Before the final buzzer and the storming of the Papillion-La Vista court, the questions were coming Saturday night as to how the Top 10 would change with the Monarchs' 67-58 win against No. 1 Omaha Central.
Pretty simple. Elevate Omaha South (17-1) to No. 1 and Papillion-La Vista (15-3) to No. 2, and let the Eagles (16-3) fall to No. 3.
Hold on, some might say. Central has proven itself on the national level. And one off night, a loss to a top-three team in Nebraska, shouldn't dislodge the Eagles.
If it were only that. Saturday's loss, from this perspective, underlined Central's lack of depth and exposed an undercurrent of complacency. It's a team that needed an attention-getting game to refocus, and Papio gave it to the Eagles from the opening tip before the most energized crowd of the season for a Class A game.
Central must regroup quickly, for its next opponent is South. Friday night's game should pack the Packer gym long before tipoff (more on Central later).
South holds the top spot for the first time in 20 years — the Packers were No. 1 in the Jan. 25, 1993, Top 10.
They started last week's chain of events by notching their second two-point win of the season over Papillion-La Vista. Their 57-55 home win followed a 51-49 win in the Metro Conference holiday tournament semifinals.
South's one loss was 64-51 to Central in the Metro final, a game in which the Packers trailed by five early in the fourth quarter before giving up a 13-point run.
As for Papio, in last week's column it was suggested that if the Monarchs won two of three against South, Fremont and Central that it would be a significant achievement. They got it done and came close to a three-game sweep — had they converted one of their three chances in the final 16.6 seconds to tie South or go ahead.
So there is clearly a Big Three that the rest of Class A is chasing. February schedules are such, however, that the trio have only a handful of games against ranked teams.
Central has none after playing South, but does play Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy on Feb. 9 in Grand Island.
Papio hosts No. 10 Millard North on Friday, visits ratings contender Lincoln Southeast on Saturday and finishes against three teams with losing records.
South appears to face the toughest in-state obstacles. After Central, the Packers visit No. 4 Millard West on Feb. 9 and No. 8 Omaha North on Feb. 16.
Back to Central. The Eagles may have the best starters ever in the state for college potential, but they've had to overly rely on a six-man rotation. Those minutes are adding up. The shots that were hitting the front of the rim against Papio are a sign of tired legs.
It hasn't helped to be without Tra-Deon Hollins, who has a high ankle sprain. he's perhaps Central's best defender. Saturday's starters played roughly 145 of the 160 available minutes, with Deandre Hollins-Johnson not leaving the court. KJ Scott was ill, played a gutty 27 minutes and led the Eagles with 21 points.
As for the complacency element, Central had to guard against a lull between the national attractions added to its schedule — the City of Palms Classic in Florida in December and the game with Oak Hill.
Even before the loss, the signs of a lull showed in the scores. The Eagles played seven teams in January that also were on their schedule a year ago. Central's average winning margin was eight points less this time around, though the strength of schedule was about the same.
The Eagles' in-state winning streak (50 games) is gone. So is the state No. 1 ranking, though that can come back to them. Spots in the national top 20 probably won't return unless they beat Oak Hill.
What remains attainable is a fourth consecutive state championship and seventh title in eight years. Central is quite capable.
Class B: Elkhorn South's rise to No. 1, a school first in any boys sport, follows the Storm's run to the Eastern Midlands Conference tournament title. Their win in the championship game was their second in overtime over Waverly in eight days.
A rare matchup of conference champions Saturday pits Elkhorn South at No. 8 Omaha Gross, which won the River Cities Conference tournament.
McCook had been No. 1 before its 53-48 loss at Class C-1 undefeated Kearney Catholic. The Bison now are third, with Scottsbluff returning to second.
Statistics due: Coaches in Class A, Class B and Omaha-area schools are reminded to submit their updated statistics to me by Tuesday night.
Top games this week:
Class A—Thursday: Omaha Westside at Lincoln Southwest. Friday: Omaha Central at Omaha South, Millard North at Papillion-La Vista, Omaha Gross at Lincoln Pius X, Bellevue West at Omaha Burke, Westside at Omaha North. Saturday: Papillion-La Vista at Lincoln Southeast, Bellevue West at Norfolk, Fremont at North Platte, Kearney at Central, Omaha South at Lincoln East, Omaha Bryan at Millard West.
Class B—Tuesday: Grand Island Northwest at Crete, Omaha Skutt at South Sioux City. Friday: Crete at Waverly, Ralston at Omaha Roncalli, Gering at Sidney. Saturday: Beatrice at Skutt, Elkhorn South at Gross, Roncalli at South Sioux City, York at Columbus LV.
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