A scheduling quirk has the four highest-ranked teams in the Metro Conference in a true cage match this weekend.
Will No. 1 Omaha Central or No. 3 Omaha South sweep No. 2 Omaha Benson and No. 5 Omaha Westside? The Bunnies and Warriors take turns playing Central and South.
Friday night, it’s Westside visiting Central for a matchup of the two longest winning streaks in Class A and Benson visiting South in a rematch of the season opener won by the Bunnies.
On Saturday, Benson hosts Central in a 2:45 p.m. matinee game. At 7:15, Westside hosts South.
A sweep by any of the four would be valuable, but especially for South and Westside. While Central and Benson sit 1-2 in the Class A point standings, South is seventh and Westside eighth.
The Warriors (12-4) moved into the top five of the rankings this week after extending their winning streak to eight games with Friday’s 64-39 blowout of previous No. 5 Bellevue West and Saturday’s 53-44 win at then-No. 9 Fremont.
Central’s winning streak reached 15 as the Eagles (16-1) defeated then-Class A No. 10 Omaha Creighton Prep 60-48 and South 49-42.
Shooting miseries for their opponents helped the Eagles. Prep was 0 of 12 at the line — in following high school boys hoops since 1977, I can’t remember another such instance — and South missed, by its count, 11 layups.
Central coach Eric Behrens said he hasn’t wanted his team to get preoccupied with the big picture of playing four ranked opponents in two weekends.
“It’s one at a time,” he said. “All we worked on last week was Prep and finally (looked) to South on Saturday morning.”
Behrens acknowledged that the order of games couldn’t be better because the Saturday opponents are extremely familiar foes. Central has played the Packers 10 times in the past four seasons. This will be its third game of the season against Benson.
“We hadn’t played Prep yet this year and we haven’t played Westside,” Behrens said. “It’s harder preparing for someone for the first time.”
In the new Top 10, Westside vaults over Class B leader Elkhorn South. The Storm are a strong No. 6 after breezing to their first Eastern Midlands Conference title. They won their three tournament games by an average of 32 points.
They’ll see two Class A teams this month, Grand Island at the Feb. 15 Heartland Hoops Classic in G.I. and Omaha Northwest on Feb. 21.
Lincoln Southeast, on a four-game winning streak, moves up to seventh. Bellevue West tumbles to eighth, with Omaha Burke and Fremont flipping spots after their Saturday setbacks. Burke lost 57-56 at Southeast.
Prep stays 10th in Class A even with a 0-2 weekend. Papio South beat the host Junior Jays 47-42 in overtime Saturday. What keeps them ranked is their recent win against Omaha South.
Class B: With only the top four teams avoiding losses, the ratings picture is further muddied. The shakeout results in four Eastern Midlands teams in the rankings. Norris returns in eighth, runner-up Bennington rises to ninth and Plattsmouth gets its first ratings call of the season at No. 10.
New No. 5 Sidney held on at now-No. 6 Scottsbluff for a 66-62 win. Sidney hosts the Bearcats Saturday.
Class A projection: There are three weeks left before Class A’s district seedings and assignments are made, but if the present order continues there could be some interesting possibilities:
South Sioux City would be a No. 6 seed and a host for a district that would include Omaha Burke.
All three Millard teams would be in the Bellevue West district.
Norfolk would not have a Metro Conference team in its grouping.
And South and Westside would be in the same district, with first-round games against teams vastly improved since December — Omaha North and Kearney.
The district projections as of this week:
A-1: Omaha Central, Lincoln High, Omaha Northwest, Bellevue East
A-2: Omaha Benson, Fremont, Lincoln East, Grand Island
A-3: Norfolk, Lincoln North Star, North Platte, Lincoln Southwest
A-4: Lincoln Southeast, Creighton Prep, Papillion-La Vista, Omaha Bryan
A-5: Bellevue West, Millard South, Millard West, Millard North
A-6: South Sioux City, Omaha Burke, Papillion-La Vista South, Lincoln Northeast
A-7: Omaha South, Omaha Westside, Omaha North, Kearney
Statistics due: Coaches of Class A, Class B and Omaha-area small-school teams are reminded that this week’s deadline for reporting their cumulative season statistics is noon Wednesday.
Top games this week:
Class A—Tuesday: Lincoln Southeast at Lincoln North Star. Friday: Omaha Westside at Omaha Central, Omaha Benson at Omaha South, Fremont at Norfolk. Saturday: Central at Benson (2:45 p.m.), Omaha South at Westside, Omaha Creighton Prep at Bellevue West, Millard South at Omaha Northwest
Class B—Tuesday: South Sioux City at Omaha Skutt, Bennington at Omaha Roncalli, Seward at Columbus Lakeview. Friday: Plattsmouth at Bennington, Sidney at Gering, Lincoln Pius X at Omaha Gross, Roncalli at Ralston. Saturday: Skutt at Beatrice, South Sioux City at Roncalli, Ralston at Plattsmouth, Scottsbluff at Sidney, Wahoo Neumann at Seward, Columbus Lakeview at York.