LINCOLN — Elkhorn North reached the state tournament in its first season.
Now the Wolves are hoping a tourney victory is the next milestone.
Coach Ann Prince’s squad survived its district final — a 61-60 home win over Hastings — to advance to state. The Wolves will start tournament play at 9 a.m. Wednesday against Omaha Gross at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
It’s one of 18 games contested on the tourney’s busiest day. Classes C-2 through D-2 will be played in high school gyms starting at 11 a.m.
There will be six semifinals Thursday and Friday and six finals Saturday, all at PBA.
Elkhorn North is led by 5-foot-10 freshman guard Britt Prince, who is averaging 23.5 points per game. The daughter of the coach also leads the Wolves in rebounds, assists and steals.
Junior forward Reilly Palmer averages 12.5 points while junior Molly Bruggeman (7.5 ppg) and sophomore Hannah Nadgwick (6.3) also help carry the scoring load.
The Cougars will be making their eighth state appearance and first since 2015. Gross defeated Grand Island Northwest, last year’s state runner-up, in a district final.
Defending Class B champion Crete will open tourney play at 11:15 a.m. against Scottsbluff. The Cardinals are coached by John Larsen, who recently became the state’s career leader in wins.
Wednesday’s first-round tournament capsules:
Note: Rankings are according to The World-Herald's class ratings
At Pinnacle Bank Arena
No. 2 Elkhorn North (18-2) vs. No. 7 Omaha Gross (17-6), 9 a.m.
The game: The Wolves already have seen Gross once, posting a 61-39 road win Jan. 11. Seniors Theo Mba and Rachel Culhane each average about 12 points for the Cougars.
The pick: Elkhorn North has more offensive firepower and is our pick to advance to the semifinals.
No. 2 Crete (21-3) vs. No. 6 Scottsbluff (18-6), 11:15 a.m.
Radio: 99.5, Fairbury; 106.9, Minatare.
The game: The defending-champion Cardinals lost in subdistricts to Norris but beat Waverly in the district final to return to state. Scottsbluff returns to the tourney for the second straight year after defeating Elkhorn in districts.
The pick: Scottsbluff deserves credit for getting back to state but Crete is the pick to survive this first-rounder.
At Pinnacle Bank Arena
No. 2 Grand Island Central Catholic (21-2) vs. unranked Winnebago (15-10), 1:30 p.m.
Radio: 1430/105.5, 107.7, Grand Island; 94.5, Hastings.
The game: The Crusaders have moved on since a late-season coaching change to earn their ninth trip to state and second in the past three years. Winnebago is the surprise team of the entire tournament, qualifying after knocking off Malcolm — C-1’s top postseason seed — in a district final.
The pick: Can Winnebago, at state for the first time since 1990, make it two big upsets in a row? Not impossible, but just can’t see it happening.
No. 3 Broken Bow (23-1) vs. No. 4 North Bend (21-3), 4 p.m.
Radio: 95.3, Broken Bow; 92.3, Sargent; 107.9, West Point; 101.1, Columbus; 105.5, Fremont.
The game: Broken Bow qualified for state for the first time since 2003 when it defeated Columbus Scotus in a district final. The defending C-1 champion Tigers defeated a tough West Point-Beemer team for a third time in their district final to have a chance to repeat.
The pick: Tourney experience matters, especially in the large arena, so the edge here goes to North Bend to advance to the semifinals.
No. 5 Lincoln Lutheran (19-2) vs. No. 9 Sidney (18-6), 6:15 p.m.
Radio: 103.3/1240, Lincoln; 98.7/1340, Sidney.
The game: Lutheran, one of the toughest defensive teams at the tourney, is making just its second appearance at state. The Lady Raiders are making their 16th trip but have not made it out of the first round in their previous 11.
The pick: Lutheran has played a slightly tougher schedule so the Warriors get the nod.
No. 1 Hastings St. Cecilia (22-2) vs. Syracuse (21-3), 8:30 p.m.
Radio: 94.5, Hastings; 103.1/1600, Auburn; 102.7, Omaha.
The game: The Hawkettes, moving up a class after capturing C-2 the past two years, are seeking their seventh championship. Syracuse qualified for the tourney for the first time since 1986 after defeating a solid O’Neill team in a district final.
The pick: Syracuse did well to reach state for the first time in 35 years but St. Cecilia has the experience to keep its quest for a third straight title alive.
At Lincoln Southeast
No. 1 Crofton (23-3) vs. No. 10 Centennial (23-2), 11 a.m.
Radio: 94.7, Norfolk; 94.3, Yankton, S.D.; 93.5, Columbus; 103.5/95.9/1370, York.
The game: Crofton qualified for the 10th time in the past 11 years while seeking its ninth state title. The Broncos are making their first state tourney appearance in 21 years.
The pick: Crofton came close to winning championships in 2019 and 2020 and appear ready to take that first step toward a possible title in 2021.
No. 5 Bridgeport (23-3) vs. Nebraska City Lourdes (20-4), 1:30 p.m.
Radio: 106.9, Minatare; 98.7/1340, Sidney; 1600/105.5, Nebraska City.
The game: The Bulldogs earned their ticket to state — their first since 2010 — with a district final win over Clarkson/Leigh. Lourdes returns for the second time in three years after defeating Ravenna.
The pick: Tough call but a slight edge to Lourdes to reach the semis for the first time in its third state appearance.
No. 3 Wood River (24-2) vs. No. 4 BRLD (20-4), 4 p.m.
Radio: 1430/105.5, Grand Island; 98.9, Kearney; 107.9, West Point; 94.7, 106.7, Norfolk.
The game: The Eagles are making their first state tournament appearance in 31 years. The Wolverines are making their second straight appearance at state since the creation of the Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur co-op.
The pick: Both teams have won nine in a row so this one is a tossup. A slight edge to Wood River.
No. 2 West Point GACC (23-3) vs. No. 7 Ponca (19-4), 6:30 p.m.
Radio: 94.7, 106.7, Norfolk; 104.9, Wayne.
The game: The Bluejays return to state after a two-year absence after their consecutive tourney streak was snapped in 2019 at a state-record 21. Ponca reached the tourney after a low-scoring win over Cross County in the district final.
The pick: Ponca was the state runner-up last year to St. Cecilia but we’re giving the nod to Guardian Angels.
At Lincoln Southwest
No. 1 Pleasanton (25-1) vs. No. 7 Elmwood-Murdock (12-11), 11 a.m.
Radio: 92.3, Sargent; 98.9, Kearney.
The game: Pleasanton is going for a volleyball-basketball state title sweep. Elmwood-Murdock, which plays a tough schedule and has more losses than anyone at state, qualified for the tourney with a win over North Platte St. Patrick in the district final.
The pick: Pleasanton is the defending D-1 champ and it says here the Bulldogs will move on with a first-round win.
No. 5 Fremont Bergan (15-9) vs. No. 2 Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family (19-4), 1:30 p.m.
Radio: 1340/98.9, Fremont; 93.5, Columbus; 97.5, Norfolk.
The game: All of the losses by Bergan, last year’s state runner-up, have been to larger schools — seven in C-1 and two in C-2. Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family returns to state after a one-year absence.
The pick: This one is close but Bergan’s schedule gives it a slight edge to advance to the semis.
No. 3 Weeping Water (21-5) vs. No. 6 BDS (18-7), 4 p.m.
Radio: 1600/105.5, Nebraska City; 93.5, Columbus; 103.9/1600, Superior; 103.5/95.9/1370, York; 99.5, Fairbury.
The game: The Indians reached state for the third straight year but are still seeking their first tourney win. Bruning-Davenport/Shickley (BDS) will be making its fifth trip to state in the past six years.
The pick: With senior guard Grace Cave (21.4 ppg) doing her best, the nod goes to Weeping Water.
No. 4 Hartington Cedar Catholic (18-7) vs. No. 9 South Platte (20-2), 6:30 p.m.
Radio: 94.7, 106.7, Norfolk; 94.3, Yankton, S.D.; 102.7, Omaha; 98.7/1340, Sidney; 106.5, Ogallala.
The game: The Trojans, who reached the semifinals last year, are making their third appearance at state in the past four years. South Platte making their first trip to state after defeating Shelton in a district final.
The pick: Cedar Catholic is a tourney regular so it gets the nod to advance to the semifinals.
At Lincoln North Star
No. 1 Humphrey St. Francis (22-0) vs. No. 8 Sterling (15-7), 11 a.m.
Radio: 101.1, Columbus; 97.5, Norfolk; 101.3, Falls City; 103.1/1600, Auburn; 1450, Beatrice.
The game: The Flyers are led by Nebraska pledge Allison Weidner, who is averaging almost 26 points per game. Sterling, which defeated Wauneta-Palisade in a district final, returns to state for the third straight year.
The pick: St. Francis posted a first-round win over Sterling last year at state and we think it’s probably going to happen again, though that 2020 game was close (60-53).
No. 5 Mullen (24-2) vs. No. 6 Exeter-Milligan (23-4), 1:30 p.m.
Radio: 92.3, Sargent; 95.3, Broken Bow; 99.5, Fairbury; 103.5/95.9/1370, York.
The game: Mullen has become a tourney regular, qualifying for the third straight time. The Timberwolves return for the first time in three years following a win over Nebraska Christian.
The pick: Mullen reached the semis last year but we’ll go with Exeter-Milligan to pull the slight upset.
No. 2 Falls City Sacred Heart (24-2) vs. No. 7 Maywood-Hayes Center (24-2), 4 p.m.
Radio: 101.3, Falls City; 103.1/1600, Auburn; 105.3, McCook.
The game: Sacred Heart is making its 25th trip to state, trailing only Lincoln Southeast (27) and Omaha Marian (26). The Wolves are making their second straight appearance after competing in Class D-1 last year.
The pick: Hard to pick against tournament-tested Sacred Heart and we’re not going to do it here.
No. 3 CWC (23-1) vs. No. 4 Wynot (19-6), 6:30 p.m.
Radio: 102.9, O’Neill; 103.9, Ord.
The game: Chambers/Wheeler Central has won seven in a row since suffering its only loss to Class D-1 Elgin/Pope John. The two-time defending state champion Blue Devils are seeking their ninth title in their 13th trip to state.
The pick: Hard to pick against those tough Blue Devils so why try? Wynot moves on to the semis.