HUMPRHEY — This Platte County hamlet full of rich, fertile farm ground is almost the Nebraska basketball capital this winter.
On the boys side, Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family — in it’s seventh year as a cooperative program — and Humphrey St. Francis are both ranked No. 1 in our Starting Five class rankings: HLHF in D-1 (18-2) and St. Francis is still a perfect 18-0 in Class D-2.
The Lady Flyers — led by Nebraska pledge Alison Weidner — are top-ranked in Class D-2 and the HLHF girls are No. 4 in Class D-1. Sheesh, take my $5 and some extra for popcorn and let’s go watch a game.
The HLHF boys and coach Joe Hesse have been “as advertised” this season, what with most everyone back from last year’s title team that he said didn’t really click until the postseason.
“We have played pretty well for the most part this year,” he said. “But last year we were a little younger and we didn’t really get things clicking until after the conference tournament.”
Ah, yes, the East Husker Conference tournament.
Where last year, the Bulldogs lost two games. Where on Tuesday in the boys quarter finals the Class C-2 Nos. 6 and 10 teams, and the Class D-1 No. 9 team in the Omaha World-Herald as well as the winningest coach in Nebraska history were losing basketball games.
You can hear coach Hesse pulling his hair out over the phone.
The Bulldogs will face Class C-1, No. 2 North Bend Central (who gave them one of their two losses) in the semifinals on Friday night at Midland University. Hesse’s bunch just beat Class C-2, No. 10 Twin River in the quarterfinals after beating No. 6 Oakland-Craig last week.
“I am taking some college classes, too, one night a week and it seems like I haven’t seen my family the whole last month,” Hesse joked. “But, this week will no doubt make us better for the post season and if we are fortunate enough to make it to Lincoln.”
In a seven player rotation, Hesse’s Bulldogs put four players in double figures and, three — twin sophomores Jason and Jacob Sjuts and senior Tyler — all sit at the same dinner table. Jason leads the team with 15.2 points per game and Jacob averages just over 10 points per game while hauling down six rebounds and four assists per game.
Hesse said Tyler and fellow senior Bret Hanis have provided valuable leadership in the Bulldogs title defense. Tyler Sjuts averages 10 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, while Hanis is at 12.4 points with 2.9 assists and 2.7 steals.
“All four of those kids put in a lot of work and played a ton of summer basketball,” Hesse said. The sophomore twins played on a national Lincoln Supreme team, while the seniors played for a team out of Norfolk. “And, quite frankly, during our team period in June we went out and found teams that could beat us.”
At a team camp in York, the Bulldogs played Auburn, Kearney Catholic and Norris.
“They kicked us around pretty good,” Hesse said.
But it’s all paying off now, for the Bulldogs. The next test continues this week. The ultimate payoff is in March.
On to the rankings.
- Bellevue West (14-2)
- Millard North (15-2)
- Omaha Westside (12-5): Here come the young Warriors fresh off an overtime home win over Omaha South on Tuesday. This after take BW to overtime a week prior. Coach Jim Simon’s team has rebounded from a first round loss in the Metro (how deep is the Metro??) and had only two loss — to the teams ahead of them — since the calendar flipped.
- Omaha South (14-3)
- Omaha Creighton Prep (13-5): The Jays stay fifth and knock Central out after last week’s 64-62 home court win that was followed up with a gritty 59-57 win over the road in Kearney.
- Omaha Skutt Catholic (17-0)
- Hastings (16-1)
- Scottsbluff (17-2)
- Omaha Roncalli Catholic (13-4): Roncalli stays here with a 52-46 win over Mt. Michael on a rare Wednesday night contest. The Knights stay at fifth despite handing second-ranked Hastings their first loss of the season last Saturday.
- Elkhorn Mt. Michael (15-4)
- Auburn (17-0)
- North Bend Central (18-0)
- Adams Central (18-1): Beat York, Aurora and Grand Island Northwest to win first Central 10 Tournament in school history.
- Lincoln Christian (14-4): Christian switches spots with the Stars after beating them in Centennial semifinals.
- Kearney Catholic (13-5): Stars drop a spot after loss to Christian, but still no room for 2-loss Ogallala, who KC beat in a holiday tournament.
- BRLD (17-0)
- Yutan (15-1)
- Grand Island Central Catholic (17-1): Crusaders firmly on the heels of Yutan after winning the Centennial Conference tournament and avenging their only loss to Lincoln Christian.
- Sutton (15-2): Mustangs will need to win the Southern Conference tournament to hold this spot.
- Ponca (12-2): Big week for the Indians in the Lewis and Clark Tournament with Osmond and LCC.
- Humphrey/LHF (18-2)
- Osmond (17-0)
- North Platte St. Patrick’s (15-1)
- Laurel-Concord/Coleridge (15-4): Re-evaluated the Bears who moved past Pleasanton and knocked out Paxton. Four losses are to C-1 leader Auburn, C-1 Wayne (13-6) twice and Osmond.
- Pleasanton (15-1)
- Humphrey St. Francis (18-0)
- Falls City Sacred Heart (18-1)
- Loomis (17-0)
- Parkview Christian (12-5)
- Mullen (13-4)
- Millard South (20-0): No losses for anyone in the top-five this week so little to write here. South looking for that elusive state title for Maddie Krull and Jayme Horan and any of these other four could take it away from them. Could the talented freshman be the difference for the Patriots?
- Lincoln Pius X (16-0): No. 2 spot up for grabs Thursday night when Pius hosts Lincoln East. And they follow that up with a game against Elkhorn (16-2) on Tuesday. Pius won the first match in the HAC semifinals 60-48.
- Lincoln East (16-1)
- Omaha Westside (16-3)
- Papillion-La Vista (16-2)
- Crete (18-0): Best player in the class. Morgan Maly is such a pleasure to watch. Best team in the class. Not much else to say except that they beat Northwest 62-18 in the Central 10 final and Northwest moved up to fourth in the rankings. Yeesh.
- Beatrice (16-2): Jalen Weeks has a really good basketball player in Carley Leners. And a really good basketball team all around. Any of the next ranked teams could be Crete’s state final opponent. The Lady Orange will be at Northwest next Friday.
- Bennington (16-2): Second loss came in EMC final to Class A Elkhorn. Just edged new No. 5 Norris in the semifinals.
- Northwest (15-5): Three losses to Crete. A loss to York. Excellent win over Hastings St. Cecilia. Advanced to the Central 10 final. A win over Beatrice could be a nice bow to the regular season for the defending champions, who could still advance to that game this year.
- Norris (8-8): Not sure who else to put here. Just beat York. Go out west to Sidney and Scottsbluff and the wins don’t look that great. All have lost to North Platte and some eastern teams have beat them (York and Beatrice). It’s either Norris or Blair here and the Titans are playing a little better.
- Lincoln Christian (16-2): Crusaders avenged a 54-45 loss to Hastings St. Cecilia in the Centennial final with a 48-45 win over the Hawkettes. Only other loss is to Class B, No. 1 Crete.
- North Bend Central (18-1): Tigers effort matching the boys as they have an EHC semifinal with Pender on Thursday and a possible chance at avenging their only loss to Oakland-Craig in the finals on Saturday night if both advance.
- St. Paul (16-2): Wildcats are seventh in the points, with a loss to C-2 contender Fillmore Central (C-2 may be a little more “full” than C-1) and another to North Bend over Christmas, but their big win over Broken Bow keeps them right here.
- Broken Bow (18-2)
- Ogallala (16-2): The Indians are hanging here and have another date with Broken Bow this week. We have our eye on Milford if they were to pull through the Southern Nebraska tournament and West Point-Beemer, who has an EHC semifinal with Oakland-Craig.
- Oakland-Craig (19-0): The Knights are one of the top-10 teams in the state. We feel pretty good about telling you this. But, another match with North Bend Central looms in the East Husker if they both advance to the finals. If you go to Lincoln, watch this team.
- Hastings St. Cecilia (18-2): Hawkettes not punished for a Centennial final loss to Class C-1, No. 1 Lincoln Christian. Bounced back with a big 59-35 win over Adams Central who finished third at the Central Conference tournament last week.
- GACC (17-2): The Bluejays are in the Mid-State Tournament and likely need to win that one to stay here. After early losses to Columbus Scotus and BRLD, Jays are unbeaten since the calendar flipped.
- Crofton (16-3)
- Ponca (16-2): Room here for the Indians — who have losses to Crofton and BRLD — after the Wolverines lost to West Point-Beemer in the East Husker tournament.
- Chambers/Wheeler Central (18-0): Top-ranked Renegades are in the middle of the Niobrara Valley Tournament and have rolled through a difficult schedule that includes six Class C wins.
- Pleasanton (18-0): Semifinalists last year and turning away everyone so far, the Bulldogs are looking to go one step further after their third place finish in 2019. To stay here? Win the Fort Kearny Conference tournament this week.
- Weeping Water (19-1): Lost to Pleasanton in last year’s first round and have a lone loss to Sterling this year. May need to win the ECNC Tournament to hold this spot.
- Humphrey/LHF (18-3): Keeping HLHF here despite a loss to Pender in the East Husker quarterfinals. The Pendragons are knocking on the door at 15-7 and have won nine straight. They’d be sixth if we went that far.
- Fremont Archbishop Bergan (9-8)
- Humphrey St. Francis (17-2): Only two losses are in Class C-1 and C-2 for the Flyers. And, when you have a Nebraska recruit like Alison Weidner it gives you a leg up on the competition.
- Wynot (16-3): Pedigree and tradition. The Blue Devils move up one spot despite a 39-38 loss to Ponca and get a chance at more quality wins this week in the Lewis and Clark Tournament. Own a win over Class B York and other two losses to HSF and C-2, No. 3 GACC.
- Lawrence-Nelson (19-0): Unbeaten Raiders own just four wins over teams with a winning record and will need to win the Twin Valley title this week to keep this spot. One of those wins against 13-4 BDS, which beat FCSH in the MUDECAS final and is ranked fourth.
- Falls City Sacred Heart (18-2)
- Mullen (18-1): Drop two spots after losing to Class C-2 South Loup (16-2) in the MNAC final.