Patterson: Rebuilding Omaha Northwest still in hunt for repeat state berth

Jadai Burns is averaging 8.8 points per game, helping Northwest replace six seniors from last year’s team that made state for the first time in 37 years.

Omaha Northwest faced a tough task coming off one of its most successful seasons .

The Huskies entered this year with a new coach and graduated much of the firepower from the squad that reached state for the first time in 37 years.

But Northwest has put together a respectable 11-win season and has one more goal in sight — a return trip to Lincoln.

“Honestly, I’m really proud of the way our team has come together,’’ coach Genese Hodges said. “It’s been an adjustment for everyone, including me.’’

Hodges was an assistant last season for Donnie Johnson, who now is coaching the Huskies’ boys team. That Northwest team won 16 games — including a thrilling district final at Omaha Westside — and went to the state tournament for the first time since 1980.

The first-year coach said the win over the Warriors and the state tourney berth were two huge steps for the program.

“We showed that it could be done,’’ she said. “I think we proved a lot of doubters wrong, and it gave everyone here a great sense of accomplishment.”

There probably were doubters again this year after the graduation of six seniors, including top scorers Jaden Wrightsell and De’Ayra Davis. But Hodges said her young team has come together as the season has progressed.

“I know how much we’ve improved,’’ she said. “We’ve got a pretty good record, and we’ve lost some close ones to some of the best teams.’’

The Huskies’ biggest win came Feb. 2 in a rematch of last year’s district final. Northwest once again went on the road to post a 77-74 overtime win over Westside.

“It was a lot like the atmosphere for that district final,’’ Hodges said. “I’m sure they hadn’t forgotten that loss, and we were still able to get the job done.’’

Northwest had a tough schedule down the stretch and lost four games to teams that have been ranked this season. The most recent setback came Saturday night in a 65-57 loss to No. 1 Millard South.

“We were down 13 and came back to get it tied,’’ she said. “We came up short but we were close.’’

Caliana Fenceroy (14.1 points per game), Ale’jah Douglas (9.5), Jadai Burns (8.8) and Kaylynn Tucker (7.4) have led the Huskies’ attack. Burns, one of two seniors, also is averaging nine rebounds.

Next up for Northwest is a district semifinal Tuesday night at Omaha Benson. The Huskies began the season with a 16-point loss to the Bunnies in the Omaha Public Schools Jamboree.

“We’ve come a long way since that first game,’’ Hodges said. “It’ll be a challenge for us, but hopefully we can keep our season going.’’

Ratings update

Millard South moves back to the overall No. 1 spot in the ratings after a loss by previous No. 1 Lincoln East.

The Spartans saw their 11-game win streak end Friday, 57-48 at Omaha North. Senior Dariauna Lewis scored 29 points to pace the Vikings.

Omaha Westside moves up to No. 2, followed by Millard North and Lincoln East.

South Sioux City is the new No. 1 in Class B. The Cardinals are riding a 13-game win string and are coming off a 69-38 victory over Alliance in the B-5 district final.

A big mover in Class B this week is Metro Conference member Elkhorn South, which jumps from No. 8 to No. 3. The Storm have won seven in a row and qualified for state with a 57-47 win over Gretna in the B-8 district final.

Class B drama

The Class B district finals had their share of excitement Saturday, including B-7 between Beatrice and host Waverly.

Michaela Jones sank a free throw with 0.7 seconds left to boost the Lady Orange to a 42-41 victory. Jones finished with 22 points and nine rebounds as Beatrice reached its first state tourney since 2013.

It was undoubtedly a satisfying victory for coach Dennis Coudeyras, who is coaching the team while on crutches. He is recovering from surgery after injuring his leg last month before a game at South Sioux City.

Streamlined ratings

This week’s ratings consist of only the overall Top 10, Class A and Class B because of ongoing district play in the other classes.

All six classes will be ranked next week before the start of the state tournament.

Mike covers high school sports, primarily volleyball in the fall, girls basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. He also reports on horse racing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @MPattersonOWH. Phone: 402-444-1350.

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