5 Thoughts on Lincoln North Star at Millard North
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5 Thoughts on Lincoln North Star at Millard North

February 19, 2020

On Tuesday night, a sold-out Stable played host to a showdown between Millard North and Lincoln North Star. The Mustangs built up a big lead early in the fourth quarter and survived a furious Gator rally late to pick up a 69-67 win.

Jacob Padilla was court-side for the game and has five thoughts on how it played out.

Big Game Atmosphere

People have been talking about this game since the schedules came out, and it did not disappoint. The Stable reached capacity before tipoff, TV cameras and photographers crowded the end lines and college coaches turned up in force.

Head coaches from Iowa State and Alabama as well as assistants from Oregon, Kansas, Kansas State, South Dakota, Omaha and others made the trip to see Hunter Sallis face off against Donovan Williams.

News Channel Nebraska televised the game so those that didn’t make it to the gym before they closed the doors could still watch from home.

That the game went down to the wire made it all the better. The game was a great showcase for high school hoops in Nebraska.

The Hunter Sallis Dunk Show

The mid-range game has always been Hunter Sallis’ biggest strength and the foundation of his game, but over the last year or so he’s taken a huge leap athletically and is now impacting the game all over the court because of it.

Sallis — who was recognized before the game for joining the 1,000-point club during Millard North’s loss to IMG Academy at the Heartland Hoops Classic on Saturday — finished with 27 points on 12-of-18 from the field, 2-of-3 from 3 and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line.

He had six rebounds, four of which were offensive including two tip-slams. He also recorded a big block. But the highlight of the night was this:

The 27 points gave him 514 points on the season, breaking Nick Ferrari’s school record for points in a  season (507). Sallis is now less than 100 points from breaking Ferrari’s school record of 1,140 career points.

Donovan Williams is Relentless

Donovan Williams, the former Nebraska commit, certainly isn’t shy. He came out firing early and often, and even though the shots weren’t falling he didn’t let that deter him. Williams finished with 31 points on 9-of-30 from the field, 1-of-14 from 3 and 12-of-13 from the foul line. 

He was 2-of-10 from the field for five points in the first quarter as Millard North closed the period on a 12-0 run to take a 20-12 lead after one. He got going int he second quarter, however, with 10 of North Star’s 18 points to make it a three-point game at halftime, 33-30.

He only shot 2-of-7 in the third quarter but put up 11 points — mostly at the foul line — in the fourth to help North Star rally late.

Williams has a good first step and he had some impressive finishes, but he settled for a lot to tough shots when the 3-ball wasn’t falling. He got to the line a lot, but he also only shot 8-of-16 around the rim as he looked to seek out contact by throwing his body into vertical defenders and din’t always get the call.

Saint Thomas Steps Up

Sallis gets most of the headlines and Max Murrell and Jasen Green are the other Mustangs with Division I futures, but the biggest story of this season for Millard North is the emergence of Saint Thomas. The junior’s grown a couple of inches since the summer and is now 6-foot-6, and he’s second on the team in scoring at 15.1.

On Saturday, the jumper wasn’t falling for Thomas (1-of-4 on 3-pointers) but he still put up a double-double with 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. He came up big down the stretch as well, shooting 5-of-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. With Millard North leading 67-65 and 8.6 to play, Thomas stepped up to the line and calmly swished two shots to seal the game.

The high-major coaches in the gym were there to watch Sallis and Williams, but Thomas likely made an impression on the mid-major coaches in the building including one from South Dakota.

Luke Juracek Made it a Classic

North Star was dead in the water. Millard North built up a 52-42 lead after three and expanded that to 58-44 with about six minutes to play.

Then Luke Juracek, North Star’s senior point guard, took over. He went 4-of-4 from 3 during a 16-4 Navigator run including a deep 3 to get things started and a tightly contested one to cap it, pulling North Star to within two at 62-60.

Juracek finished with 15 points on 5-of-8 from 3 and three assists. Millard North made enough free throws to hold on, but Juracek almost single-handedly turned the game from a blowout into a one-possession game. He’s leading the team in 3-pointers this season while shooting 38%.

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