Broken Bow girls basketball coach Kelly Cooksley has long been a promoter of girls basketball in Nebraska. And, his dream of a one-day showcase of girls basketball in our state is finally coming to full fruition this Saturday.
Well, almost, without a hiccup.
“With God as my witness, we’ll get this thing how we want it at some point,” he joked on Wednesday.
The eight-game, 16-team event was supposed to have its inaugural session last year, but Covid forced two matches to home sites and four games were played in Broken Bow. While the games have not had any changes for the 2022 version, the games had to be moved in November when Cooksley was notified that the Viaero Events Center would be off limits due to a heating system issue that could not be fixed.
No matter, Kearney High School stepped in quickly to host the event which also has the backing from the Kearney Chamber of Commerce for a big day of games. A full day ticket costs just $10 for all games and children under 5 are free. The games can also be viewed online via a partnership with striv.tv on a $10 pay-per-view basis for all games.
“We are extremely grateful to the Kearney Chamber and the community of Kearney for getting behind the event,” Cooksley said. “Derek Rusher and his team has done a great job of promoting the event and you know the community of Kearney is usually all-in when they get a big event.”
Six of Saturday’s games will be cross-class events with nightcap being Class A host Kearney against 2021 Class B semifinalist York. Cooksley said two events really got him motivated to try and put together a girls event for the state of Nebraska.
“In 2006 when Bellevue West played Ravenna, that was such a great event,” he said. “And, I think what Tino Martinez has done with his event in Grand Island makes this a great opportunity for girls basketball in the state.
“People love the underdog story or a team that is playing a couple classes above them. And, to showcase the talent in our state in one day and one place is great. I think coaches love the timing of when we are playing. It’s right in the heart of the middle of the season where you are coming off of holiday tournaments and you get a good idea of where you stand heading into conference tournament play.”
Nebraska Girls Basketball Showcase Game Capsules
** Records noted through games played Tuesday, January 4.
8:50 a.m. – Class D-1 (RV) Cross County (7-4) vs Class D-2, No. 4 Anselmo-Merna (7-4): The Class D-2, fourth-ranked Coyotes get a good test against a young Cross County team that took eventual C-2 finalist Ponca to the wire in last year’s district final round. A-M has a pair of double-figure scorers in Jaide Chandler (13.9 points) and Shaylynn Safranek (13 points). The Cougars have sophomores Shyanne Anderson (10.6 points) and Lily Peterson (10.3 points) in double figures.
10:30 a.m. – Class C-2 Blue Hill (3-5) vs Class D-2, No. 5 Maywood-Hayes Center (11-1): The young Bobcats have played seven of eight games against teams with a winning record as they get another test against MHC. Freshman Reece Mlady averages nearly 10 points and 10 rebounds per contest. MHC – which has been to Lincoln the past two seasons – has just one senior in Stevie Handsacker, who averages nine points and five rebounds a contest. Junior Olivia Hansen leads the Wolves with nearly 20 points per game.
12:10 p.m. – Class C-2, No. 9 Clarkson/Leigh (7-3) vs Class B Northwest (4-5): A cross-class showdown that features one of the top playmakers in the state with Patriot sophomore guard Chloe Hanel. She fills the stat sheet at 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals per contest with senior teammate Kenneday Settje averaging close to 14 points a game. Senior Reba Mader scores 11.6 points for the Vikings and junior Avyn Urbanski is just over nine points a game. Northwest senior Rylie Rice – a Doane commit – is averaging 6.1 points a game and working back after an injury at the end of volleyball season.
1:50 p.m. – Class B, No. 5 Adams Central (8-1) vs. Class C-2, No. 2 Bridgeport (9-0): The second-ranked Bulldogs are scoring at one of the highest clips in the state with sisters Ruthie and Olivia Loomis-Goltl netting 20.8 and 19.6 points per contest. Teammate Brooklynn Mohrman also chips in 14.7 points a game. The Patriots get it done with defense as they allow just as they have allowed 40 points just once in nine games.
3:30 p.m. – Class C-1, No. 7 Broken Bow (7-2) vs. Class C-1 Auburn (6-4): Cooksley gets to coach one in the middle of the day. His Indians feature the Scott twins – Kya and Kailyn – who both average just over 10 points per contest. Fellow senior Joscelyn Coleman averages 8.4 points. The Bulldogs – who lost in a district final to Sidney last year – have four losses to teams that have a combined 35-5 record.
5:10 p.m. – Class B, No. 9 Sidney (9-1) vs Class C-2, No. 10 Oakland-Craig (7-3): The Red Raiders entered the nebpreps Class B coaches poll this week and have a date with an Oakland-Craig team that is getting healthier after some early setbacks. Junior twins Chaney and Sadie Nelson combine to average nearly 31 points per game for O-C. Sidney just won their own holiday tournament and has lone loss to Scottsbluff.
6:50 p.m. – Class C-1, No. 1 North Bend Central (7-0) vs Class C-1 (RV) Grand Island CC (7-3): Central Catholic ends the week that included games with Northwest and Kearney Catholic with a matchup against the unbeaten, defending champions. The Tigers have just one contest that’s been decided by single digits so far. Lucy Ghaifan is averaging a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double for the Crusaders, while sisters Katelynn and Sydney Emanuel combine for 27 points for NBC.
8:30 p.m. – Class B, No. 4 York (9-1) at Class A Kearney (6-3): The Dukes are the lone road team in the event and finish the night against the host Bearcats. Kearney has lost to just three ranked Class A teams in their 6-3 start, while the Dukes had a holiday tournament set back to Class C-2, No. 1 Hastings St. Cecilia. York gets it done near the basket with junior transfer Anna Briggs scoring 10.2 points and grabbing six rebounds per game, while Masa Scheierman adds 8.1 points and 8.9 rebounds. Kearney For the Bearcats, junior Tatum Rusher averages 12.9 points, while Kierstynn Garner adds 10.9 a contest.