The Johnson-Brock boys basketball team posed for a photo after upsetting two state-ranked teams to qualify for this week’s Class D-1 state tournament.
That photo included a sign reading, “We have a guardian angel.”
The guardian angel is Terron Jones, a Johnson-Brock senior who collapsed during an open gym and died five days before the start of basketball practice.
“It’s a situation you can never prepare for,” Johnson-Brock coach Nick Krenk said. “It’s been a tough year, a really tough year.
“I can’t say enough about the boys. They’ve shown a lot of poise, a lot of self-discipline to get through this. They’ve shown a lot of heart and a lot of strength.”
Krenk said he expected Jones to be among the team’s top seven or eight players this season. But suddenly, the school was dealing with the loss of a classmate who Krenk said had grown during his time in high school.
“He went from being a shy kid to being one of the most personable and popular kids in school. I don’t think he had a single person who didn’t like him,” Krenk said. “I’m glad he was able to experience some of the things he did before he passed away.”
Johnson-Brock players wear black wristbands with “12” on them in honor of Jones, who wore that uniform number.
And after a rough season in many respects, the Eagles head to Lincoln playing the best basketball they have all season.
After qualifying for state the past two seasons, Johnson-Brock lost eight of its 10 games in January and was 8-14 before reeling off four straight wins to reach the state tournament.
The last two came against then-No. 6 Pawnee City — a team Johnson-Brock lost to by 28 in late January — and then-No. 5 BDS in the district final.
“We felt we had good game plans for those teams and our guys really executed,” said Krenk, a 26-year-old who is in his fourth year as coach. “Our defense has been a strength recently. We’re aware where shooters are and trying to get teams out of their comfort zone.”
Johnson-Brock also has been helped by getting senior Nick Behrends back in its lineup. Behrends, a three-year starter who averaged 12 points a game last season, tore his ACL during football. He’s not 100 percent, but he’s providing a lift.
“With Nick coming back, he’s kind of been our leader,” Krenk said. “Having him come back has been a calming presence for the team. We’re playing with a lot of confidence. Our seniors have stepped their games up.”
Johnson-Brock hasn’t allowed more than 55 points in its past seven games. The Eagles held Pawnee City to 46 and BDS to 40.
Next up is undefeated Howells-Dodge, which has scored 60 or more in half of its games. The teams will square off in the first round at 7 p.m. Thursday at Lincoln North Star.
“We’ll have to keep them off the boards and keep doing what we have been doing,” Krenk said.
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