It’s March madness time! A time where college basketball fans, and those that just like to compete in office pools, fill out brackets to determine the NCAA championship. However Nebraska has it’s own form of March madness. The NSAA High school version.
For 101 years the Nebraska State Athletic Association has organized and crowned the high school basketball championships in the month of March. You thought Nebraska was just a football state, well it is, except the first two weeks in March. Then basketball fans come out in droves from every corner of the state and every size school and converge on Lincoln Nebraska to cheer their hometowns and watch good basketball.
Twenty four teams from each of the six classes of schools (Class A to Class D2) in both the boys and the girls basketball compete in Lincoln Nebraska. That makes a total of 288 schools, and approximately 3,400 students compete in the Nebraska high school basketball tournament.
Passions run deep in small communities and many schools normally schedule school days off during the tournament so students can attend. This is especially true of schools that normally compete every year. It’s also an opportunity for alumni who live in Lincoln to attend a “home town” game and have a reunion with classmates and friends.
I attended boys Class D2 games this year and followed Wauneta-Palisade. The high school student body is 49 students. Yes, you read right, 49 students from 9-12th grade, each graduating class contains approximately 12 students. Class D2 is the smallest class of school in Nebraska and as expected is comprised of rural schools in the far reaches of the state. Class A is the largest with a much larger student population of 1200-1800, comprised mainly Omaha and Lincoln schools.
But, regardless of the size school these students play hard! Each Wauneta–Palisade game was decided in the last seconds of the game with the Broncos making it all the way to the finals and losing by one point at the buzzer to Giltner. It’s always heartbreaking watching the seniors realize this is there last high school game. But they can’t sit still for long, because spring track season starts the next week.
Yes, in small Nebraska schools we raise all-round athletes, the same boys will play football, basketball, and then track. So, welcome track season!