State Spotlight: A reflection on boys and girls state basketball


Mia Fox and Beck Frazier

A long season for both the boys and girls basketball teams came to a close in mid March. Both teams made the state tournament with the boys being the #1 seed and the girls being the #4 seed in their respective brackets. 

Both teams earned a spotlight this season with all the hard work they put into this season which was riddled with questions. The boys finished undefeated and ranked #14 in the nation. The girls, although not ranked nationally, finished #4 in Nebraska class A all the while having their best season since 2013-14. 

The girls started their state run with a matchup against rival school Bellevue East. Led by Ahnica Russell-Brown’s 18 points and Naomi White’s 16 rebounds, they helped lead the Thunderbirds to a 17 point victory. This moved the Thunderbirds into semifinals of the playoffs where they would face off against the Millard South Patriots. With poor shooting in the first half of the game, the girls got behind early and quickly and could never reel in the Patriots. This led to a 21 point loss to the eventual state champions. They finished 22-6 on the year.

Even with a disappointing exit from the state tournament, many of the Thunderbird girls will be returning for next year, with Faith Elmore being the only senior on the team.

The boys state run was one of relative ease. With wins against Lincoln North Star and Omaha Westside, by 22 and 33 points respectively, this led to the fourth straight state championship game against the Millard North Mustangs. Led by Josiah Dotzler’s 16 points and Robbie Garcia’s 8 rebounds, The Thunderbirds would go on to win their second state championship of the four game series by 23 points. 

Unlike the girls team however, the guys will not have key pieces of their team returning for next season. Seniors Josiah Dotzler and Jaxon Stueve have been big parts of the team for the past four years, now it’s up to the returning Thunderbirds to make their mark on the team. 

Another big part of the team not returning for next season is head coach Doug Woodard. He announced his retirement shortly after winning the state championship. Woodard has coached  the basketball team for the past 25 seasons. During that span, he won six state championships and finished with a record of 453-146 (.756). 

An announcement was made on the Bellevue Public Schools Instagram account on March 30, 2023, that former assistant coach Steve Klein will take over the role of head coach.

A season that began with many questions for both teams finished with both teams leaving their mark on the court. Both teams met, if not exceeded, expectations for this past season. Now it’s a look to the future for both teams. Next season could be one full of great achievements for both teams.