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Winter weather scraps GNAC

December 28, 2018

Columbus High School’s hopes to host the annual Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference basketball tournament were dashed Thursday when the school’s athletic department formally announced the cancellation of the event.

Originally scheduled to begin Thursday, the tournament was initially pushed back due to travel difficulties for conference members from Western Nebraska.

The GNAC consists of three teams in the panhandle, Gering, McCook and Scottsbluff, and another three hours away in North Platte. Those areas of the state experienced a wintery mix of rain, ice and snow preventing team travel on Wednesday.

Further winter weather prevented travel again on Thursday.

With a Winter Weather Advisory in effect for the North Platte area early Thursday morning through early Friday, participating schools were forced to forego the tournament in favor of safety.

Many of the schools are not allowed to travel when Winter Weather Advisories go into effect.

With the weekend now free, that leaves Columbus girls coach Dave Licari and boys coach Jimmy Motz extra time for practice but short three games on the schedule that could make an impact later in the year.

“It’s good and bad. We’re going to have a chance to practice for three days and get ready for next week. I’d like to play, yes, but it might give us a chance to address some things we need to address,” Motz said. “The kids, they want to play. There’s no doubt about that.”

The Discoverers closed the first three weeks of play with a 59-36 loss at No. 7 Seward on Dec. 18.

As has plagued CHS all season, turnovers were once again an issue. In response to those troubles, Motz said the team would return to the fundamentals in the three days before the holiday break.

Those fundamentals included simple passing and catching drills.

“We also worked some defensive things in terms of closeouts. We tried to simulate a live game and played a four-quarter game Friday before the break and worked on some situation stuff,” Motz said. “I thought it was a productive three days. We tried to reinforce the things we have to do a better job to win games. A lot of that was getting back to fundamentals.”

With three games off the schedule, three in which Motz liked Columbus’ chances, the Discoverers’ wildcard points could be significantly affected.

Those points determine the hosts of the sub-district tournament, the seeding of that tournament and the eight teams that advance to the district round that don’t automatically qualify with a sub-district title.

Licari, like Motz, was just as bullish about his squad despite the 0-8 record and a loss to Omaha Marian just before the break in which Columbus squandered an 11-point first-quarter lead.

Despite that quick turn of events, Licari thought the overall performance was encouraging.

“Again, we gave a great defensive effort,” he said. “Second quarter was probably our struggle quarter as far as taking care of the basketball. I think we shot 30 percent that game, which was one of our better shooting nights. But we were within five with four minutes to go. We gave ourselves a chance.

“We looked at the conference tournament as a really good opportunity. There are some good teams, but no real powerhouses.”

Shooting woes have been the theme of the season so far. Columbus had one of its better eight-minute periods of making shots at Marian to start the game but remained mostly inconsistent.

Yet, while Licari said he continues to believe his group is better than what they’ve shown, based on practice and last year’s stats, he’s no longer preaching that belief to his team.

He knows they get it, and eventually, it will come around

“Earlier we did. We’re trying not to talk about it quite as much now because the girls know. All we’ve talked about is, I know we’re better shooters,” Licari said. “We’ve just got to keep shooting the ball. If you’re open and you’re in rhythm, that’s a good shot if it’s your shot.”

Licari didn’t expect to be winless at this point but understood, due to the makeup of his team, easy baskets, scoring in the paint and offensive rebounds would be a weakness.

Still, even at 0-8 and struggling to score, the constant has been the girls’ sunny attitude no matter what.

“It’s a great group of kids. When we come into practice, you wouldn’t have any idea what our record is whether we were 8-0 or 0-8,” Licari said. “They just come to practice every day ready to work.

“That’s what you’ve got to do. If you want to have some success or turn it around, you’ve got to show up. They have fun while we’re there, but they’re there to work. That’s totally on the girls. That’s their makeup and their personality.”

Nate Tenopir is the sports editor for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sports@columbustelegram.com

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