When Ann Prince took over as the head coach for the new Elkhorn North girls basketball team in 2020, she could not have expected what was to come.
In three seasons, the Wolves have amassed a 72-4 record and have won three Class B state championships in the school’s first three years. Elkhorn North is the first to win three in a row in Class B since Seward won four in a row from 2009-12.
“Nobody could have expected that,” Prince said.
Prince quickly changed the subject though and mentioned a near-disastrous ending to the 2021 season, the first of the three-peat.
The Wolves clawed past Hastings in a district final 61-60. A loss would have ended the season. From a near miss to the state tournament the first time around, to back-to-back-to-back.
That was the moment that the domination started for Elkhorn North. Over the past two seasons, just five of 53 games have been decided by 10 points or less.
“We had an ok game and (Hastings) played a great game, and just about beat us,” Prince said. “We talk about that once in a while. Things have to fall in place, and we have to make plays down the stretch. … We don’t take anything for granted.”
Elkhorn North certainly did not take anything for granted in the 2022-23 season.
Two all-conference seniors — Hannah Nadgwick and Emma Hanke — both suffered season-ending knee injuries in August.
Omaha Skutt threw a wrench into Elkhorn North’s season and defeated the Wolves in the first week of the season handily. That game was just three weeks after many of the same players shared the court in the volleyball state championship when the SkyHawks defeated the Wolves in a classic five-setter.
But Elkhorn North used that adversity and a little bit of fire to win the third straight championship on March 4 over Skutt 64-51.
“To overcome that, I can hardly believe it,” Prince said. “The growth of these kids is unbelievable, but I give the credit to them. They are good human beings. They work their tails off in practice.”
After all the success before this season and the in-season blowouts, it would be easy for Elkhorn North to continue looking ahead.
Prince, and her players, were committed to the process though. They prepared for the state tournament while they focused on the day-to-day.
“We try to focus on one game at a time and just focus on the process of getting better,” Prince said. “We talk about winning the day, winning the practice, winning the game before (a state championship). If you focus on that every day, you are going to get better throughout the course of the season.”
Junior Britt Prince, Nebraska’s Gatorade Player of the Year, pointed out the team’s chemistry this season as a key reason it was special.
“I think that group we did it with, we stuck together since the beginning,” Britt said. “We started with the Skutt loss, but I think we really came together this season. We fought really hard and worked together. We are a really close group this year and it was a lot of fun.”
The chemistry for Ann and Britt is even closer as a mother and daughter duo. To Ann, it’s a dream come true for her to coach her daughter to these titles.
It was a team effort though, according to Ann.
“I love the game, she loves the game and to be able to share (the state championship) with her all these other amazing Wolves is the best thing ever,” Ann said.
Britt has been the leader on the court for Elkhorn North since she started as a freshman in the school’s first season.
Her skillset was on full display, as she averaged 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists as a junior and proved her status as a top recruit in the class of 2024. In the championship, she scored 26 points with five three-pointers while playing through a foot injury.
McKenna Murphy, who transferred from Fremont, played with top players like Taylor McCabe. Playing with Britt, a longtime friend, was something she enjoyed.
“With Britt, she can do everything,” Murphy, also a junior, said. “She can turn the game on when she needs to. I think it’s really fun being able to play with her because she can get herself open as well as everyone else on the team. It just makes the game a lot easier when you are playing with someone like Britt.”
Murphy was a key piece to the puzzle as the team’s second-leading scorer at 15 points per game.
After she transferred to Elkhorn North before the school year began, the junior was unsure how she would fit in. The state championship is a testament to how well Murphy gelled with the rest of the group.
“These girls, these coaches, they just welcomed me,” she said. “It was awesome the way welcomed me and then I accepted my role and here we are. It was awesome.”
The elusive four straight state championships accomplishment has only been accomplished eight previous times in Nebraska. North Bend Central became the latest to reach that in 2023.
With three starters coming back, led by Britt and Murphy, the countdown for the fourth is ticking. And Elkhorn North looks like the early favorites despite Omaha Skutt returning all but one player in a tough Class B.
The Wolves know what it takes to win it and is ready to work again.
“I think we worked hard this year, and we are definitely going to have to work even harder next year to come this close,” Murphy said. “Thee pieces we have coming back are awesome. We are definitely going to have to develop over the offseason and then in the season and hopefully, we can come back.”