Losing to Omaha Central shouldn’t be a confidence-killer for Lincoln Southeast.
“If anything, this is going to make us hungry, because I think we feel we can play with them,” Southeast coach Jeff Smith said.
His visiting Knights took top-ranked Central to the wire Saturday night before losing 57-53. Their downfall was being outscored 15-4 in the first seven minutes of the final quarter after leading by three.
The performance shows that Southeast belongs on the short list of Class A contenders. The Knights (9-2) hold onto their No. 5 ranking in the new Top 10.
A year ago, but a month earlier in the schedule, Central humbled the Knights 78-36 in Lincoln.
One reason the gap closed is that Central isn’t the same senior-dominated team full of two- and three-year starters. The Eagles are still learning to play together and went through another lineup change with the addition last week of guard Rashad McCoy, who started Saturday.
Southeast, conversely, is loaded with seniors who know their roles. The Knights, Heartland Conference tournament champs, have a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, a sign, Smith said, of how they’re working to create good shots.
BJ Day had one of his best games with 19 points and 10 rebounds. The 6-foot-4 center/forward had a torn ACL and cartilage damage in his right knee, which requires a brace and heavy wrapping, and then he went out late in the Central game after hurting his left knee while colliding with Eagles guard Jarek Coles. Smith said it appeared to be nothing worse than a knee-to-knee hit.
Southeast hosts Omaha North (1-9) on Thursday, then has games Saturday at No. 7 Bellevue West (8-2) and Jan. 24 at home against Norfolk.
A 1-2 weekend: No. 6 Omaha Burke visits Central on Friday, then hosts No. 2 Omaha South on Saturday. The No. 6 Bulldogs flipped spots in the ratings with Bellevue West by beating the cold-shooting Thunderbirds 50-38.
Class B ratings: Get past the undefeated trio of Elkhorn South, York and Beatrice and the pack is jumbled. Ten teams have three or fewer losses. Another 10 are at least within one game of .500.
In memoriam: Talk about devotion. One was a coach’s wife for 70 years, the other a sportswriter’s bride for 58. Last week, Ruth Kruger was 88 and Betty Jean Lee 92 when they died.
Ruth was the wife of Gene Kruger, the longtime Elkhorn coach who started Big Red Publishing more than 40 years ago. Ruth was helping her husband assemble scorebooks last month when I visited them in their plant in the old Elkhorn post office. Gene continues to be an assistant for the Antlers’ girls basketball team.
Betty Jean was the widow of Don Lee, who covered Omaha high school sports for some of his 44 years at The World-Herald. When her health permitted after Don’s death in 2004, she would join their son Dennis in presenting the awards for the Don Lee Championship Flight at The World-Herald Publinks golf tournament and for the “Lee’s Line” horse race during the Horsemen’s Park meet.
Ruth Kruger’s funeral is Monday at 10:30 a.m. at Bethany Lutheran Church in the Elkhorn area. Betty Jean Lee’s services are 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Margaret Mary’s Catholic Church.
Top games this week:
Class A—Tuesday: Millard South at Bellevue West. Friday: Omaha Burke at Omaha Central, Omaha South at Fremont, Lincoln High at Lincoln North Star, Omaha Westside at Norfolk. Saturday: Lincoln Southeast at Bellevue West, Omaha South at Omaha Burke.
Class B—Tuesday: Omaha Skutt at Elkhorn Mount Michael, Waverly at Ralston, Grand Island CC at York. Friday: Norris at Elkhorn South, Skutt at Omaha Gross, Waverly at Bennington, Omaha Roncalli at Mount Michael. Saturday: Elkhorn South at Roncalli, Beatrice at South Sioux City, Ralston at Lincoln Pius X, Seward at Waverly.