Top Ten rankings abound
High rankings for Southwest Nebraska basketball teams are not unusual. Almost every year, one or more teams from the region are among the Top Ten teams in the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Associated Press ratings.
But, this year, three area high schools have a rare distinction. For one of the only times in the memory of coaches and sportswriters, the three schools have both their boys and girls team ranked in the Omaha World-Herald's list of Top Ten teams in Class D-1.
The standout schools are Arapahoe, Cambridge and Wauneta-Palisade.
In this week's rankings -- announced Tuesday -- Arapahoe's boys were ranked second in Class D-1 with a 12 win, no loss record, Wauneta-Palisade was rated second with a 10-2 mark and Cambridge was fifth with a 10-1 record.
In the World-Herald girls standings for Class D-1, Arapahoe was fourth with a 12-1 mark, Cambridge was sixth with an 8-3 win-loss record, and Wauneta-Palisade was eighth with 9 wins and 3 losses.
Del Schoenfish, long-time boys coach at Cambridge, said part of the area teams' success stems from a strong athletic tradition in the Southwest region. "There's a lot of pride in sports programs in this area," he said. "It showed in football, with teams from the area doing well in the playoffs, and it's showing in the early part of the basketball season."
The successful area programs are also strong believers in bonding as a team and participating in a number of summer camps. "The Arapahoe girls won only three games two years ago," said Coach Kip Stevens. "But the girls have worked hard since then, going to a number of camps and sharing experiences, such as whitewater rafting in Colorado. They started turning it around last year, with a 13-8 record, and have stepped it up even more this year."
Fortunately, Arapahoe, Cambridge and Wauneta-Palisade will be in different sub-districts this year. However, if they are victorious in sub-district play, the Cambridge and Wauneta-Palisade teams will meet in the district finals to determine who goes to state.
While Arapahoe won't have to face Cambridge or Wauneta-Palisade in district play, they have an equally daunting task. They are in the same sub-district as the Axtell boys, the third-ranked team in D-1.
What this all means is that fans can look forward to thrilling basketball action during the last half of the 2005-06 basketball season. With six of the state's top Class D-1 teams, much of that action will take place in the sports-minded southwestern part of the state.