No team has more on the line this week than Papillion-La Vista.
A game Tuesday at No. 2 Omaha South. A home game Saturday against No. 1 Omaha Central. In between, a “trap” game Friday at home against ratings contender Fremont.
Will the week keep the No. 3 Monarchs on the short list of the state’s best teams, with Central and South, or drop them down to the next tier with No. 4 Millard West and No. 5 Omaha Benson?
Papio knows it can be on even terms with South, for the Packers needed a putback at the buzzer to win their Metro holiday tournament semifinal 51-49. The Monarchs will be getting their first look at Central.
A small sign of vulnerability in the Monarchs was last Thursday’s 74-70 overtime loss at Omaha Westside. They bounced back to beat Bellevue West 64-39 the next night to improve to 13-2.
Winning two of these three games, it says here, would be a significant achievement for the Monarchs.
The lower half of the Top 10 is starting to drift back to the pack. There are 14 teams at .500 or better to consider for the five available positions.
Omaha North (9-6) stays sixth despite an 0-2 week that ended with a one-point loss at Omaha Creighton Prep. Millard North beat two rated Lincoln teams, Southwest and Southeast, to get back to .500 and return to the ratings in seventh.
Bellevue West (8-6) has lost four straight, but the setbacks have been to Central, South, Papio and undefeated Topeka (Kan.) Highland Park. No one else has shown it could have had better results than the Thunderbirds, so they slip only a rung to eighth.
Southwest (8-7), the only non-Metro team in the Top 10, is ninth because of its 24-point win against Prep earlier in the month.
Class B: Another jumble is developing. The difference from Class A is that no dominant teams have emerged.
McCook remains No. 1 after romping through the Orange and Black Classic in Colby, Kan. The Bison (13-2) beat Monument (Colo.) Palmer Ridge 53-24 in the final. They have a game Friday night at undefeated Class C-1 No. 2 Kearney Catholic that could tell us a lot more about the Bison.
Elkhorn South (11-2) returns to No. 2 after needing OT for a 61-58 win against Waverly. No. 3 Grand Island Northwest, at 14-1 sporting the best record in Class B, went to overtime against 3-12 Schuyler. Defending state champ Scottsbluff, which had been second, drops to fourth after a 55-33 pounding at Gering.
Adding to the jumble was how the River Cities Conference played out. Bottom seed Omaha Gross won the tournament.
Ralston dropped its first game to a Nebraska team, losing 65-52 at South Sioux City in the first round, and slides from fourth to fifth.
Norris and Waverly are ahead of Gross, which enters at eighth. South Sioux is ninth and RCC third-place Omaha Roncalli is 10th.
Cougars end drought: The RCC tournament title was the first for Gross since 1997-98 and the first with Tim Powers as coach. The Cougars were 5-6 with a four-game skid entering the tournament.
“We can use this to jump-start our season,” Powers said. “We hadn’t played very smart around Christmastime, playing too fast. .”
Odd scheduling: Gering’s win over Scottsbluff was the last home game of the season for the Bulldogs. On Jan. 19? Their final seven games are on the road.
Top games this week:
Class A—Tuesday: Millard North at Omaha Central, Omaha Burke at Omaha Benson, Papillion-La Vista at Omaha South. Thursday: Lincoln North Star at Omaha Westside. Friday: Bellevue West at Westside, Omaha Creighton Prep at Omaha South, Fremont at Papillion-La Vista, Lincoln Southeast at Lincoln East, Burke at North Star, Lincoln Northeast at Lincoln Pius X, Benson at Omaha North. Saturday: Bellevue West at Millard West, Millard North at Prep, Central at Papillion-La Vista. Class B—Tuesday: Sioux City East at South Sioux City. Friday: Omaha Roncalli at Omaha Gross, McCook at Kearney Catholic, Gering at Alliance. Saturday: Omaha Skutt at Lincoln Pius X, Beatrice at Ralston, Scottsbluff at Sidney. Tournaments: Eastern Midlands, semifinals Thursday and final Friday at higher-seeded team; Central, semifinals Friday and final Saturday at Aurora.
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