Elkhorn South's Matt Thomas (#24) gets a shot off against Lincoln Pius X.
*(photo courtesy of Journal-Star)
Alright, I'm finally over my football withdrawal. Well, never completely, but high school hoops season is in full swing and I've noticed some very noteworthy things attending games here and there and watching a ton of film. Lots of players that fit that "borderline star" status and a real youth movement that will pay huge dividends down the road for many teams. Some of these freshman and sophomores are playing well now, so those dividends are being felt as we enter the busiest month of the high school hoops season.
Here is a peak at what I have seen thus far below Class A.
Nobody slowing down those Navy Blue and Vegas Gold clad Storm players from Elkhorn South. Only 2 close calls on their 8-0 record and a couple of impressive spankings of both Wahoo teams in that Bishop Neumann Holiday tournament. Yes, they are both C-1 basketball teams, but they may end up being the cream of the crop in that splendid class. Matt Thomas is a returning all-stater for the Storm and is dropping in around 18 points a game. J.J. Zumbrennen nails the 3's, Chase Alberts hits the boards and Elkhorn South is cruising right now.
No football hangover at York high school, no sir. The Dukes are also 8-0 and are led by returning all-state football/basketball star, Ty Danielson. One thing going for those Dukes is their schedule. The only real tests the rest of the regular season appear to be C-1 toughie GICC (next Tuesday) and Beatrice Feb. 21st. The Central Conference could also offer some competition as well.
I saw Beatrice play in the Aurora Holiday bash and the Orange looked very strong and 2nd year coach Tyler Struck has these guys playing the same tenacious defense the Master, Jimmy Weeks, instilled there years ago. Senior guards Rylee Zimmerman, Hunter Zarbynicky (sounds like it's spelled), and Ty Bardsley will smother you on defense and kill you from behind the arc on offense.
The Orange nailed 9 of 16 treys against Hastings St. Cecelia in the 1st round of that Aurora tourney and raised all kinds of hassles for the Bluehawks when they had ball.
Gering is the "surprise" team from the West, while Tony Siske's Scottsbluff team is young, but potent as usual. Gering has a splendid sophomore in Austin Hoffman and a steady scoring man in Grant Olsson. The Bulldogs are very balanced and hit it right between they eyes from the charity stripe with their accuracy
The Bearcats from Scottsbluff have a fine leader in Trent Harris, an outstanding Freshman in Dru Kuxhausen and a couple of lads that hit the boards hard in Landon Walker and Austin Clarkson. Gering, whose only losses are to Omaha Skutt and Chadron, will meet Scottsbluff at least 25 more times this season.....well twice more in the regular season anyway.
Alliance also has two nice players in Jordan Mills and Trevor Kamerzell.
Good to see Mt. Michael in the mix again. John Roshone's Knights have an ace player in Mohamad Elrodi and a clutch man in Jake Batenhorst (ask Neumann). The famous 1-3-1 defense held Bishop Neumann's all-state Zach Ahrens to 14 points in a December 10th win.
The Elkhorn Antlers have a sweet player in Alec Cowger (17ppg), Omaha Gross has #14 Jake Hansen hitting nearly 19 points per and Crete has a quarterback on the hardwood named Alex McGinnis that runs the show very well.
Don't forget about Schuyler's Mitch Kassmeier, who is usually going to hit his 20 points an outing and if you love watching those skyscrapers like I used to, Nebraska City has a good one in 6-9 junior, Tanner Breazile. Breazile hits a double-double nearly every game, averaging 16.4 ppg and 9.9 boards.....and he has a year to go.
Oh, and keep an eye on Bennington 6-3 sophomore Bart Hiscock. He scores 16 a contest and hits the boards at nearly 10 a game. Oh, these young kids anymore.
Mother of Mercy, where do I start? FOUR, count 'em, FOUR returning 1st team all-state players return in my favorite of all boys basketball classes. Leading the way is Oklahoma State golf recruit and Gibbon standout, Rylee Reinertson, son of former sharpshooter Paul "Rapid Fire" Reineretson of Ravenna. Just so happens Paul is Gibbon's head coach. Ben Sheef of Wahoo is also back and his daddy is also head coach (Kevin Sheef). Lincoln Christian's Logan Powers, who has several power dunks already this season, is also on hand. Kimball's Mitch Daum also returns but his team has dropped to C-2 this season so we'll look at him later. Reinertson is averaging over 27 ppg this year and playing through pain (fractured rib, back, you name it) to boot. Power is nailing 21 a game, and Sheef drops 17.5 a contest. These 3 returnees in C-1 are by far not one man shows as witnessed by their team's 2013/14 records. Wahoo is 7-1 and leads C-1 in wild card points. Christian is 7-2 and Gibbon is 6-2. No one-trick ponies there.
So many outstanding players in this class....Holy Moly! What better place to start than defending state champion Wahoo (7-1). Coach Kevin Sheef has not one, but two sons that can make things happen on the hardwood. Senior Ben Sheef is averaging 16 points an outing while junior Kevin is leading the Warriors with 17 ppg. Crosstown rival Bishop Neumann, who currently sits at 6-2, has a smothering defense but can shoot lights out with 3 point expert Zach Ahrens. Both Neumann and Wahoo lost to Elkhorn South and will not meet during the regular season, but are in the same sub-district.
As we said before, this class is loaded with quality players. Columbus Scotus has the pure shooting Grant Lahm, a junior who is averaging 17.5 a game. Lahm is a fine ball handler too. Cross town rival Columbus Lakeview has 6-3 senior Ethan Sheffler who is putting down 17ppg. Up the road North, Justin Anderson is looking good for West Point-Beemer. The Cadets have won 7 of 9 thus far and the 6-7, 235 pound senior is scoring at a 19.3 ppg clip. Despite losing to unbeaten D-1 Howells-Dodge, WP-B has quality wins over Omaha Roncalli and Hartington CC.
While talking about that Magic Circle up North, the name Wayne comes to mind big time. The Blue Devils are loaded with talent including Jalen Berry, the best ball handler in the state outside of Class A. Wayne also has holdovers Jared Anderson and Ben Hoskins (Jr) from last years squad that finished the season by beating Kimball in the 3rd Place game at the State Tournament. Kaje Maly is also a force for the Devils.
The cupboard at C-1 runner-up Boone Central is far from being bare as Derek Gentrup and Tyler Hedlund are back. Both suffered serious injuries during the football season but worked diligently and returned in time for the playoffs. Quarterback Wyatt Mazour, injured in the Cozad football game, has yet to return for the Cardinals.
O'Neill has a real nice player in 6-2 senior Charley Burtwhistle, who is averaging 19.4/game and Pierce has a leader in Lane Rohrich, although the Bluejays are 3-5 while dealing with a murderous schedule. Norfolk Catholic has a young, aggressive squad that plays at a fever pace and will do nothing but improve as the season progresses. Talk about a youth movement, sophomores Devin Englehaupt, Matt Miller, and junior Beau Schommer lead the Knights in scoring and rebounding. Senior Dylan Borer can kill you with his treys and we haven't even seen Chase Farlee much at all do to a nagging back injury....he's a good one.
The mystery team, Falls City has fashioned a 9-1 record dotted with 7 out-of-state opponents. The Tigers have a trio of fine players in Mitch Harting, Jordy Stoller and Weston Witt. Senior Harting was named MVP at the recent St. Joseph (Mo.) LeBlond Holiday Tournament. Both Harting and Stoller were 1000 yard rushers in football. Stoller and Witt are only juniors.
Out west, Chadron has another Eliason, as in senior Spencer Eliason. The 6-8 post is scoring nearly 19 a game and pulling down 10.5 rebounds an outing. The Cardinals have lost only to Class B rated Omaha Skutt and Scottsbluff. Chadron's slate is filled with Class B teams like Alliance, Gering, Scottsbluff, Sidney and Douglas, Wyoming. No wonder they are seasoned when they hit Lincoln.
Grand Island Central Catholic has an inside stud in Yohanna Ghaifan. Ghaifan, only a junior, is usually double teamed and often triple covered, yet is scoring 17 points a game, grabbing 11 boards, and blocking 3 shots a contest. The 250+ pound Ghaifan is nearly impossible to move underneath and was an all-state defensive end in football. The great thing about this kid is he rarely, if ever travels with the basketball while making moves to free himself from that sagging triple coverage. Amazing player.
Surprising Wisner-Pilger has an awfully fine player in Lucas Bradfield, who is capable of a 30 point outburst more than just now and then. A shining star for a 4-5 Madison team is 6-4 junior Zach Wells. Zach is scoring 16.8 ppg, grabbing 6 boards, stealing the ball a couple times a contest, and blocking a shot a game.
Boys Town may only have a 3-4 record thus far but sophomore Cory Ponds is scoring 15 a game.
Some teams that are not experiencing great seasons thus far, still have some sharpshooters. St. Paul (0-9) has a good one in #20, Josh Harrahill, a 5-9 senior. The 'Cats are averaging 44 ppg and Harrahill is scoring 19 of those every time out.
David City is 3-6 but junior Ben Danielson is a standout and was averging 18 ppg and the Scouts had only scored 40 ppg. through the first 4 games. And just north of Grand Island, Centura's James Lemburg sparkles on a 2-7 team by pouring in 18 ppg. The 6-1 senior captain had 33 points against Central City earlier and hit 28 against Ord on December 21st.
Those are just some of the outstanding players in both Classes B and C-1.
Later in the week we'll have a look at C-2, D-1 and D-2.