking a team many considered to be one of the four best in the state down to the wire on a neutral court. A lot of pieces come back next year, and how they build off of this will be something to watch.
O’Neill St. Mary’s fell to Santee in its subdistrict semifinal and missed out on a wild-card spot.
For losing most of the players on its state-finalist team from 2022, this was a good way to bounce back. Gage Hedstrom led the way with 17.9 points per game as a freshman and shows a lot of potential for the future. The Cardinals will need to replace starters Isaac Everitt (13.2 ppg) and Dalton Alder (11.7 ppg), but there’s plenty of reason to believe the team will take a step forward.
Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family knocked off Elgin Public/Pope John by two in the subdistrict D1-4 final before falling to Dundy County-Stratton in their district final.
Much like the Cardinals, the Bulldogs were able to have a great bounce-back year despite losing most of the players from a great team. In HLHF’s case, it was one win away from state a year after losing the seniors from a team that won three state titles in four years. Three of the top six scorers will be graduating, however, including leading scorer Sage Frauendorfer.