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THE YEAR

"One thing that should make losing a little easier for all of you (except Smurf) is that 'There is a next year.' There were five seniors in 1992 (Ogallala loss) that didn't have a next year. I hope you think about that very seriously."
-- Coach Watton (from his message in the 1995 booklet)

The message to players was clear. They hadn't reached their goal in 1995, but they had a second chance in 1996.

THE LAST WORD


work harder

To say that the 1995 season ended in disappointment is a gross understatement.  Had the Warriors lost in the championship game, or even in the semi-final, it would have been much easier to swallow.  But the loss to an unranked opponent in the first round was almost unthinkable.  The newspaper headline said it all:  "Shocker!"  Perhaps it was a bit of hyperbole, but David Trotske of the Fremont Tribune called it "the biggest upset in the history of the Nebraska State Tournament."

However, a closer look diminishes the magnitude of the upset.  Fairbury was probably much more formidable of an opponent than many credited them.  The Jeffs went on to register a decisive win over Madison in the semifinals (54-36) and led St. Paul going into the final period before succumbing 57-55.  Fairbury went from unranked to finishing as the #2 Class C1 team in both newspapers.  One thing is clear – the Class C1 field was very competitive.  Eventual champion, St. Paul, had to survive a against Hartington Cedar Catholic in the first round by scoring a three pointer with four seconds left to secure a 49-48 win.  The semifinal wasn't any easier as it took overtime for the Wildcats to beat Grand Island Central Catholic 57-55.  Had Eric Eddie's last shot fallen the Warriors might still not have claimed the championship, but then again, they were that close to being the best team in Class C1.

And there's the rub.  When evaluating the performance of the 1995 Wahoo team it's easy to lose track of how much this was a season of change.  As the Warriors progressed through their season, they won game after game.  Some were barely victories (Omaha Roncalli), some were viewed as disappointments even in victory (Schuyler), but many were blowout wins similar to previous seasons.   But the bottom line was that a group of underclassmen with a new coach managed to win every game except the last one.  For some the expectation of another state championship had been present since the start of the season; for many more that expectation mounted with every win racked up by the 1995 Warriors.  So, when the Warriors lost, it was viewed by many as a failure.  Perhaps a more accurate assessment would be that they didn't reach their ultimate goal, but they exceeded what legitimately should have been expected of such a young team in a season of change.  But in a sense that evaluation is somewhat unfair because it diminishes the estimation of the talent level of the 1995 team.

What was that talent level?  A look at the Wahoo record book at the time shows that the juniors of 1995 had already made a mark with another season left to play.  Mike Simons was second with 744 points in a season, fourth in three point goals for a season (64), fifth in career three point goals (89), 15th in assists (166), third in career steals (207), fourth in season rebounds (276), and fourth in career rebounds (531).  Eric Eddie was third in season three point goals (67) and eighth in career three point goals, and thirteenth in season scoring (395).  Josh Anderson recorded the most assists in a season (222), and was fourth in career assists (356).  Mike Simons was recognized as Class C1 All-State, being designated as captain, and was second team All-Nebraska.  Josh Anderson was second team Class C1 and Eric Eddie was honorable mention All-State.

How does the 1995 team compare to their predecessors?  The 1995 Warriors were the sixth Wahoo team to record an undefeated regular season.  Their offensive average (81.6) was tied for fifth among all Wahoo teams, fifth in three point goals made (178), and eighth in field goal percentage (48.11%) and three point percentage (36.33%).  And of course the 1995 Wahoo team did as was expected in winning the Holiday Tournament, Conference Tournament, and District Tournament.

All of this adds up to a job well done.  But the stain of the loss to Fairbury would not go away.  The last Wahoo team to lose in the state tournament was the 1992 Warriors.  That loss provided motivation that propelled the 1993 team to an undefeated state championship.  It remained to be seen if that would be the case in 1996.  One thing was clear – the 1996 team would be the most experienced team Wahoo had ever put on the floor.  With their top six players returning, Wahoo would be penciled in as the favorite to win the title in 1996. For Wahoo teams, the bar was set very high.  Apologies weren't much accepted.  The bottom line would always be, "Did you win the championship?"  The answer for the 1995 Warriors was "no."  Perhaps the best indication of how the 1996 season would go was Mike Simons' final comment:  "It just showed us that we're not as great as we thought.  We'll have to work harder."  

1995 FINAL RANKINGS
Fairbury didn't get much respect in the regular season, but its performance in the state tournament elevated it to the #2 spot.

Returning For 1996:
name ppg
Mike Simons 28.62
Josh Anderson 16.38
Eric Eddie 15.19
Ryan Fiala 6.00
Josh Herrmann 5.08
Dan Brown 3.31

Mike Simons was a first team Class C1 All-State selection.