Tourney Intrigue Begins Thursday
There’s only one thing I’m sure of regarding Thursday morning in Lincoln.
Points will be at a premium when the Boone Central Lady Cardinals and Columbus Scotus square off in the first round of the Nebraska Girls State Basketball Tournament at Pershing Auditorium.
In fact, we may see a final resembling a football score.
This has nothing to do with the early start time. It is certainly not a knock against two Class C1 Top 10 squads.
No, it’s simply that these teams know defense. They know how to play it. They embrace it. They hang their proverbial hats on it.
First Time Around
Cardinal fans well remember the earlier meeting between these teams in Albion. The Shamrocks hung one of only two numbers in the right-hand column of Boone Central’s record.
The 38-37 final score was not out of character, especially for Scotus.
Consider the Shamrocks’ defensive performance in the district final victory that landed them in the state tourney field. Scotus held highly-rated Wahoo and star Sadie Murren – a Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit – to 29 points. The Warriors entered that game averaging 55.
Raymond Central scored just 26 vs. Scotus in the sub-district final. In two meetings this season, Hastings St. Cecelia – the other team to own a victory over Boone Central – could muster just 27 and 18. A 17-6 Twin River squad got 34.
Slow Shamrock Start
The Shamrocks didn’t begin 2011-12 with such defensive prowess. Guardian Angels Central Catholic hung 53 on Scotus in the season’s second game, while Pierce scored 48 and Omaha Concordia – another C1 state tourney squad – 42 (2OT) during a 3-4 Scotus start.
However, when the calendar flipped to 2012, Scotus transformed its identity, posting a 14-3 mark and winning 8 of its last 10 games while allowing only two teams to crack 40 points in 15 contests. Not coincidentally, those were the only Scotus losses down the stretch (to 25-1 Lutheran High NE and 16-5 Aquinas).
Yes, if the Lady Cards find a way to 40 Thursday morning, you have to like their chances.
Cards Defend Too – And Score
Actually, it may not take that much. After all, Boone Central considers itself somewhat of a defensive juggernaut, as well. In fact, Cardinal Coach Mike Kennedy confidently states “we defend as well as anyone in the state on a nightly basis.”
While the Cardinals have not registered quite the overall defensive average Scotus has, much of that stems from the number of lopsided victories BC has posted, with its regular rotation often resting through large portions of games’ late stages.
Still, Boone Central has not allowed more than 43 points in its last 11 outings and its frenetic defense also fuels a good portion of the Cards’ offense.
This is where the teams differ. Scotus hunkers down on defense and slows the game with a patient, methodical offensive attack, centered around standout post player Jordan Chohon. The 5-10 senior had 16 in the district final, scoring 14 of her team’s 20 second-half points. Reminiscent of her earlier performance in Albion.
Boone Central, on the other hand, tries to force turnovers with its aggressive, full-court pressure and wants to push the tempo to a faster pace. The Cards routinely get points from seven, eight, even nine players and you never know who might lead the way.
There’s a reason BC is ranked #1 in the Lincoln Journal-Star and #2 in the Omaha World-Herald. Yes, the Cards can shut teams down. They have also proven they can outscore a good opponent when necessary. Boone Central put up 56 and 57-point totals vs. Pierce, scored 66 to escape West Point with a double-OT victory over Guardian Angels, and blitzed OWH #1 Minden for 69 in an early contest that seemed to ignite this fabulous season.
Stage Is Set
Boone Central’s third state tourney appearance in four years offers quite a scenario.
An expected down-and-dirty defensive donnybrook Thursday morning. A possible #1 vs. #2 semi-final rematch against Minden. Familiar foes, widely disparate styles.
Kennedy says his team needs a first-round victory – a Boone Central first – to take the program to the next level. Scotus would like to add to its state success after capturing a C1 volleyball championship.
Two teams that will show up in hard hats and work boots. With Whippets quite possibly awaiting the winner.
State tournament basketball. Enjoy.