Though the long winning streak is over, Seward remains on track for something even more coveted — a fifth consecutive girls state basketball championship.
The Bluejays have a chance to become the third school to win five straight. Sandy Creek won six in a row from 1996 to 2001, and South Sioux City won six from 2000 to '05.
“We're thrilled to be in this position,” Seward coach Tom Tvrdy said. “Having the chance to repeat is something we had been aiming for all season.”
Tvrdy's squads have dominated the past four seasons, winning 101 games in a row while pulling down those four state titles. The string grew to 104 before Lincoln Pius X snapped it with a 40-38 road win in the fourth game of the season.
“I knew going into this season that losing four to six games was a possibility,” Tvrdy said. “We had two returning starters, and our schedule was the toughest it had ever been.”
Fortunately for the Bluejays, those two returning starters were Division I recruits. Senior center Kourteney Zadina (Northern Colorado) is averaging 15.6 points per game and Hannah Tvrdy (Nebraska) is averaging 15.5.
Both players say they've moved on from the winning streak and are focused on the state tournament.
“After we lost and the streak ended, I think there was a little less pressure on us,” Zadina said. “We've just been concentrating on trying to get better as the season goes along so that we'd have a chance to defend our title.”
Hannah Tvrdy, daughter of the coach, said having the streak behind the Bluejays is a good thing.
“We don't have to worry about it anymore,” she said. “We knew getting to state wasn't going to be an easy journey, but it was something we all wanted.”
Seward remained on track for that goal despite two midseason losses against Beatrice. The Bluejays have won 15 in a row leading into their first-round tournament game Thursday at 7 p.m. against fifth-ranked Holdrege.
“If we have any advantage, it's that we've been to state before and we know what it's like,” Zadina said. “But we also know it's going to take our best effort because everybody is going to be giving us their best shot.”
Two other players who have keyed the Bluejays' attack are senior forward Taylor Seaman (7.8 ppg) and senior guard Lindsey Placke (6.1 ppg). The return of senior guard Sierra Roth has also helped. She missed a good portion of the season with a stress fracture in her foot.
Tom Tvrdy said he is certain his team will be focused for its first-rounder against Holdrege, a team the Bluejays have defeated twice this season. A win would lift Seward into the semifinals and keep the team on track for a possible finals rematch with top-seeded Beatrice, the team that has given the Bluejays two of their three losses.
“We're not even close to thinking about Beatrice,” the coach said. “At the state tournament, you can't get caught looking ahead, because that's when bad things happen.”
As the second seed, Seward enters the tourney without the target on its back of previous years. A balanced Class B field also should make for an interesting tournament.
“Our main goals were to get to state and to play well once we got there,” coach Tvrdy said. “We've made the tournament, so now we need to focus on playing the best basketball that we can.”
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