Special season for area teams
Approaching the mid-point of the 2003-2004 basketball season, a pair of side-by-side school districts are dominating boys and girls action in Southwest Nebraska.
In boys play, the highest rated teams from this area are the Cambridge Trojans and the Arapahoe Warriors, high schools located 16 miles apart in Furnas County. On the girls side, the top-rated teams are the Dundy County Lady Tigers from Benkelman and the Wauneta-Palisade Lady Broncos. The teams are located 36 highway miles apart in Dundy and Chase counties.
Going into Tuesday night, both Dundy County and Wauneta-Palisade were undefeated, with the Broncos rated first and the Tigers seventh in the statewide D-1 poll. But that will change. Playing at home Tuesday night, the Lady Tigers handed the top-ranked Broncos their first loss of the season, 48-35.
The win, which pushes Dundy County's record to 10-0 for the season, represents quite a turnaround for the Lady Tigers, who had a 9-14 record a year ago. "The girls have so much heart and they play so hard. I am so very, very proud of them," Dundy County Coach Marty Hughes said.
While the top girls team are located in the western part of the area, the leading boys teams come from further east.
In the latest C-2 ratings, the Cambridge boys are ranked third in the Omaha World-Herald poll with a 9-0 record. Up until Tuesday night, Cambridge's neighbor to the east, Arapahoe, was ranked second in C-2, but that will change after what Arapahoe Coach Bob Braithwait describes as a "disastrous night" for the Warriors. After reeling off ten straight victories, Arapahoe was bombed by the Loomis Wolves, 65-27. "They (Loomis) did everything right; we did everything wrong," Braithwait said of the Wolves, who are rated fourth in Class D-2 with a 9-1 record.
While Southwest Nebraska always has its share of winning teams, it is rare when the top teams are located so close together. As neighbors, the players get to know each other. "In the summer, Arapahoe and Cambridge athletes play together on the same Furnas County baseball team," Braithwait said.
It's also fun and highly competitive for parents and devout sports fans, who are often well acquainted with residents of adjoining communities.
Despite the highly-charged emotions, Coach Hughes from Dundy County said he is proud of how well the young athletes are conducting themselves. "The other night, one of the refs congratulated the girls for their sportsmanship, saying he would be proud to have his daughter play for the team. The winning is wonderful, but the way the girls are going about it makes the season even more special."