It can't be basketball season already, can it?
I'm still decompressing from the state volleyball tournament earlier this month in Grand Island. That tournament capped a season that produced some high drama, and it's my guess the same will be said of this girls high school basketball season.
The crystal ball correctly predicted four state volleyball champions, which was one more than colleague Stu Pospisil managed from his high school football picks. Riding that wave of giddiness, let's take a look at some of the storylines we'll be following in basketball.
A new coach at Omaha Marian. Lisa Schmidt will guide the storied Crusaders program, which is coming off a very un-Marian like 6-17 year. The Crusaders have missed the state tournament the past two seasons but are still tied with Lincoln Southeast for the most tournament appearances with 26.
Southeast's mission. The Knights came up one point short in the Class A final last year against Omaha Central, in part because of a controversial officiating call with 2.4 seconds left. Southeast appears to have the parts in place to make a run at its first title since 2008.
Central's year after. The Eagles will be the Class A team wearing the target this season after capturing their first state title since 1984. It will be interesting to see how the team performs without All-Nebraska center Brianna Rollerson, who is now at Creighton.
Bellevue West transition. Much like Marian, the Thunderbirds will carry on with former assistant Marc Kruger at the helm. He takes over for Matt Fritsche, who is now the coach at Midland University.
A healthy Bellevue East. The Chieftains still reached the state tournament last season after losing some key players to season-ending knee injuries. Bellevue East's relentless defense usually takes its toll on opponents, and this year should be no different.
Hobza's status. It's unclear how much senior guard Jayla Hobza will play for Bellevue East. Coach Scott Jensen said she is on a leave of absence from the team for personal reasons and at this point it is not known if and when she'll return.
Titans without trio. Papillion-La Vista South, which reached state for the second consecutive time last year, must move on without three key members of the 2011-12 squad. Twins Kadie and Amber Rolfzen are graduating early to get a jump-start on their volleyball careers at Nebraska, and another Husker volleyball recruit — 5-foot-11 Kelly Hunter — won't be playing basketball this winter.
Super sophomores. After posting huge numbers as freshmen, it will be interesting to see how Southeast's Jess Shepard and Omaha Benson's Kianna Ibis perform as sophomores.
Seward's winning streak. Perhaps the biggest story heading into the season is the Class B Bluejays' 101-game winning streak, 10 short of the state record. It doesn't seem that long ago that the former West Point Central Catholic (now West Point Guardian Angels Central Catholic) set the mark from 2001 to 2006 behind the play of Megan Neuvirth.
The season begins Thursday, so let's channel the words of state tournament public-address announcers Rich Broderson and Dwight “Doc” Wininger and say ...
Let's play basketball!
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