It's been a record-setting season at West Point Guardian Angels Central Catholic, and that's even before the girls state basketball tournament gets under way.
The Class D-1 No. 1 Bluejays qualified for state for the 16th straight year, longer than any other school in state history. GACC had been tied with Battle Creek, which made 15 straight appearances from 1984 to 1998.
Coach Jerry Stracke isn't taking this tourney trip for granted.
“It's always nice to get to Lincoln,” he said. “It's great for the girls to get a chance to enjoy that atmosphere.”
GACC has been one of the top Class D-1 teams all season. The Bluejays entered the postseason with just two losses, both to Class C-2 undefeated Crofton.
Stracke's squad needed a wild card to reach state after losing to Howells-Dodge 58-51 in overtime in the subdistrict final.
“I think that loss will help us refocus,” the coach said. “We learned something from that so maybe it's not such a bad thing.”
The Bluejays had high hopes entering this season after graduating one senior from last year's 21-7 championship squad. That was GACC's first title since its four-year championship run from 2002 to 2005.
“We've got a strong senior class this year,” Stracke said. “I know this class wanted to compete at state again.”
The Bluejays are led by senior forward Abby Ortmeier, who is averaging 13.4 points. Senior Emily Knobbe averages 10.9 while junior guard Melanie Stratmann (9.8) and senior forward Annie Niewohner (9.0) are close behind.
Stracke said he doesn't like to draw comparisons between this team and the ones from the Bluejays' championship past. Those four consecutive title teams each went undefeated and the school ran its winning streak to a state-record 111 games.
“I don't think you could compare anybody to that group,” he said. “This is a hard-working team that has put in a lot of effort.”
The top-seeded Bluejays begin tourney play against Arapahoe on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Lincoln Northeast.
“I think the whole D-1 field looks pretty tough,” Stracke said. “Everyone has a solid record and it should really be a battle.”
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