Over 30 years in the making, Wood River focused on finishing the climb

WOOD RIVER, Neb. (KSNB) – Wood River – known across the state as the hometown of Husker Football Coach Scott Frost. But this year – known for its girls basketball team.

“It’s a big deal. There’s a buzz around town, a buzz around school, everybody is asking how things are going,” Wood River Girls Basketball Coach Phil Smith said. “It’s fun but they know it’s not done yet, this isn’t our peak.”

Through 20 games the Eagles have compiled a record of 18-2 and are considered one of the best team in Class C-2. State tournament aspirations are extremely high for a program that hasn’t made it to Lincoln in decades.

“For 30 years it has been a drought,” Smith said. “So it’s been one of those things where we’ve been putting it up on the board and every single day that’s our focus right now. “

The 1990 team was the last to punch its ticket to the big dance.

“I was pretty shocked that we were the last ones – 31 years ago to make it to the state tournament,” Terri Powers, who was a senior on the 1990 team, said.

Powers was a key part of that did the improbable just to get there.

“We were there for one reason. We had a goal and that was to beat the back-to-back defending class c-1 champions and that was the gibbon buffaloes,” Powers said. “We did that in our district final.”

She says the secret formula was teamwork and togetherness. Something that sounds awfully familiar 31 years later.

“We just have a strong connection and we know what each other are going to do before we even do it,” Senior guard Kiernan Paulk said.

“We’ve all been playing together since middle school so finally it’s just coming together our fifth year together,” Senior guard Boston Boucher said. “Everything has been working out just like it’s supposed to.”

“It takes more than five people, it takes the whole team. We’ve done a nice job of playing together,” Smith said. “Whoever is in is giving their all out energy and diving on the floor.”

Wood River has been close the last couple years but this year just feels different, and they’re focused on breaking through one day at a time.

“We know we need to work hard to get where we want to be and it’s always been our goal to be on the big stage,” Boucher said. “And this year it’s finally coming true.”

“Understanding to be where your feet are, be in the moment, play for each other, play as a team and we will make it happen,” Smith said.

With all of the Eagles flying behind them.

“We have a whole community behind us. Our whole school is supporting us so it’s been fun to have everyone’s support throughout the year,” Boucher said.

That includes Powers and the 1990 squad.

“I just wish those girls the best of luck. They need to go in and believe in themselves as a team and play 110 percent,” Powers said. “Be thankful and be proud of your teammates, be proud of your coaches, and most of all have fun.”

It’s not just about ending the 31-year drought for the Eagles. They have their eyes set on doing what’s never been done – winning a state championship.

“Finishing the climb has kind of been our theme this year. We were almost there but lets finish it and get all the way to the mountain top,” Smith said. “Getting there to state, getting there to the finals. That’s our goal – to be raising that trophy at the end.”

The climb to the top of the mountain is still another month’s journey, but the Eagles show no signs of slowing down.

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