The scene: Seventh-grade club teammates made it to state tournament with six different schools

March 4, 2019

It was a pretty good girls state basketball tournament for the Lincoln teams.

Two teams, Lincoln Southwest and Lincoln Christian, were state runner-up. Three of the semifinal teams in Class A were from Lincoln, with Southwest joined by Lincoln East and Lincoln Pius X.

And it was also a memorable week for the friends and former teammates who five years ago played together on a seventh-grade club team with the Nebraska Lasers, one of several clubs in Lincoln.

The eight players from that team now play for six different high schools in the area, and each of those teams made it to the state tournament. And then all of those teams made it to the semifinals.

All those players are juniors now. Skyler Kreifels, Delaney Roberts and Emily Prai play for Lincoln East. Emerson Barada for Lincoln Southwest, and Lauren Taubenheim for Lincoln Pius X. Morgan Maly plays for Crete. Lindsey Thiele plays for Bishop Neumann, and Macy Arnold for Lincoln Christian.

Thiele helped Neumann win the Class C-1 state championship on Saturday. Southwest and Lincoln Christian were also in the finals.

Tim Barada is Emerson’s dad, was the coach of that seventh-grade team, and is now an assistant coach for Southwest. For many years before that, he was the boys coach at Wilber-Clatonia.

Barada stays in touch with those players. But it was Thiele, one of the players who is no longer playing with the club so she can focus on golf, who reminded Barada this week that the whole group would be playing at state.

“Lindsey sent me a message and said, ‘Coach, I was just thinking about that team and every one of those kids on that team when we were in seventh grade is in the state tournament,’” Barada said. “I was like, ‘Shoot, I need to go look.’ So I was digging back through pictures.”

Thiele was right, so Barada posted two photos of the group — one in their jerseys and another playing laser tag — on his Twitter account.

It was brought to my attention today by Lindsey Thiele that every player from our 7th grade Lasers team was playing in the state tournament this weekend. Even more impressive is they all won today and are in the semifinals tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/oecSZuHMMJ — Tim Barada (@tbarada2) March 1, 2019

“I think six of those eight kids played with us for six-plus years, which is crazy in the world of kids jumping teams, and things like that these days,” Barada said.

Maly is one of the best players in the state, while some of the players have smaller roles for their team. But it is still impressive that they’ve all wanted to keep playing and survived tryout cuts for their high school team.

“That was kind of rare group that we had some really good athletes that really liked the game and were committed to work on it. I don’t think we overplayed them,” Barada said.

Barada likes to scan the high school box scores and see how they’re helping their teams wins.

“The pinnacle should be playing in high school basketball, not what you do in the summer. The summer helps you get ready for the winter,” he said.

That team traveled to two overnight tournaments that year in Kansas City, Missouri, and Ames, Iowa.

“The kids could tell you a lot more stories about spending nights in the hotels than they could the losses and how they did,” Barada said.

With cell phones and social media, the players are able to follow each other during the school year.

Four of the players will probably play on the same team again this summer and be coached by Barada. They have tryouts on Sunday afternoon, but then they’ll take some time off to rest and because they all play spring sports. Some of them will play in college. Others won’t.

After losing in the championship game, Maly said she was ready to get back to work on Sunday.

“That’s typical Morgan, like, I know the season is over but I don’t dislike basketball because we lost. I still want to get better,” Barada said.