The move from Class B to Class A hasn’t hurt Lincoln Pius X one bit.
The Thunderbolts, who kept their primarily Class B schedule intact for this season, are 11-5 and sit 10th in wild-card points. Pius has won nine of its past 10 games and cracks the Class A ratings this week at No. 9.
“We’re playing our best basketball of the season, so that’s a positive,” coach Bill Rice said. “We got off to a really tough start but we’ve come on since then.”
Pius, which returned three starters from last year’s 11-10 squad, lost three of its first four games. One was in overtime against Class B No. 6 Waverly, another in double overtime against Class B No. 5 Norris and the third against Class B No. 1 Beatrice.
Sandwiched in between was the Thunderbolts’ first win of the season, but it was notable. Pius traveled to Seward and posted a 40-38 win, snapping the Bluejays’ 104-game winning streak seven games short of the state record.
“That win seems like a long time ago, but it did give us a big boost,” Rice said. “It kind of told us that everything was going to be OK.”
Since that early three-loss stretch, the Thunderbolts have lost twice — Dec. 28 against Class B No. 4 Gretna and Jan. 11 in triple overtime against ratings contender Elkhorn.
Rice makes no apologies for his squad’s predominantly Class B schedule.
“Most of the B teams that we’ve played are every bit as good as a lot of Class A teams,” he said. “I don’t think anybody can look at our schedule and say we haven’t played tough teams.”
The Thunderbolts start two seniors and three sophomores. One of those underclassmen, 6-foot-1 guard Maddie Simon, leads the team in scoring at 14.5 points per game.
She’s also drawn the attention of several Division I universities, including Nebraska and Creighton.
“Maddie has done a really nice job for us,” Rice said. “She’s making better decisions with the ball and is making fewer turnovers.”
Simon had one of her best games of the season in the double-overtime loss against Norris, scoring 31 points.
The other starters for the Thunderbolts are seniors Rachel Arthur and Miranda Paul and sophomores Briahtia Sebek and Becky Brokaw. Arthur averages 9.5 points per game, Paul averages seven. Sebek is the top 3-point shooter and the 6-1 Brokaw is the team’s post.
“It’s encouraging that we’ve gotten better each week offensively,” Rice said. “We need to keep improving because one of our biggest challenges is just ahead.”
Pius hosts Class A No. 7 Lincoln Southeast on Thursday night. That means trying to slow down Nebraska recruit Jess Shepard, who leads Class A in scoring (23.3 points per game) and rebounding (10.7 per game).
Following their one-year bump to Class A, the Thunderbolts will be back in their more familiar Class B slot next season. No matter the class, Rice’s squad is playing hard and has a shot at its first state tournament berth since 2009.
“We’re finishing the season strong,” the coach said. “So we’ll see what happens the rest of the way.”
Ratings update: Bellevue West remains No. 1 in Class A while Beatrice stays atop Class B.
The Thunderbirds bounced back from their overtime loss Jan. 26 at Millard West by posting road wins against Omaha Burke and Norfolk. Bellevue West hosts No. 5 Millard North on Thursday night and Omaha North on Friday night.
Beatrice had one game last week, but it was a nail-biter. The Lady Orange defeated visiting Omaha Gross 47-45 in double overtime. The 13-6 Cougars still move into the Class B ratings this week at No. 10.
Burke-Columbus: Without much fanfare, Columbus hosted Burke on Saturday night and posted a 50-46 win.
You might remember the teams’ game last year. The host Bulldogs wore pink uniforms to raise money for charity. A Columbus school official brought the non-regulation uniforms to the attention of the referees at the start of the second half and Burke received a technical foul.
Columbus, which was trailing by a point, made the two free throws for the technical and went on to win — though many viewed the act as poor sportsmanship.
Burke coach Luke Lueders said Sunday that both schools have moved on.
“I had a great talk with (Columbus coach) Dave Licari before our game Saturday night,” Lueders said. “That’s all in the past.”
National anthem: While covering so many games during the course of the season, you hear many renditions of the national anthem.
The one sung by the duo of Jenny Smith and Jay Colwell before Saturday’s Crete-Waverly game stands out as one of the best. Vikings Athletic Director Mitch Stine informed me that Smith is a Waverly graduate.
Hobza update: Former All-Nebraska guard Jayla Hobza has missed Bellevue East’s past four games while dealing with personal issues. While her immediate playing status remains in doubt, Chieftains coach Scott Jensen recently said that Hobza is still a member of the team.
Bradley update: Norfolk’s four-game losing streak has coincided with an injury suffered by leading scorer Jaycee Bradley. It’s not certain when Bradley, who was averaging 18.9 points, will return.
“Free Bird:” One more musical note. It’s not often you hear a high school band tackle the lengthy Lynyrd Skynyrd classic “Free Bird,” but the Lincoln Northeast jazz band — which includes drums and several guitars — did a nice job Friday night at halftime of the Rockets’ game against Lincoln Southwest.
Props to the band for its rendition ... and having the courage to attempt it.
Statistics needed: Coaches of teams in Class A, Class B and the Omaha area are asked to submit updated statistics by Tuesday. They may be faxed (402-444-1238) or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top games this week:
Class A—Tuesday: Omaha Northwest at Bellevue East, 5:30. Thursday: Millard North at Bellevue West, 5:30; Lincoln Southeast at Lincoln Pius X, 7:45. Friday: Millard North at Bellevue East, 5:30. Saturday: Lincoln Southwest at Omaha Benson, 5:15.
Class B — Monday: Sioux City Heelan at South Sioux City. Tuesday: Fairbury at Seward. Thursday: Norris at Omaha Skutt, 5:45. Friday: Grand Island Northwest at Beatrice; Chadron at Sidney. Saturday: Skutt at Pius X, 6:45.
Contact the writer:
402-444-1350, email@example.com, twitter.com/MPattersonOWH