Preisman Pre-Cap: Early Bird Basketball Tournament

Brendan Priesman, Jay Journal Sports

The #7 Creighton Prep Junior Jays prepare to open their regular season this Thursday in Lincoln in a 4-team tournament.  The other teams in the tournament are Lincoln Southwest, Millard West, and Lincoln Pius X. The preliminary round of the tournament is in Lincoln, and the final round will be held at Prep in the Heider Center this Saturday.  

Last year the Lincoln Southwest SilverHawks went 7-16.  After starting the season 4-6, they collapsed down the stretch, finishing 3-10, including losing their last 6.  In districts, they lost to Prep in the first round 70-47. The team lost 11 seniors, but does bring back 3 varsity players from last year: senior guard Brayton Christensen, junior forward Jackson Decker, and senior guard Jason Wakefield.  In total, the returners bring back a total of 6.2 points per game, but all 3 will step into bigger roles this year.  

The Millard West Wildcats, on the other hand, had a middling season, going 10-12.  They played great in the mid season, winning 6 of 8, but also couldn’t finish near the end and lost their last 4.  They lost to Papillion La Vista in districts 53-45. This is a veteran team that brings back 15 players from last year.  Some of the best are senior forward Zach Olson (7.1 ppg last year), senior guard Peyton Buscher (5.0 ppg), and senior guard Nate Glantz (5.0 ppg).  This team is solid with a lot of seasoned leadership, and might be able to make some noise in districts this year.  

The #9 Lincoln Pius X Thunderbolts are the lone team in the tournament that was Class B last year, but don’t let that fool you.  This team went 24-2 last year and won 22 of their last 23, and the only loss was by one point to the Junior Jays. They mostly play Class A teams and it shows in their playoff run, where they beat Scottsbluff, Skutt Catholic, and Roncalli and won the Class B title.  Some of their best returners are senior guard Kolbe Rada (13.9 points, 4.0 rebounds per game last year), senior guard Mitchell Sebek (6.7 ppg), and junior Jake Greisen (0.8 ppg last year).

In a four-team round robin, there are two teams that appear to have an early advantage.  Creighton Prep, despite losing an all-Nebraska player in Akol Arop, has another great chance to make it back to the state tournament.  Lincoln Pius X, a year removed from a Class B title, is also looking dangerous thanks to a couple of veteran returners. Millard West and Lincoln Southwest are both solid teams who could make some noise if their players develop.  Last year, Prep and Pius were involved in a classic game that ended in a Prep victory. Expect the same result for this tournament.