CHS boys seek hexbreaker against Norfolk
Columbus High boys basketball and Norfolk resume the annual series between the two programs tonight at CHS.
Though the result will figure into the Maroon Cup Standings, and the Discoverers and Panthers have battled for the better part of a century, the term rivalry doesn’t quite fit the description, at least lately.
Columbus hasn’t claimed a victory over Norfolk since a 44-41 final in December 2017. Furthermore, the Panthers have won 11 in a row by double digits and by an average margin of 22 points.
A quick glance at Norfolk, however, shows the Panthers had a streak of four straight state tournaments broken last season.
Norfolk went 12-12 a year ago after four straight seasons of at least 17 wins, graduated six seniors that accounted for 69 percent of the scoring, two others that were the top two rebounders and has started the 2018-19 campaign 0-3.
Yet, for CHS fans who might see hope in all those figures, and begin to entertain thoughts about finally breaking the Nofolk hex, coach Jimmy Motz says, mirroring the catchphrase of ESPN’s Lee Corso, ‘Not so fast my friend.’
“The challenge tomorrow night is we’re playing a team that has played the most rigorous schedule in the state the first two weeks. They’ve played Creighton Prep, the defending state champ, they’ve played Millard North, who’s ultra-talented with two or three Division I guys on the roster and they’ve played Westside at home last Saturday they could have easily won,” Motz said Thursday during practice.
Prep, by the way, is 4-0 and No. 2 in the Lincoln Journal Star preseason Class ratings. Millard North is 3-1 and No. 3 and Omaha Westside is 4-0 and No. 6.
Granted, it’s a precarious start, but the same one Norfolk had a year ago when the Panthers were also 0-3 before a 70-60 win over Columbus propelled them to a string of five in a row.
“You’re talking about three teams out of the metro that are the top four or five seeds in the metro tournament,” Motz said. “Obviously, their record is misleading.”
Motz has been a part of three matchups between the two teams - 76-41 and 68-47 losses then the 10-point defeat a year ago.
Though his group is also young, it’s not nearly as established as Friday’s opponent which has a player or two that’s made an impact for more than a handful of games.
The key seems to be how well Columbus fires out of the gate; the games the Discoverers have won they’ve played well early and limited turnovers, a bugaboo through the first two weeks.
“It’s a matter of, can we make it a four-quarter game? Can we not have stretches where we don’t score? Can we value possessions? Can we get stops when we need to? Can we rebound the ball?, Motz wondered aloud.
“Those are the things it’s going to come down to tomorrow night because they’re well-coached and they’ll be prepared.”
NORFOLK (0-3) VS. COLUMBUS GIRLS (0-5): The Discoverer girls might offer their male classmates a model to follow. Norfolk owned an eight-game streak over Columbus until last season when CHS finally answered back 53-42.
There were, though, two major differences. Columbus had won 11 of 12 in the series before Norfolk’s streak of eight, and in those eight the average margin of victory was seven.
Remove two double-digit Norfolk wins and the margin was just four.
The Norfolk girls, like the boys, are 0-3 with losses to 2-2 Omaha Marian, 3-2 and No. 3 Lincoln Southwest and 3-1 and No. 6 Westside.
“We have a little size disadvantage this year maybe more so than most of our games we’ve played so far. They start four 5-10 girls and a 5-5 girl, and two of their top three of the bench are 5-10. They’re a little bit athletic, too,” coach Dave Licari said.
And despite being 0-5, he says the girls remain composed.
“The kids are great. It’s been the same demeanor in practice all the time and same demeanor before games,” he said. “We’ve done some good things in practice this week, some things we’ve been working on. It’s really just been focusing on some things we normally run any way, just trying to execute a little better.”
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor for the Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org