The early bird gets in
By Larry Pritchett
Past PCHS activities director
In seven days, there were 48 high school basketball games played in Lincoln at the Nebraska High School State Tournament and at least three major university games played that would influence if Creighton and the University of Nebraska would get into the NCAA tournament or where the teams might be seeded or both.
Creighton was pretty much assured of a spot for their work throughout the season and the fact that they ended up playing for the Big East Championship.
Nebraska started the seven days playing their last regular season home game against Wisconsin. That game was a must for them to be considered in the NCAA talk. So let’s start with that contest.
I have been going to Nebraska games for close to 50 years now and I realize that is hard to grasp considering my age, but I must confess it is a true statement. Never have I gone an hour and a half early because of the excitement of the game. On the ninth day of March 2014 I did.
Marlene and I were not the first people there. The Pinnacle Bank Arena was about a quarter full by then. By game time there was an announced crowd of 15,998 people there. I know there were more than that but the rumor was that they had to keep it fewer than 16,000 for the fire marshal.
I don’t have a clue if that is true or not but I do know it was a standing room only looking crowd. I could tell that by the people standing. Sometimes I am pretty alert.
The game lived up to the importance of the contest. It was a good game to watch, it was pretty well played and the Huskers made up a deficit and hung on for one of the biggest wins for the program in a long time.
The win got them the fourth seed in the Big 10 tournament and if they could win a game or two in that tournament they would be dancing with the stars at the NCAA Big Dance. The Huskers would play the winner of the Purdue-Ohio State game. OSU won and on Friday the magic season looked like it was going to keep on going.
The Huskers ran up an 18 point lead on OSU and looked like the stars had aligned and the NCAA was a sure thing. But just as quick as you can say, “A lay-ip counts just as much as a dunk,” the attempted dunk went banging off the rim and OSU hits a three-pointer at the other end and the Huskers’ self-destruction got started.
I am sure Coach Miles has mentioned the importance of just scoring, and even as a high school coach we talked about “time and situation.” But a clunk-dunk started a series of turnovers that eventually caused the loss.
Nebraska could not combat the Buckeyes’ press. That is an understatement. Long story short, now they had to wait until this past Sunday to see if the NCAA would include them in the tournament.
This story, as you know, has a happy ending. The Huskers made it as an 11th seed and will play Baylor at San Antonio on Friday.
On the same dance card in that bracket is Creighton who plays La-Lafayette.
So the Huskers finally make it back to the NCAA tournament. They have never won a first round game in this tournament and Baylor will not be an easy contest but there are people like Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, and others who have picked the Huskers to move to the next round.
Creighton doesn’t have a shoo-in win either so if they do get to play each other again they will have to earn it.
Thursday thru Saturday of the week, the Nebraska High School Boys tournament was played and there were a number of outstanding games. A number of overtime games, a double overtime game and a triple overtime game so there were some pretty evenly matched teams competing for state titles.
Bellevue West in A, Omaha Skutt in B, Bishop Neumann in C-1, Fremont Bergan in C-2, Randolph in D-1 and Bancroft-Rosalie in D-2 took home championship trophies.
This year the tournament had the remodeled Devaney Court and, of course, the new Pinnacle Bank Arena for games, and those are two really nice venues to use.
I also thought the crowds were pretty good. In the C-1 championship you had probably almost everyone from Wahoo there. There are a lot of good basketball players in Wahoo. Wahoo High has been in the finals the past three years and of course this year Bishop Neumann won over Wahoo Public. Bragging rights were probably more important than the trophy in that game.
I watched a lot of basketball during this time. I did notice that the coaches are so much younger than they have been in the past. The players, cheerleaders and even the sponsors of the groups look very young.
I also seem to spend more time socializing now with some coaches who have aged a bit. The Nebraska Basketball Development Association has a get together during the tournament and I noticed that a lot of conversations with my friends there started with “Do you remember when?” Sometimes I didn’t!!