Finishing undefeated still possible for KHS boys basketball

Junior Carson Schwarz drives to the hoop in a game versus North Platte’s Kade Wroot (Photo by Darrin Sazzman)

Finishing Undefeated Still Possible for KHS Boys Basketball

It seems as though the Kearney High boys basketball team is in a similar boat halfway through the 2017-18 high school basketball season. The Bearcats are currently 9-3 and have won five-straight games. However, like last year, Kearney has a favorable schedule that could allow them to finish off the regular season undefeated. First, let’s turn back the clock. Through 12 games of last year’s basketball season, Kearney was 8-4, so technically the Bearcats are on a better pace than last year’s team who finished the regular season 19-4 and went on to the state semi-finals. Also, like last year, Kearney started the season on a rocky foot. In 2016-’17, the Bearcats started the year 1-3. This year, Kearney started 2-2 and lost a bad game to Norfolk at home to get their 3rd loss of the year. Now, they have a chance to rail off an 18-game winning streak into postseason play.

When you are able to look at the rest of Kearney’s schedule you can describe it as not great, but not bad. The Bearcats have a mix of bad teams such as Lincoln Northeast (0-12), Omaha North (1-7), Omaha South (4-6) and Millard West (4-5) while having some decent teams like Lincoln High (8-4), Lincoln Southwest (8-4), Omaha Bryan (7-3), Lincoln North Star (8-4), Bellevue East (5-5) and Lincoln Pius X (6-5). The Bearcats need wins against these better opponents because district seeding is not just about the record. It is about NSAA power points which takes into account how good the other team is that you beat. In account with their schedule, Kearney needs to win at least 11 of their next 13 games to lock up a top-seven seed to host districts. Lose more than that and the Bearcats district destiny lies within the rest of Nebraska.

Now, let’s look at some of the matchups that could pave the Bearcats path to hosting districts:

  1. The most enticing matchup for Kearney will be the road trip to take on Omaha Bryan on February 3. Bryan returns everybody from last year’s squad with expectations to make it to the state tournament. The good news for the Bearcats is that the Bears do not have a dominant big man down low. Bryan is led by the guard duo of senior Tre’vion Crawford, who averages 21 points a game, and junior Javon Udofia, who averages 16 points a game. The matchup is similar to when Kearney beat Bellevue West earlier in the year. The opposing team is led by skilled guards but no great post-presence. The Bearcats will need to try and play their hand down low with sophomore standout Seth Stroh and senior Kanon Koster.
  2. The most interesting home game left for Kearney is when Lincoln Southwest comes to town on January 20. This game could be dangerous because the Silverhawks will most likely have a seven-game winning streak going into the game along with a somewhat big man presence in junior Mayoum Buom who stands at 6’-7”. All of Kearney’s losses have been to teams with better height. Lincoln East, Papillion La-Vista, and Norfolk both had players who were 6’-5” and above. Not only that, but Southwest is led by guards Jaquaylon Mays and Collin Kohl who average 18 and 11 points respectively. The Bearcats will need to be able to shoot the rock well along with getting their defensive rebounds. In their loss at home against Norfolk, they did not rebound very well which costed them offensive possessions that eventually turned into Norfolk points. Knowing Kearney head coach Drake Beranek, the Bearcats will be ready to go.
  3. Lastly, the home matchup versus Lincoln North Star at home on February 10 will be a big matchup as it could have major district seeding implications. On paper, the make-up for North Star could be troubling for the Bearcats. The Navigators are led by 6’-7” Doane commit Brock Johnson, who averages eight points a game, and sophomore guard Donovan Williams who averages 18 points a game. The height is once again a factor as North Star has a starting lineup that dispatches two 6’-4” players along with Johnson who is 6’-7”. However, they can be inconsistent. The Bearcats will either see the team who lost to 2-10 Lincoln Southeast or the team who made it all the way to Heartland Athletic Conference tournament championship by beating 7-5 Grand Island. I guess Kearney will find out on February 10.

With everything in account, all the Bearcats need to do is to play Kearney High basketball. That means they need to shoot well, rebound and run the floor in transition. Every time Kearney plays within their style of play, they win the game. For example, Norfolk put on a zone defense that the Bearcats weren’t able to run in transition which eventually led to their 43-40 loss. Play their game. As simple as it is, that is what Kearney needs to do to be able to finish the rest of the season unscathed and on their way to a number one seed in district play.