By Diane Stamm
The Wauneta Breeze
The first two Saturdays of March are my mom’s favorite time of year.
She loves to crash on the couch and watch the Nebraska basketball state championships. Don’t call, don’t stop by, Mom is busy.
Each year it seems like there is a team that stands out and we jump on its bandwagon. Usually it’s a RPAC team or local school. A lot of times it’s anybody playing a parochial school.
One team in the running during the boys’ tournament was the Minatare Indians. Minatare had not been to the State Tournament since 1945 and had not won a game at the tournament since 1940.
This year the school beat RPAC member Paxton 53-52 in the first round, before losing in the semifinals and third place game.
But, like many other people across the state, we chose to root hard for the Winnebago Indians.
So many people were excited to watch Winnebago that the gym for the Indians’ district game against Norfolk Catholic filled up and people were turned away, missing out on the Winnebago win.
Many changes led up to the win, according to the Omaha World Herald’s Dirk Chatelain,
Chatelain’s column following the team throughout the tournament listed several points that show how far the town and area have come in recent years.
—More kids are staying in a school district which has over 100 more students than it did 15 years ago. More of these kids are taking part in extracurricular activities, such as speech, and the school has upgraded its facilities.
—There are new preschool programs and new cultural classes and events to emphasize tribal traditions and more tribal members are becoming involved in the school, including the team’s head coach who played for Winnebago.
—A number that blew my mind was 85 percent. That’s the percentage of students taking part in the free and reduced program. A few years ago it was at 98 percent.
An extra draw for me was that the team’s two leading scorers’ mom played on the only Winnebago girls’ state tournament team back in 1990, the same year as my first trip to Nebraska’s version of the big dance.
Chatelain said the team from a school that was once considered undisciplined was getting up and practicing at 6:00 a.m. to prepare for the school’s first tournament appearance since 1994.
Ranked fifth despite being one of the smallest schools in Class C1, Winnebago opened the weekend with a 66-50 win over third-rated Wahoo with a barrage of three pointers from the outside and the occasional dunk on a fast break.
It was the Indians’ first state tournament win since 1941. Winnebago followed that up with 69-63 win over Grand Island Central Catholic and defeated Columbus Scotus, one of four parochial schools in the C1 tournament field, 66-51 in the title game.
Winnebago finished the season at number nine in the World Herald All-Class Top 10.
Despite the success the team still heard taunts on and off the court and chose to feed off the adversity and grow from it.
It’s not every year that the team we follow has a happy ending to the season.
Hopefully this story will continue to stay positive for both the kids involved and their community.
So, thanks to the Winnebago Indians for the fun ride on the bandwagon.