|Until a team has experienced a District Championship, the difference between winning that district final game, and losing the game, is unappreciated. The losing team certainly knows they have lost, and are well aware that their season is over. But if that group has not in some way experienced the trip to state, they really dont know what theyve missed. The difference is immense. The team on the losing end is disbanded (at least to some degree as most high school teams do not come back the next season with the same roster). The defeated team must take care of the details of cleaning out lockers and checking in uniforms. The gym that was just recently filled with the sounds of whistles, squeaking shoes, coaches shouts, and the banter of boys playing basketball is suddenly silent. Perhaps plans are made for a trip to Lincoln to watch the other teams play, to try and measure how their team would have done, but as much fun as that trip might be, those players, coaches, and fans are on the outside looking in. The losing coaches tally up the season statistics, prepare and submit ballots for all conference and all-star teams, and moodily contemplate what might have been. For the winning team, practice continues; and these practices are not the drudgery of midseason, nor the tense anticipation of district tournament play, for they have an air of celebration about them. There is also an invigorated sense of purpose as the team prepares to play for the championship prize. Even with more games to be played, there is the moment of glory and all the trappings that accompany it. There are interviews with the local paper, and sometimes even television crews visit the school and town. The winning coaches are in the midst of a flurry of activity as they man phone lines (in todays world its email contacts) to get scouting reports and video on the upcoming opponent, plan and hold practices, and take care of the many details that come cascading down on the state qualifiers. For a team that was not only a qualifier, but a state champion the previous year, the joy of a district title is even greater as they know the opportunity that lay ahead. Such was the climate for the Wahoo team in the first week of March, 1989. After the Gretna victory, Cliff Kreizel commented, Tonights win is like a dream come true. Our goal was to go back to state and win it again. That was sweet last year.
For the Wahoo community, the third consecutive appearance in the Nebraska State Boys Basketball Tournament was taking on the trappings of an annual ritual. Newspaper coverage with interviews and pictures reporting the District triumph and upcoming tournament were much anticipated. The veteran families and fans shared their expertise in such areas as ticket purchasing with the newer members of the Wahoo bandwagon. Parking tips and the best routes to and from the venues of Pershing Auditorium in downtown Lincoln and the Bob Devaney Sports Complex on the State Fair Grounds were passed around. The sendoff pep rally was becoming more and more of a community event. Signs were prepared, T-shirts were purchased, and cars were painted. The school that had been absent from the basketball party in Lincoln for nearly forty years was becoming an annual attendee. For Troy Glock, the lone Warrior who had played on both of the other state teams, this was a familiar scenario that gave him confidence: We know how to take care of business. The prior experience put the Warriors in a comfort zone many of their potential opponents wouldnt share. Opening round challenger, Ogallala hadnt been to state since 1963. For fellow Capitol Conference school, Syracuse, it had been a drought since 1969. While those schools faced the problem of getting caught up in the state tournament atmosphere, Wahoo would not. This was a veteran state tournament team -- although most hadnt played meaningful minutes in 1988, they all had been along for the ride. As Troy Glock put it, I might be able to sleep the night before our first game and I know where the locker rooms are.
One other team that shared that comfort zone with Wahoo was the #1 ranked Lincoln Pius X. They, too, were making a third consecutive appearance in the tournament. As Thunderbolt senior, Jon Boudreau stated, we know how to get ready. Of course, even after qualifying for the state tournament, neither of the top two teams would admit to looking ahead at the possible championship matchup. Pius X Coach Tom Seib insisted that the only thing on the Thunderbolts mind was their first round contest with Schuyler. Coach Anderson insisted the Warriors were focused on Ogallala. I guess were going to keep taking them one game at a time and hopefully defend our state championship, Anderson said. When it was pointed out that Wahoos first round opponent sported one of the poorest records in the entire tournament (11 - 9), Coach Anderson recounted the close contests the 1988 team had in the first two rounds and indicated ... that there is a very thin line between going home and winning the state championship. Lincoln Pius X would be comfortable when they took the court in the first game of the day at the Devaney Sports Complex. Wahoo would be comfortable that evening when they stepped onto the Pershing Auditorium floor. They were two games away from facing each other. They were comfortable not looking ahead.
A New Title, Pt. 2 --"good news, bad news"