Unlike its main challengers in the Metro Conference, Omaha Central got through the season’s first month without a major disruption in the lineup. And the three-time Metro holiday champion picks up a player this week who will add to its depth.
The new Top 10 ratings leader avenged its only loss of the season by beating preseason No. 1 Omaha Benson 62-45 in a tournament final that was more lopsided than the score. It was the best Central (9-1) looked in its four tournament games, especially after it struggled against 2-6 Omaha Bryan in the first round, while Benson looked intimidated without its injured leader, Khyri Thomas.
With Thomas expected to be out for a while with a broken bone in his left foot and senior point guard Michol Bradley suspended indefinitely, Benson (8-1) was without two key players from its 64-59 win against the Eagles.
Then there is Omaha South (7-2), which already was short on seniors before Tyler Hall, its top defender, was dismissed from the team. The Packers gutted out a 48-47 quarterfinal win over Omaha Creighton Prep without a second senior, James Dumes — who has become one of the top players in the league — because he missed a shootaround the day of the game.
South beat the Junior Jays with five sophomores or freshmen in a seven-man rotation.
Meanwhile, Omaha Burke transfer Rashad McCoy this week becomes eligible for Central with the start of the second semester. McCoy is a 5-foot-11 senior who plays shooting guard.
Outside the Metro, Norfolk remained undefeated by winning the Greater Nebraska Conference tournament in Scottsbluff and Lincoln Southeast captured the Heartland Conference tournament in Lincoln. Those teams are fourth and fifth, respectively, in the new ratings behind the trio of Central, South and Benson.
Bellevue West, which struggled in the Metro tourney, and Burke, which appears on the rise after taking Benson to the final seconds in the game in which Thomas got hurt, are the only other Class A teams ranked ahead of Class B leader Elkhorn South in the Top 10. The Storm check in at No. 8 for their first all-class rating in boys hoops.
Class B: Only three undefeated teams remain — Elkhorn South, York and Beatrice. Only Beatrice hasn’t had a game decided by just a basket.
Elkhorn South won two-pointers at preseason No. 2 Gretna and at now-No. 4 Omaha Skutt. York needed Ty Danielson’s last-minute shot, completing a 36-point game, for a 59-57 home victory over ratings contender Plattsmouth (5-3).
Beatrice’s closest game has been 59-55 at Omaha Gross (5-3) early last month.
Skutt ranks highest among teams with losses. The No. 4 SkyHawks have a win over Gering, which moves into the ratings at No. 5 after its 9-2 start.
Norris, which visits Beatrice on Tuesday, heads the next five. Elkhorn Mount Michael, which is eighth, like Gering was not part of the preseason ratings.
Mark your calendars
Of the top seven Class A teams in the ratings, Bellevue West is the only one with games remaining against the other six. Twice, the Thunderbirds have “monster” weekends of back-to-back games against the top seven. Norfolk has the fewest top-tier opponents remaining, two, and those land on the same weekend for the Panthers.
» Bellevue West: Jan. 24 vs. Benson, Jan. 25 at Norfolk; Feb. 21 vs. Central, Feb. 22 vs. South.
» Norfolk: Jan. 24 at Lincoln Southeast, Jan. 25 vs. Bellevue West.
» Benson: Feb. 7 at South, Feb. 8 vs. Central.
» Burke: Jan. 17 vs. Central, Jan. 18 vs. South.
Silverstein’s last game
Longtime Metro holiday tournament public address announcer Barry Silverstein said, because of his health, he will retire after 18 years. Silverstein, a retired postal worker, moved to Arizona a few years ago but continued to return for the tournament. He also was the longtime P.A. man for Omaha Creighton Prep home games.
Coaches of Class A, Class B and other Omaha-area teams are reminded that The World-Herald needs a call after a game if the information is going to be in the newspaper. It’s the responsibility of the home team (win or lose) to phone in the box score — score by quarters and individual scoring for both teams — and provide highlights. If MaxPreps is used, the highlights portion must include the complete box score.
The sports department may be reached at 402-444-1201 or email@example.com. Also, the first season statistics reporting dates for boys are Jan. 20 and 21.