Fifteen out of the 16 teams that will take the court for Saturday’s Heartland Hoops Classic are ranked.
But two stand out above the others.
Oak Hill Academy out of Virginia is ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today. Sunrise Christian Academy from Wichita, Kansas, sits at No. 5.
So when those two teams square off at 7:30 p.m., THE boys basketball game of the week in the nation likely takes place in Central Nebraska at the Heartland Events Center.
“It is really cool that that game is being played here in Nebraska,” Heartland Hoops Classic organizer Tino Martinez said.
Sunrise Christian (20-3) vaulted up 14 spots in the latest rankings to add even more sizzle to an already intriguing match-up.
“Sunrise had a big weekend in Maryland,” Martinez said. “They beat (previous No. 5) Findlay Prep and (previous No. 4) St. Benedict’s Prep. This is the kind of game that you’ll probably never see here again.”
Oak Hill and Sunrise Christian have both make appearances at the Heartland Hoops Classic over the event’s previous 10 editions.
But they’ve always faced off against top Nebraskan teams like Omaha Central, Omaha South and Papillion-La Vista.
When they play each other, it will be quite the collection of talent.
Oak Hill (36-0) consists of players committed to college teams that look like a Final Four lineup – Kentucky, Kansas, Oregon and Florida.
Sunrise Christian includes players committed to Illinois-Chicago and Arkansas State and also features N’faly Dante, a 6-foot-11, 230-pound sophomore who is ranked as the No. 2 recruit for the class of 2020.
“You’re going to see 12 to 14 of these guys move on to play Division I basketball,” Martinez said.
He said putting this match-up together was easy once he decided that was the route he wanted to pursue.
“The toughest part was deciding whether I wanted to have a Nebraska team or go with the national thing,” Martinez said. “I knew that Creighton Prep would have a very good team, but they’re tied into a long-term contract with Kansas City’s Rockhurst for that date.
“I didn’t think there was another top team out there like we’ve had in the past with Omaha Central and Omaha South.”
The rest of the day features top teams from around the state facing off in inter- and intra-class showdowns.
“They are all ranked teams except Omaha South, and they’ll be in a great game with York,” Martinez said. “I feel fortunate how it worked out, and I think it makes for a great day of basketball.”
The rest of the lineup includes:
-- Class C-2 No. 2 Yutan vs. No. 7 South Loup, 9 a.m. Both teams suffered their lone loss early in the season. Yutan has won 18 in a row and is led by Mason Timm (12.3 ppg) and Colton Feist (11.5). South Loup has won 16 straight behind sharpshooter Cade Connell, who just passed the 1,500-point career mark.
% C-1 No. 2 O’Neill vs. C-2 No. 3 Hastings St. Cecilia, 10:45 a.m. O’Neill puts up 64 points a game behind Justin Appleby (20.7) and Alex Thramer (17.1). Battle-tested St. Cecilia won the Centennial Conference championship and has played 11 games against teams that currently own double-digit win totals.
% Omaha South vs. Class B No. 4 York, 12:30 p.m. Currently 6-12, Omaha South did win its last two games and is led by Tyreek Crawford (14.4 ppg). York opened its season with 17 straight wins before falling to Aurora in the Central Conference championship.
-- Class B No. 7 Gretna vs. C-2 No. 1 Ponca, 2:15 p.m. Gretna enters with a 17-3 record and three days off while Ponca sits at 20-1 entering Friday’s home game against Homer.
-- C-1 No. 3 Winnebago vs. No. 5 GICC, 4 p.m. Martinez does double duty as organizer of the Heartland Hoops Classic and coach of the Crusaders. GICC has faced a busy stretch the last two weeks, so the coaching staff couldn’t look ahead to Winnebago. “They’ll be a big challenge,” he said. “They play at a pace that you don’t usually see.”
-- Class B No. 1 Aurora vs. No. 2 Omaha Skutt, 5:45 p.m. To warm fans up for the Oak Hill-Sunrise Christian showdown, the top two ranked teams in a deep Class B square off. Aurora features the one-two offensive punch of Henry Penner (Nebraska-Kearney recruit) and Baylor Scheierman (South Dakota State).
-- Class B No. 3 Platteview vs. No. 10 Crete, 9:15 p.m. Nebraska recruit Brady Heiman averages 17.5 points and 10.3 rebounds for Platteview. Carter Kent puts up 15.0 ppg for Crete.