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THE YEAR

Introduction -- the one loss
High Expectations
Crash Test
Lessons Learned
Get Back
Realization
The Last Word

Realization -- going to state


As the nets came down at Bishop Neumann High School, Wahoo began what would be more than a week long celebration of their return to the State Tournament. As with all the teams that qualified for the tournament, the players would be giving interviews to the news media and smiling broadly as everyone congratulated them and wished them well at the tournament. Parents and families would be planning their trip to Lincoln, going over their schedules, asking for time off work. Coaches would be working frantically to take care of all the details that a state qualifier had to handle. But for the Wahoo coaches, it would be less frantic. The experience of the previous season would make the coaches better prepared. All the things from submitting statistics for the program, to securing game passes, to handling the logistics of travel and arrival time would come much easier the second time around. And as for the game preparation, some of that work had already begun even before that first District net was cut. One advantage of having been to state before and in being in position to anticipate a return trip is that, if you are blessed with enough committed assistant coaches, and if you are willing to take the risk of “looking too far ahead,” you can plan ahead. Such was the case for the Wahoo coaching staff. They were no sooner crowned District Champions than they knew who their first round opponent would be and already had video tape to help them prepare. The coaches would also spend time preparing some for a second round game -- anticipating a meeting with #2 seeded Seward.

The first round opponent for Wahoo would be Ord, a team at the opposite end of the experience equation. The Chanticleers hadn’t been to State since 1977. Although Ord’s head coach, Clayton Steele had taken two teams to the tournament before -- Rock County and Oakland. In pregame interviews, Steele projected a “just glad to be here” attitude. He did allow that his team was playing better basketball than it had earlier in the season when they could do no better than fourth place in their conference tournament. He was unsure of his team’s reaction to being at state: “You don’t know and I don’t know. It will be the big show and all of a sudden, they’re here.”

On the other hand, a common thread through the Wahoo players and coaches comments prior to the tournament was that they had expected to be there. It goes without saying that all eight teams in the Class B tournament were going to try to win. Seward coach, Rod Felix put it best: “You always go down with the idea that you’ll go as far as we can but there’s always seven other teams trying to do the same thing.” The comments from the Wahoo players gave the feeling that they could do it. Coach Anderson expressed that attitude: “Once you’ve been down there once, just getting there is not enough. This year we had a goal of getting there and making some noise.” Lincoln Journal Star sports writer, Ryly Jane Hambleton, thought they’d at least do one better than the previous year, picking them to make the finals, but lose to her #1 ranked Alliance. She did comment that Lincoln Pius X “could win it all.”

When that Thursday came around and the Warriors made their bus trip to Lincoln, they knew they were returning to a familiar place with a familiar feel. When they walked into Pershing Auditorium, they felt comfortable. When the starting lineups were introduced, they knew just what to do. Many of them had been on that court a year before, doing something a Wahoo team hadn’t done since 1948. They'd realized that goal. Now they were here to do something a Wahoo team hadn’t done since 1926
-- win a State Championship.
Fulfillment, Pt. 2 -- "merry christmas"
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Wahoo celebrates its District Championship victory over Gretna and cuts down the nets.

"Last year, we hadn't been to state since 1948. That in itself was really special for even going down there. Everybody feels we have a good chance of winning state (this year). Since last year we came so close, we know we can do it this year." -- Steve Carmer

Wahoo drew the #3 seed in the tournament and faced Ord in the first round, a winner over Grand Island Northwest in their District and ranked #10 in the final regular season ratings.

"We feel very lucky to be here. I'm just hoping we can keep up with you (Wahoo)." -- Clayton Steele, Ord Head Coach

"The thing you have to remember, and I tell the kids this, there are a lot of teams that don't ever get to the state tournament." -- Rod Felix, Seward Head Coach

Ryly Jane Hambleton's pre-tournament comments in the Lincoln Journal Star. She picked Alliance to defeat Wahoo in the finals.
4/6/08