Westside Basketball Teams Cap Season in Different State Tournament Settings


Alex Estopare

Westside senior Ella Wedergren dribbles the ball in the 58-40 loss to Fremont, her final game with the Westside program.

For the second year in a row, both the Westside Warriors varsity boys and girls basketball teams competed in the state tournament. After two early first-round exits in 2019, the Warriors returned a combined 12 seniors for the 2020 season. With both teams starting off the season ranked in the top ten, the Westside basketball program looked to have another successful year.

After going 3-1 in the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona in late December and then placing second in the Metro Conference Holiday Tournament, the girls proved to be one of the top teams in Class A. After cruising through the A-3 district tournament, they qualified for their fifth state tournament in six years. Senior guard Ella Wedergren felt that the team’s success relied much on their ability to work together.

“The way we figured out how to work together after losing three prominent seniors last year,” Wedergren said. “The younger girls stepped up and we all stepped into our roles and did what we had to do for the team.”

Seeded second in the state tournament, the Warriors went up against the seventh-seeded Fremont Tigers in the first round. Fremont, a team that had beaten Westside in their second game of the season, started off with an early lead after back-to-back three-pointers. Throughout much of the game, the Warriors struggled to hold control on offense and never could hold momentum on their side. With a combined 29 points by Fremont’s Taylor McCabe and Sydney Golladay, the Tigers cut the Warriors’ season short, winning 58-40.
Although the end was not what they wanted, multiple seniors, including Brooklyn James, felt that their time in the Westside program was a time that shaped memories and friendships they will last far past high school.

“It’s been a lot of fun being involved in the high school program just because of the culture that Westside girls basketball has and how strong it is. It’s been really fun over the four years to see all of us grow as a team. The four seniors that I’ve played with have been really fun to play with since I was in third grade and through the feeder team,” James said.

Although only one week passed in between the time of the boys and girls tournaments, a lot changed in the sports world as a whole. With a large spread and exposure of COVID-19 in Nebraska, the NSAA decided, just a day before the first round of the tournament, to limit the fans attending the state tournament to only immediate family members and essential personnel. With those circumstances, the Warriors first-round matchup against rival Creighton Prep was watched by the majority of fans on their couch.
Seeded fourth after an 18-6 regular season, the Westside boys team had a lot of promise headed into the state tournament. In their regular-season matchup against Creighton Prep, the Warriors took down the Jr. Jays by 27 points behind a 31 point night by Jadin Booth. In the first round matchup, Booth put up much of the same production. With a 25 point game from Booth along with double-digit nights from PJ Ngambi and Chandler Meeks, the Warriors advanced onto the second round with a 74-70 win. Even with the limited crowd, after the game, Booth felt that the energy that the team brought going into the game was a big factor in the win.

“It’s definitely weird but we’ve had a couple of games early on this season with this atmosphere and we’ve proven that we can come out with the better energy,” Booth said.

In their Friday night, semi-final matchup against Bellevue West it was not much of the same story. After a close first quarter, the Thunderbirds grew a 17 point lead going into halftime and held onto it for the rest of the night. The eventual state champion Thunderbirds, with two players flirting with double-doubles, would end the Warriors season 89-70.
Ending his high-school career as Westside’s all-time leading scorer as well as committing to UNO to continue his basketball career, Jadin Booth has seen both sides of the spectrum in the Warriors’ success. With going to the state tournament in back to back seasons for the first time since 2003-04 Booth has loved to see the hard work he and his teammates have been putting in finally pay off.

“It’s been an incredible journey. You look back on my freshman year and you see we only won six games and then to my senior year we get to the final four, win 18 games and throughout this whole process it’s been awesome,” Booth said. “Coach Simons has really brought the program to a winning culture. A lot of hard work has gone into it and I’m just blessed to have been apart of it.”