Broken Bow girls’ basketball coach Kelly Cooksley wasn’t sure when to expect when he rolled his dream event out on the floor last year at the Nebraska Girls Basketball Showcase.
His first event was cut back and held in Broken Bow in 2021, due to Covid precautions, so last year turned out to be a sort of litmus test. But for Cooksley and the Kearney Chamber of Commerce, which helps run the day, the event went off with very few issues and is back for its second go-round this Saturday at Kearney High School.
“We just had a ton of positive feedback on how the day went for the teams,” Cooksley said. “From the players to the coaches we heard good things, they enjoyed the atmosphere and the hospitality. I think we had great work from the volunteers, from the Kearney Chamber and from Kearney High School.”
The event gets a little bigger and better this year, with nine players in the event holding Division I scholarships offers. The list is headlined by Elkhorn North junior Britt Prince, who is one of the top 2024 players nationally. Millard South’s Khloe Lemon (Cal Baptist), Cora Olsen (Omaha) and Mya Babbitt (Kent State) have all signed to Division I schools, as has Ruthie Loomis-Goltl of Bridgeport (Colorado).
“I think the level of talent you see at this year’s event will be the best we have ever had,” Cooksley said. “There are some very competitive games on the list, and I think some game for teams to really see where they are and what they need to do to get to the state tournament.”
Other player set to lace it up with Division I offers on are Saturday are McKenna Murphy (Elkhorn North), Lucy Ghafian (GICC), Olivia Loomis-Goltl (Bridgeport) and Asia Lee (Olathe North). Lee, a freshman, received an offer from Kansas in eighth grade.
The event tips at 8:50 am when Class D-1, No. 7 Elgin/Pope John takes on unbeaten No. 8 Alma. In all, the 16-team event will feature ten ranked teams and two more receiving votes in this week’s Coaches Poll. Olathe (KS) North — the first out of state participant — will bring a Class 6-A, No. 6 ranking to face Millard South.
Below is a quick preview of each matchup with record through games played on Thursday.
8:50 a.m. | Class D-1, No. 8 Alma (8-0) v. Class D-1, No. 7 Elgin/Pope John (9-2): Two teams off to great starts with their sights set on Lincoln after both loss in the district finals a season ago. Alma brings three double-digit scores in Addison Siebels, Addison Neal and Riley Scott while the Wolfpack counter with juniors Keyera Eisenhauer and Ashlynne Charf.
10:30 a.m. | Amherst (7-3) v. Class D-2, No. 7 O’Neill St. Mary’s (6-2): Both teams have only lost to teams above them in class. The Broncos have impressive wins over Ravenna and Kearney Catholic with their only losses in a 6-3 start to Broken Bow, Gothenburg and York. St. Mary’s, which finished fourth Class D-2 last year, has losses to Class C-2 Summerland (7-1) and Grand Island Central Catholic. Juniors Alyssa Brabec and Mya Hedstrom combine for 31 points a game for the Cardinals.
12:10 p.m. | Grand Island Central Catholic (5-3) v. Class D-2, No. 1 Shelton (8-0): The gym might be full for this one. Shelton will try to play the role of Hickory, moving three classes up against the Crusaders who are rounding into form with the return of Gracie Woods to the lineup. GICC has won three in a row, including wins over Class B rating contender Seward and St. Mary’s in their holiday tournament. Lucy Ghaifan is averaging over 13 points per contest. Shelton, state finalists in Class D-1 last year, has dominated their schedule so far winning games by a 63-19 margin.
1:50 p.m. | Broken Bow (4-3) v. Class B, No. 6 Beatrice (8-1): Two programs with recent success square off in the fourth game. The Lady Orange is off to a 7-1 start, with their loss to Showcase participant Malcolm and have played in the state tournament two of the past three years, losing to Crete in the 2020 state title game. Bow has been to Lincoln the past two seasons, with their three losses this year all coming to ranked teams.
3:30 p.m. | Class C-1, No. 4 Malcolm (9-2) v. Class C-1, No. 1 Bridgeport (8-0): One that Cooksley called a “Friday or even Saturday” state tournament preview as Bridgeport takes on Malcolm in a top-four matchup. The above-mentioned Loomis-Goltl sisters lead Bridgeport, while Malcolm counters with the sharp shooting of senior Alyssa Fortik and uber-talented freshman Halle Dolliver who both average in double figures.
5:10 p.m. | Class A, No. 1 Millard South (10-2) v. KS Class 6-A, No. 2 Olathe North (4-1): Marquee matchup? You go it. The Eagles will travel to Kearney on Saturday after a Friday night rival game with Olathe West. Both teams have three-headed monsters with North getting 34 of their 48 points per contest from Lee, sophomore London Cousins and Saryiah Williams. After a close loss to Bellevue West in the Metro final, the Patriots bounced back with an 80-point outing against Papillion-Lavista on Thursday. This game should have plenty of pace.
6:50 p.m. | Class C-2, No. 3 Pender (11-1) v. Class C-1 (RV) Milford (10-2): Milford opened a difficult stretch with an upset of No. 4 Malcolm on Thursday night on the road. The Pendragons are off to a 10-1 start with sophomore Maya Dolliver scoring nearly 15 points per game and Avery Wegner adds 11. Sophomore Ayla Roth had 16 points in Milford’s win over Malcolm on Thursday.
8:30 p.m. | Class B, No. 2 Elkhorn North (9-1) v. Class A (RV) Kearney (8-4): Already with a win over Class A, No. 1 Millard South, the Wolves get another crack on Saturday. And, you can bet it will be in a raucous environment — the Rowdies always know how to bring the juice. The Bearcats have a good one in Taytum Rusher who is averaging nearly 11 points an outing. But, besides their two D-1 hoopers, coach Ann Prince will bring two D-1 volleyball players too — Grace Haney and Reese Booth. Athletes abound.