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TIME OUT by Joe Flanagan

Let’s make this Lincoln trip a habit

Look out Lincoln – the Big Red horde is ready to descend once again!
You know, this could become a habit. At least the Boone Central Lady Cardinals and their fans would like to make it one.
Boone Central would also like to make this second consecutive state tournament trip to the Capital City last a bit longer than 2009’s one-and-done.
To date, it’s been another fascinating season for the Boone Central girls basketball program – one that perhaps turned out a bit better than predicted.
After all, the Cardinals returned just one starter from the team that made history with Boone Central’s first girls conference and district titles and initial state tournament berth. It’s no easy task for any team to replace four senior leaders.
Nevertheless, BC barely skipped a beat this season. The Cards were unable to repeat their Mid-State Conference championship, but here they are with the big prize – the C1-4 District crown and a coveted berth in the 2010 Nebraska Girls State Basketball Championships!
And, just think, Boone Central might only be in the middle of an unprecedented Lady Cardinal run.
BC will again lose a stellar senior class from this squad. Six players, including two starters, that have made indelible prints in the success of the program.
However, junior standout Bobbi Beckwith will return to spearhead the 2010-11 Cardinals and a talented sophomore class that includes two starters and five varsity contributors will be another year older and another year better.
Things indeed look bright for the foreseeable future.
But, believe me, Boone Central players and coaches aren’t looking ahead right now. At least no farther than Thursday and their first-round tournament match-up with Lutheran High NE.
Which brings up another fascinating facet of these entertaining seasons. As much similarity as there might seem to be in records, district titles and state berths, Boone Central heads to Lincoln in a much different position than a year ago.
Last season, the Cardinals were ranked 2nd in the state by the Omaha World-Herald and carried the #3 seed into state tourney play. Despite that lofty status, Boone Central seemed beset by butterflies early in its initial state appearance, enduring a horrendous start before mounting a game, though futile, second-half rally in the first-round loss to Bennington.
This time around, the tables are turned. Boone Central is seeded only 8th despite its 20-3 record, while Lutheran High NE brings a gaudy undefeated mark to Lincoln with the #1 seed and top ranking in Class C1.
Make note, however, that this is the first state tournament appearance since 2000 for Lutheran (second overall), a fairly new school with a brief athletic history. Will nerves be a factor for the Eagles?
On the other hand, these Cardinals have experienced the bright lights on the big stage and shouldn’t be overly daunted by the task at hand. Advantage Boone Central?
One thing is certain – Pershing Auditorium will be rocking in red Thursday morning. You – and the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce – can always count on Cardinal Nation turning out in full force.
The first week of March. Tournament basketball. It’s getting to be a habit.
See you in Lincoln!