YORK — Matt Kern has built a girls basketball program here that starts from the ground up in elementary school. It’s one of the only ways to do it in Class B when you are one of the smallest schools competing on a year in and year out basis.
So, when his young Dukes finished last season 10-13 and missed the state tournament for this first time since 2013, he didn’t have much work to convincing the girls who have been in his program since third and fourth grade what to do.
“They got in the gym this summer and went to work,” Kern said. “We were very young last year, but I don’t think our girls were happy with where we finished record-wise and they put it on themselves to get better.”
The results of another year of experience — the Dukes still have just one senior — have paid dividends so far as York (13-4) enters our first Starting Five rankings ranked fourth in Class B.
They will try to advance through a gauntlet Central Conference tournament that will see them face top-ranked and unbeaten Crete in the semifinals with Adams Central and fifth-ranked and defending Class B champion Northwest on the other side of the bracket.
After an undefeated pre-Christmas start, Kern said the Dukes were humbled at the Humphrey St. Francis Holiday Tournament where they lost to Class C-2 Crofton and Class D-2 Wynot with the hosts taking the title.
“The whole experience for us was uncomfortable,” Kern said, “and we learned so much about who we were as a team. We played just great programs with great traditions and it was an opportunity for us to get better and we did.”
The experience also gives York one of the most unique schedules in the state. They will have played a team from every class except Class D-1 by the time sub-district rolls around. The Dukes count a win against North Platte (third in Class A points).
“I hear both sides of it,” Kern chuckled. “Class B coaches ask me what I am doing and the coaches in the smaller classes think it’s great that we will play them. We just want to be able to put ourselves up against the best teams.”
On the court, Hastings College recruit Natalia Dick has been the glue for Kern’s young bunch. The senior averages 13.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per contest. With a program full of great past players, Kern’s words about Dick carry some weight.
“She has wanted to be a York Duke basketball player since she was little,” the coach said. “You can’t say that about everyone. The program is very important to her.”
Behind her, the Dukes are young and scrappy, playing a seven player rotation that includes three juniors and three sophomores. Junior Maddie Portwine leads the team with a 13.8 points per game average and sophomore Masa Scheierman leads the Dukes with 8.2 rebounds per contest.
And, in a tight contest to see who could challenge Crete in Class B, the Dukes will get their first shot Friday. There will be more to come.
On to the rankings.
Girls (commentary for the girls rankings will come next week when we feature a boys team)
- Millard South (17-0)
- Lincoln Pius X (14-0)
- Lincoln East (14-1)
- Omaha Westside (14-3)
- Papillion-LaVista (15-2)
- Crete (14-0)
- Beatrice (13-2)
- Bennington (13-1)
- York (13-4)
- Northwest (14-4)
- Lincoln Christian (13-2)
- North Bend Central (16-1)
- St. Paul (14-2)
- Broken Bow (15-2)
- Ogallala (15-1)
- Oakland-Craig (18-0)
- Hastings St. Cecilia (17-1)
- GACC (15-2)
- Crofton (14-3)
- BRLD (15-3)
- Humphrey/LHF (16-2)
- Chambers/Wheeler Central (17-0)
- Pleasanton (17-0)
- Weeping Water (17-1)
- Fremont Archbishop Bergan (8-7)
- Humphrey St. Francis (15-2)
- Mullen (16-0)
- Wynot (14-2)
- Falls City Sacred Heart (16-2)
- Lawrence-Nelson (16-0)
- Bellevue West (11-2): The Birds are hot and get the nod here after recent wins over Creighton Prep and on Tuesday against Omaha Central where Wisconsin recruit Chucky Hepburn scored 24 points in a 74-67 win.
- Millard North (13-2): Hard to argue with talent and coach Tim Cannon has a bunch led by newly minted 5-star prospect Hunter Salis. The Mustangs could have the best resume and are the Metro Holiday champs. This one will be settled on Valentine’s Day (and maybe in March). Find a date and go.
- Omaha Central (11-2): Eagles have beat just one team with a winning record (Papio, which avenged a previous loss) but played with the T-Birds and look the part so far. Big Friday’s coming up with dates against Prep and Omaha South.
- Omaha South (12-2)
- Omaha Creighton Prep (11-5)
- Omaha Skutt Catholic (15-0) Off a perfect football season, Tyson Gordon and the Skyhawks have not missed a beat. Edged Roncalli for the River Cities Conference title 45-44. Future tests lurk: Beatrice, Norris and Lexington.
- Hastings (15-0): Tigers have remained undefeated by the skin of their teeth recently defeating Grand Island 51-50 last week and holding on Tuesday to beat Beatrice 48-46. A big on this weekend against Elkhorn Mt. Michael.
- Scottsbluff (15-2): Only Nebraska loss is to Hastings in the Greater Nebraska final. New Western Nebraska CC commit Jasiya Deollos has been a machine for the Bearcats lately. Next three games are big tests against Rapid City Central and Stevens and before a game they host Alliance .
- Omaha Roncalli Catholic (9-4)
- Elkhorn Mt. Michael (12-2)
- Auburn (15-0): Jim Weeks’ champs have done nothing to lose the top ranking. The Bulldogs have played just one game in single digits with the ECNC Tournament coming next week.
- North Bend Central (16-0): The Tigers had their heart ripped out by Auburn in last year’s final but have come back perfect. A test on Thursday at 10-5 Wisner-Pilger before the East Husker next week which will include defending Class C-2 champion BRLD.
- Adams Central (15-1): AC is undefeated in the class with their lone loss to Class C-2 Grand Island Central Catholic. Patriots in the Central Conference semifinals tomorrow against Class B Aurora and the finals on Saturday will also be a Class B opponent, either Lexington or Northwest.
- Kearney Catholic (13-4)
- Lincoln Christian (12-3)
- BRLD (16-0): Like Auburn, the Wolverines have done nothing to take the top spot away. Primed for a big two week stretch that should get them ready for the postseason. After the East Husker, it’s Wisner-Pilger, LVSS and Hastings at the Heartland Hoops Classic in Grand Island.
- Yutan (13-1): BRLD’s foe in last year’s final, the Chieftains are No. 1 in the NSAA point standings with their lone loss to Class B Wahoo. A possible date with Auburn in the ECNC is the beginning of a good home stretch.
- Grand Island Central Catholic (14-1): In the middle of the Centennial Conference tournament now with Lincoln Christian (their only loss) and Kearney Catholic, the Crusaders have wins over Sutton, Adams Central and the Stars on their season resume.
- Sutton (13-2)
- Ponca (12-2)
- Humphrey/LHF (15-2): The defending champion Bulldogs two losses are to unbeatens BRLD and North Bend and they will see one again in the East Husker.
- Osmond (16-0): The Tigers — who lost in the D-2 final last season — have moved up to D-1 and not missed a beat with a recent win over Laurel-Concord-Coleridge and a big week coming with the Lewis and Clark tournament which will include Class C-2 No. 5 Ponca.
- North Platte St. Patrick’s (14-1): The Irish have a strong case to move up as they have six Class C-1 wins to their tally with their first loss coming last week to Hershey in the SPVA tournament. Will close the season with four Class C opponents and No. 5 Paxton.
- Pleasanton (15-1)
- Paxton (14-1)
- Humphrey St. Francis (15-0): A slight, very slight, edge to the football champions here as they continue a perfect 2019-20 football, basketball campaign. Rolled through the Goldenrod tournament. Five of their final seven opponents are Class C.
- Falls City Sacred Heart (16-1): The Irish have a lone 45-31 loss to Class C-1, top-ranked Auburn and won the MUDECAS title last week. They will play the Frontier Conference tournament next week and also make the trip to Grand Island for a Heartland Hoops Classic game with Fullerton, HSF’s Goldenrod finals opponent.
- Loomis (15-0): In 15 outings, the Wolves have been held under 60 just one time. The Fort Kearny tournament next week — a possible date with Pleasanton — after a Thursday night battle with Class D-1 Axtell (11-4)
- Parkview Christian (9-5)
- Mullen (11-4)