Matt Shelsta went 'round Robin Hood's barn to make a point, and his Elmwood-Murdock boys basketball team benefited.
"Before the season, I had a meeting with our four seniors. I told them, 'I don't want you to be leaders. Just do the right thing for the team every chance you get. I'll be the leader of the team," the coach said. "They did a really good job of that and so in a round-about way, I was telling them to be leaders. They took on the leadership role.
"We have a team that doesn't have one big standout. We have several guys who can score 15 to 20 points on a given night. I'm glad we don't have a guy who scores 20 and if he doesn't, we're in trouble."
The balanced approach, with seniors Nick Goudie, Blake Lutz, Tyler Oehlerking and Zach Dwyer helping guide the team, resulted in a 22-4 record and a berth in next week's Class C-2 boys state basketball tournament. The eighth-ranked Knights will face No. 4 Southern Valley (21-3) at 7 p.m. at Lincoln Northeast.
Lutz and sophomore Zach Rust both average 10 points a game, Goudie averages nine, Oehlerking eight and junior Brady Dreamer seven.
"We've had Brady Dreamer explode for a 17-point game and he's also had a 2-point game. And his contribution was just as valuable in the 2-point game because of defense and rebounding," Shelsta said. "Lutz and Goudie have both had 22-point games, and Rust can go off for 17."
This is Elmwood-Murdock's sixth appearance at state, with a Class C-2 championship in 2008 and a runner-up finish in 2001. Shelsta played in the state tournament on an Omaha Benson team coached by his father Terry, and was an assistant to Tim Cannon at Omaha Bryan for four trips to state. But this is his first dance as a head coach.
"I was planning on giving my dad a call tonight and draw on his history. He's been there many times," said the younger Shelsta. "Tim was such an instrumental figure for me, not just X's and O's but how to handle kids. Tim was a father figure to those kids. I love that part of coaching — telling the kid what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear."
Matt Shelsta said he knows his team is prepared and gritty, which is critical, because the Knights have been something of a second-half team.
"We try to have the kids stay even. I don't like emotional people on the floor. It does you no good. If you're really high for good things and really low for bad things, nothing good can come from that," he said. "Any postseason game is tough. If you don't take it seriously, you lose. And this time of year, teams are really good or really hot.
"We've played many different styles of teams. Our conference provides that. One team will be big, the next team will have really fast guards. So we're prepared for almost anything."