The Lincoln East girls basketball team won 43 games over the past two seasons.

The Spartans did it with relentless pressure on defense and relentless movement on offense. But their winning formula started with a rotation of nine to 10 players.

They'd wear teams out with depth, sometimes subbing in five players at once, and it led to impressive seasons — Class A state semifinals in 2019 and the state final in 2020.

But maybe more impressive is the Spartans' work in the classroom.

Nine East basketball players received Journal State Academic All-State honors this year. They include seniors Delaney Roberts, Taylor Searcey, Brooke Lindquist, Skylar Kreifels, Kylie Johnson and Charley Bovaird; and juniors Olivia Kugler, Haley Peterson and Briley Hill.

All nine players carry grade-point averages of 3.8 or higher, and seven of them are at 4.0 or better. All nine played significant minutes on the basketball court over the past two seasons.

"We all set goals to be high level academically and we also wanted to be high level on the court, and we knew those two things would be so important because in the future you have to have those if you want to move on," said Kreifels, who carries a 4.0 GPA and will compete in basketball and track at NAIA power Concordia next year. "We all focused on that and pushed each other to be the best on and off the court."

Lincoln East won a state championship when the current senior crop was in the eighth grade. They wanted to continue East's success on the basketball court, but more importantly, they wanted to leave a mark in the classroom.

"It's always been part of our culture," said Bovaird, who carries a 4.4 GPA. "All of us are in NHS (National Honor Society) and that's kind of crazy for such a big school. You can just kind of tell that we can't always hang out all the time because we have to go home and do homework and stuff like that."

East didn't have any superstars in basketball, nor did the offense run through one or two players. The Spartans were very team-driven. The sum of its parts approach. It was very effective.

But it also carried into schoolwork. Several players got together before basketball practices to study and finish assignments, Kreifels said.

Helping each other with homework was "a pretty common thing," Bovaird added. "All of us have our different strengths in different subjects, so I've helped someone with math and they helped me with science. That's been really helpful I think for all of us."

Those smarts carried over to the court.

"Especially defensively," said Bovaird, who will play basketball at Division II Central Missouri, where she plans to study economics. "We were able to run some kind of different junk defenses or we would play man-to-man one game and switch the next game and we wouldn't necessarily practice it that much, and that has to do a lot with just your IQ."

Start a checklist of the Spartans' athletic and academic accomplishments, and one will need extra paper. Several players are multi-sport athletes. Searcey will play basketball at Division II Valdosta State, and Peterson and Hill are standout soccer players with Husker pledges. Roberts, a 4.2 student, will play basketball at Nebraska Wesleyan. Lindquist and Johnson, an Omaha track recruit, also are 4.2 students.

The seniors also can lay claim to four state tournament appearances.

Though their prep basketball careers are over, the seniors have plans to make a similar impact outside the walls at East High School.

"It means a lot to actually set out and accomplish goals that were important," said Kreifels, who will study psychology in college with later plans to study family law. "I just hope since I did that, it will prepare me better for college, too."

Reach Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.

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