LINCOLN — Officially, Rylee Gray is committed to play volleyball at Nebraska.
Unofficially, she reinforced the notion Thursday that she would be just as comfortable playing Division I basketball.
The 6-foot-4 sophomore turned in a dominating performance in Elkhorn South’s 51-37 win over Sidney in the first round of the Class B tournament. Gray had 14 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks.
Much of her effort came under the watchful eye of NU volleyball coach John Cook, who was standing in an entryway near the court. But he needn’t worry about Gray waffling on her commitment.
“I’m committed to volleyball,” she said. “Even though I’ve played basketball longer.”
Gray added that she hoped Cook liked what he saw.
“I know he loves multisport athletes,” she said. “I also do track.”
The athletic Gray is a rarity, shooting a basketball left-handed but spiking a volleyball right-handed. She also can hit a shot inside or step out and shoot the 3.
“She’s probably our second-best 3-point shooter,” Storm coach Terry Graver said. “She can help us in a lot of ways.”
Gray also has a fun side, as her nonmatching socks Thursday would attest. But she can ramp up the intensity, as two plays in the second half demonstrated.
She was whistled for a foul on offense, a call she disputed. On Sidney’s next possession, Gray violently blocked a shot that sailed far from the court.
“I got fired up on that one,” she said. “I didn’t think I deserved that foul.”
Graver said Gray has become an elite shot blocker in part because of her long arms.
“She lets players shoot and then goes up to block it,” he said. “She can avoid a lot of fouls that way.”
Just her presence was intimidating enough as several Sidney players altered their shots to get them over Gray’s outstretched reach.
Metro Conference member Elkhorn South also is reaching high while embracing the underdog role at state. The Storm are seeded eighth but knocked off the top-seeded Lady Raiders.
“We’ve flown under the radar all year,” Graver said. “I can’t explain how tough our schedule is.”
Elkhorn South will ride the momentum of Thursday’s win into a 2 p.m. semifinal Friday against Crete. Graver said he’s counting on another big game from the future Husker.
“Rylee rises to the occasion,” he said. “She’s such a great volleyball player, but she could play college basketball for sure.”
Star City showcase
It was a great first day for Class A teams from Lincoln as all three posted wins.
East took out Millard South, Southwest ousted defending champion Omaha Westside and Pius eliminated Benson.
“It’s nice for Lincoln basketball,” Silver Hawks coach Jeff Rump said. “I think we all have a lot of different styles that we can play.”
Class C-1 Lincoln Christian also came home a winner — 46-35 over West Point-Beemer.
There was something a little unusual about Crete’s win over Omaha Skutt, a game with a definite Creighton flavor.
Creighton men’s basketball coach Greg McDermott was in the stands to watch his daughter, SkyHawk senior Sydney McDermott.
Crete’s top player is Morgan Maly, a Creighton recruit.
In this matchup, Maly and the Cardinals came out on top. She scored 22 points as Crete rolled to a 48-29 win.
Wynot has a knack at state
If you want to see a team that knows what to do at state, look no further than Class D-2 Wynot.
The Blue Devils entered having made 10 trips to state, and they had reached the final nine times. Wynot has won six titles during that time.
Coach Steve Wieseler’s seventh-seeded squad was up to its old tricks Thursday, scoring in the final five seconds to rally past second-seeded Humphrey St. Francis.
Now the Blue Devils are one win from their 10th finals appearance in 11 years.
That’s impressive, no matter which class you’re talking about.
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