Life is about overcoming obstacles, and Elkhorn South overcame several to reach the state tournament.
Consider these factors working against the Storm heading into Saturday night’s B-8 district final at South Sioux City:
- Elkhorn South was coming off an emotional triple-overtime loss to Elkhorn three days earlier in the subdistrict final.
- The Storm would be facing the Cardinals on their home court, the Mini Dome — one of the most intimidating venues in the state.
- Because of a previously scheduled 200-team youth tournament at the site, the game would be starting three to five hours after the other Class B district finals.
- The snow made travel difficult, limiting the number of Elkhorn South fans making the 180-mile round trip.
Despite that, the Storm defeated South Sioux 52-50 to qualify for state. It was the first home loss for the Cardinals, who were seeking their Class B-leading 24th tourney berth.
“I could not have been prouder of my team,” Elkhorn South coach Terry Graver said. “I can’t say enough about the way we battled back.”
It was Graver’s first visit to the Mini Dome, which features a sunken gym floor surrounded on all sides by Cardinal faithful. On the walls are large photos of the school’s 12 state title squads and from the rafters hang the championship banners.
“It’s even more incredible than what I’ve heard people talk about,” the coach said. “It’s just a great venue with so much tradition.”
Teams often can be intimidated before the game starts and that might have been the case Saturday night. The Cardinals jumped to a 9-0 lead and Graver called two timeouts in the first quarter.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done that,” he said. “I just wanted to get us settled down.”
South Sioux led 17-10 after the first quarter and 31-26 at halftime, but the Storm grabbed a 43-41 advantage entering the fourth quarter. The Cardinals then fought back to take a six-point lead with 1:30 left.
Three-pointers by Reese Baltzell and Cami Small tied the game and late free throws by Madison Hill and Rylee Gray put the Storm on top. Hill then blocked a shot with 1.5 seconds left to clinch the victory.
Graver said a switch defensively in the second half helped fuel the comeback.
“They were ripping up our 2-3 zone,” he said. “We switched to man to man and contested their 3-point shooters.”
The 6-foot-4 Gray, a Nebraska volleyball recruit, led the Storm with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Baltzell and Leah Wamsley each finished with eight points.
After the photos were taken of the victorious team, there was one more major obstacle to overcome — getting home.
“The snow had gotten pretty bad and it took us more than three hours,” Graver said. “But the trip would have been a lot more painful if we’d have lost.”
Now Elkhorn South, like the other state-qualifying Class B teams, will have several days to prepare for the tourney that begins Feb. 28.
“It was an exciting and emotional night,” Graver said. “But now we need to refocus and look ahead.”
Sims’ standout career ends
The South Sioux City loss means that two-time All-Nebraska guard McKenna Sims won’t be a part of the state tournament her senior year.
She finishes her career with 1,447 points, No. 3 in school history behind Katie Robinette (1,944) and Trish Martin (1,718). The Illinois State recruit had 522 career rebounds, 495 assists and 373 steals.
Sims also is a childhood leukemia survivor who is an inspiration to all who know her.
I’ll miss seeing her play at state but wish her all the best in the future.
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Losses last week by the previous No. 1 teams in Class A and Class B — Millard North and Crete — open the door for the No. 2 teams to move up.
Lincoln East is the new No. 1 in Class A following the Mustangs’ home loss to Omaha Benson. The Spartans have won eight in a row and 12 of 13 entering districts.
Seward moved to the top spot after Crete’s home loss to Norris in subdistricts. The Bluejays also have won eight straight but survived a close call in their district final Saturday against Norris, prevailing 47-46.
Benson slides into the Top 10 after posting a road win over Millard North. The Bunnies replace Wahoo, which suffered its first loss against Wahoo Neumann in a Class C-1 subdistrict final.
Since district play is still going on in C and D, there will no ratings this week in those classes. All classes will be ranked before the state tournament.
Just missed trip to state
Though the team won’t be going to state, here’s a salute to coach Mark Hagerman and his Norris Titans.
Norris defeated Crete in subdistricts and came within a point of Seward in the district final. Hagerman is an outstanding coach who always gets the most out of his team, though it just wasn’t quite enough this year.
While the Class B districts finished up on Saturday, there are still many more district games this week.
Class A semifinals will be contested Tuesday and the finals Thursday. All district finals in Classes C and D will be played Friday.
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Class A: Omaha South 58, Omaha Central 56
Class B: Lincoln Pius X 71, Omaha Roncalli 59 (2OT)
Class C-1: Auburn 30, North Bend Central 29
Class C-2: BRLD 53, Yutan 42
Class D-1: Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family 61, Fremont Bergan 46
Class D-2: Johnson-Brock 67, Osmond 54
Class A: Millard North 62, Lincoln Southwest 52
Class B: Grand Island Northwest 49, Crete 43
Class C-1: Wahoo Neumann 45, Lincoln Christian 29
Class C-2: Hastings St. Cecilia 63, Crofton 45
Class D-1: Fremont Bergan 36, Dundy County-Stratton 27
Class D-2: Wynot 39, Falls City Sacred Heart 38
Class A: Omaha Creighton Prep 56, Bellevue West 46
Class B: York 61, Omaha Skutt 56, 2OT
Class C-1: Wahoo 70, Winnebago 66, OT
Class C-2: Ponca 50, Hastings St. Cecilia 40
Class D-1: Nebraska City Lourdes 32, Kenesaw 25
Class D-2: Falls City Sacred Heart 59, Riverside 42
Class A: Omaha Westside 55, Millard South 44
Class B: Elkhorn 67, South Sioux City 60
Class C-1: Columbus Scotus 40, Wahoo Neumann 37, OT
Class C-2: Superior 42, Ravenna 39
Class D-1: North Central 54, BDS 35
Class D-2: Falls City Sacred Heart 57, Humphrey St. Francis 51
Class A: Norfolk 68, Papillion-La Vista 49
Class B: Gretna 55, Scottsbluff 53
Class C-1: Wahoo Neumann 80, Wahoo 57
Class C-2: Ponca 52, Neligh-Oakdale 45
Class D-1: Nebraska City Lourdes 47, West Point GACC 44
Class D-2: Mullen 29, Mead 29
Class A: Lincoln Southwest 56, Millard South 51
Class B: South Sioux City 48, Norris 44
Class C-1: Lincoln Christian 45, Kearney Catholic 41
Class C-2: Howells-Dodge 39, Diller-Odell 30
Class D-1: West Point GACC 53, Dundy County-Stratton 50
Class D-2: Falls City Sacred Heart 48, Wynot 36
Class A: Omaha South 59, Fremont 50
Class B: Gretna 52, Scottsbluff 33
Class C-1: Wahoo Neumann 63, Adams Central 54
Class C-2: Hastings St. Cecilia 57, Elmwood-Murdock 38
Class D-1: Nebraska City Lourdes 61, Walthill 50
Class D-2: Humphrey St. Francis 33, Mead 31
Class A: Lincoln East 48, Millard West 46
Class B: Elkhorn South 43, Waverly 33
Class C-1: Kearney Catholic 39, Lincoln Christian 37
Class C-2: Crofton 46, West Point GACC 43
Class D-1: Emerson-Hubbard 41, Howells-Dodge 38
Class D-2: Wynot 41, St. Mary's 40
Class A: Omaha Creighton Prep 46, Omaha South 41
Class B: Elkhorn South 60, Sidney 51
Class C-1: Winnebago 66, Columbus Scotus 51
Class C-2: Hastings St. Cecilia 60, Freeman 36
Class D-1: High Plains 64, Humphrey St. Francis 61
Class D-2: Exeter-Milligan 67, Bancroft-Rosalie 62 (2OT)
Class A: Omaha Westside 53, Norfolk 40
Class B: Lincoln Pius X 41, Norris 33
Class C-1: Pierce 38, Kearney Catholic 35
Class C-2: Crofton 48, Hastings St. Cecilia 39
Class D-1: St. Mary's 52, Dundy County-Stratton 33
Class D-2: Falls City Sacred Heart 44, Wynot 39
Class A: Bellevue West 56, Omaha Westside 50 (OT)
Class B: Omaha Skutt 59, Beatrice 45
Class C-1: Wahoo Neumann 68, Wahoo 47
Class C-2: Fremont Bergan 71, Ainsworth 69 (OT)
Class D-1: Randolph 54, Overton 42
Class D-2: Bancroft-Rosalie 62, High Plains 47
Class A: Omaha Benson 47, Bellevue West 43
Class B: Grand Island Northwest 66, Lincoln Pius X 58
Class C-1: Pierce 69, Minden 60
Class C-2: Crofton 62, Hastings St. Cecilia 40
Class D-1: Friend 44, Humphrey St. Francis 43
Class D-2: Wynot 53, Sterling 38
Class A: Omaha Central 69, Papillion-La Vista 44
Class B: South Sioux City 55, Scottsbluff 53
Class C-1: Wahoo 45, Boone Central/Newman Grove 42
Class C-2: Southern Valley 38, Sutton 34 (OT)
Class D-1: Howells-Dodge 49, Paxton 34
Class D-2: Wynot 57, Spalding/Spalding Academy 56 (2OT)
Class A: Lincoln Southeast 65, Bellevue West 57
Class B: Grand Island Northwest 62, Norris 51 (2OT)
Class C-1: Pierce 51, Kearney Catholic 34
Class C-2: Crofton 43, Hastings St. Cecilia 31
Class D-1: Pender 42, St. Mary's 36
Class D-2: Wynot 60, Osmond 52
Class A: Omaha Central 55, Omaha South 38
Class B: Scottsbluff 64, South Sioux City 61
Class C-1: Boys Town 58, Wahoo 55
Class C-2: Ravenna 61, Norfolk Lutheran 51
Class D-1: St. Mary's 56, Pawnee City 54
Class D-2: Giltner 52, Howells 41 (2OT)
Class A: Omaha Central 36, Lincoln Southeast 35
Class B: Seward 46, Beatrice 35
Class C-1: Sandy Creek 51, Minden 45
Class C-2: Crofton 41, Norfolk Lutheran 28
Class D-1: West Point GACC 49, Humphrey 43
Class D-2: Wynot 50, Howells 47 (OT)
Class A: Omaha Central 52, Omaha Bryan 48
Class B: South Sioux City 69, Gretna 56
Class C-1: Norfolk Catholic 56, Minden 45
Class C-2: Lincoln Christian 46, Fremont Bergman 43
Class D-1: West Point GACC 73, Howells 63
Class D-2: Giltner 57, Wauneta-Palisade 54
Class A: Bellevue East 52, Bellevue West 49
Class B: Seward 70, Elkhorn 54
Class C-1: Hastings St. Cecilia 65, Wahoo 61
Class C-2: Homer 49, Crofton 45
Class D-1: Howells 46, Pender 36
Class D-2: Wynot 45, Hay Springs 33
Class A: Omaha Central 71, Norfolk 58
Class B: South Sioux City 60, Omaha Skutt 56 (OT)
Class C-1: Hastings St. Cecilia 46, Chadron 40
Class C-2: Ravenna 57, Fremont Bergan 51
Class D-1: Freeman 52, Overton 38
Class D-2: Ewing 41, Hampton 33
Class A: Bellevue West 51, Millard West 38
Class B: Seward 68, Gretna 45
Class C-1: Wahoo Neumann 58, Wahoo 55 (OT)
Class C-2: Sandy Creek 49, Hartington Cedar Catholic 44
Class D-1: Elkhorn Valley 57, East Butler 52
Class D-2: Lindsay Holy Family 40, Wynot 37
Class A: Omaha Creighton Prep 34, Lincoln Southwest 31
Class B: Ralston 61, Beatrice 49
Class C-1: Hastings St. Cecilia 61, Chadron 58
Class C-2: Ravenna 57, Freeman 51
Class D-1: Mead 55, Humphrey St. Francis 43
Class D-2: Sterling 49, Ewing 48
Class A: Bellevue West 71, Lincoln Southeast 60
Class B: Seward 39, Lincoln Pius X 35
Class C-1: Wahoo Neumann 49, Bennington 38
Class C-2: Ravenna 45, David City Aquinas 40
Class D-1: Bancroft-Rosalie 56, Silver Lake 43
Class D-2: Ewing 51, Chambers 48 (OT)
Class A: Omaha Central 59, Bellevue East 58
Class B: Beatrice 39, Elkhorn 36
Class C-1: Hastings St. Cecilia 50, Bennington 43
Class C-2: Elmwood-Murdock 59, Grand Island Central Catholic 48
Class D-1: Fremont Bergan 56, Humphrey St. Francis 43
Class D-2: Falls City Sacred Heart 66, Pleasanton 54
Class A: Lincoln Southeast 60, Millard West 44
Class B: South Sioux City 53, Alliance 48
Class C-1: Norfolk Catholic 52, Wahoo Neumann 50
Class C-2: Perkins County 62, Sutton 49
Class D-1: Bancroft-Rosalie 68, Pope John 35
Class D-2: Ewing 45, Pleasanton 44
Class A: Omaha Central 93, Bellevue West 85 (OT)
Class B: Omaha Skutt 59, Beatrice 52
Class C-1: Ainsworth 63, Chadron 59
Class C-2: Ponca 56, Oakland-Craig 48
Class D-1: Wauneta-Palisade 71, Leigh 60
Class D-2: St. Edward 48, Spencer-Naper 42
Class A: Bellevue West 54, Omaha Westside 51
Class B: Alliance 55, Crete 40
Class C-1: Crofton 47, Norfolk Catholic 46
Class C-2: Kearney Catholic 60, Perkins County 56 (OT)
Class D-1: Humphrey St. Francis 77, Freeman 27
Class D-2: Ewing 56, Falls City Sacred Heart 46
Class A: Omaha Central 84, Bellevue West 79 (OT)
Class B: Omaha Skutt 66, Holdrege 62 (OT)
Class C-1: Boys Town 68, Louisville 62
Class C-2: David City Aquinas 60, Ravenna 55
Class D-1: Humphrey St. Francis 70, Axtell 34
Class D-2: Ewing 48, Spencer-Naper 44
Class A: Bellevue East 55, Lincoln Northeast 45
Class B: Gretna 52, Beatrice 46
Class C-1: Crofton 48, Ashland-Greenwood 39
Class C-2: Ravenna 55, West Point GACC 44
Class D-1: Humphrey St. Francis 56, Cross County 50
Class D-2: Newcastle 46, Shickley 26
Class A: Bellevue West 67, Omaha Creighton Prep 49
Class B: Beatrice 54, Elkhorn Mt. Michael 49
Class C-1: Syracuse 55, Wahoo Neumann 46
Class C-2: Ravenna 66, Wakefield 28
Class D-1: Pleasanton 70, Humphrey St. Francis 48
Class D-2: Lindsay Holy Family 56, Loomis 53
Class A: Lincoln Northeast 52, Bellevue East 45
Class B: South Sioux City 57, Beatrice 45
Class C-1: Crofton 54, Fort Calhoun 42
Class C-2: West Point GACC 72, Exeter-Milligan 44
Class D-1: Humphrey St. Francis 62, Freeman 48
Class D-2: Wynot 53, Clearwater 49