The rich tradition that the Wahoo boys basketball program possesses was on full display at the Warriors’ final home game two weeks ago against Elmwood-Murdock.
It took a little longer than the standard 10-minute halftime to honor Wahoo’s nine state championship teams since 1988, a ceremony that the current Wahoo players caught the final few minutes of as they waited to get on the court for second half warmups.
All of the championship banners and a tribute to the school’s state record 114-game winning streak between 1988 and ’92 dominate one wall of the gym. The five senior starters this season want to add to that history.
“We want a banner up there for ourselves,” Will Shanahan said. “That’s a lot to live up to, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Ironically, the current Wahoo players have a chance to settle a long-time score in the first round Thursday. The top-ranked Warriors (24-2) face Ogallala (13-14) at 10:45 a.m. at the Devaney Sports Center, the first meeting between the schools since the Indians snapped Wahoo’s state record string in the 1992 Class B state tournament semifinals.
“We’ve had some guys from that (1992) team tells us to go get some revenge for them,” said Wahoo coach Kevin Scheef, who remembers watching that game at the Devaney Sports Center when he was the head coach at Shickley. Scheef guided the Warriors to their last state title in 2013 as well as runner-up finishes in 2012, ’14 and last season.
“That ’92 game was a long time ago, but a lot of people still remember it.”
With four starters back from a year ago, Wahoo has been the Class C-1 favorite this season since the Pinnacle Bank Arena buzzer sounded to end the 2017 state final, a game cross-town rival Bishop Neumann won over the Warriors.
“Most of us were in the gym the next week after the state tournament playing pick-up games, and it was pretty much that way every week until the season started,” said senior point guard Dylan Egr, an all-state running back in football who has signed to play that sport at Midland.
“We don’t want to come up short this season,” said Cameron Quick, another senior football standout who starts on the basketball team.
Egr, Shanahan and Billy Hancock had a bird's-eye view of the last state title. They were middle school student managers for the Warriors when they went undefeated in 2013.
“I just remember how loud it was. The place was going crazy when we won it,” Hancock said. “It looked like fun, definitely something we wanted to do ourselves.”
Even with a target on their back and a challenging schedule, the Warriors have been up to the task. Their only two losses are to Class B No. 4 Platteview, which features 6-foot-10 Nebraska recruit Brady Heiman.
They own wins over Class B state qualifiers No. 5 Bennington and No. 10 Crete, C-1 state qualifiers No. 2 Grand Island Central Catholic and Syracuse and a C-2 state tournament team in No. 5 Elmwood-Murdock. To get to state, Wahoo beat No. 5 Bishop Neumann in the subdistrict final and No. 8 Logan View-Scribner-Snyder in the district final, the Warriors’ second win over both teams.
“In tight situations, these guys don’t panic and they make a play when they have to,” Scheef said. “They’re a fun group of guys, and they can drive you crazy at times. But when it’s time to get to work, they’re very competitive. They’re pretty driven, and a state championship is their goal. Hopefully they can make it happen.”
All five Warrior senior starters fulfill a specific role. Brendan Lacey, a 6-2 guard, has emerged as a go-to scorer, averaging 16.5 points per game while shooting 54 percent from the field (42.9 percent from beyond the three-point line) and 78 percent from the free throw line.
Quick, a 6-3 Doane quarterback recruit, averages 10.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game driving to the basket and getting inside. The 6-4 Shanahan is Wahoo’s rim protector and post-up scorer in the paint at 8.9 points and a team-high six rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots a contest.
The 6-foot Hancock, who plans to play baseball at Mount Marty next year, gives Wahoo another three-point threat with a team-high 56 treys and an 8.6 points per game scoring average, while also leading the team in steals (70). Egr is the playmaker with a team-high 2.6 assists a game.
One of the juniors off the bench, 6-4 Winston Cook, is averaging 10 points per game as both an inside and outside weapon.
“We’ve got a lot guys doing different things,” Lacey said. “We have other guys who can score, so I don’t feel a lot of pressure if my shot isn’t falling or teams are focusing their defense on me.”