Elkhorn South outlasted Lincoln North Star in overtime for a 64-61 win on Friday night.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
The Storm’s record may say 8-4, but they’re closer to 13 games played than 12 after going into overtime for the second time in three games. On Jan. 8, Elkhorn South had to play an extra 20 minutes before finally downing Omaha South in quintuple-overtime. On Saturday, they only needed to play four more minutes, but with that South game and four others in regulation. Decided by one possession, South should be used to operating under pressure at this point.
After falling behind by three, Elkhorn South rallied to tie the game late. North Star pulled ahead again, but the Storm answered to tie it up, and neither side was able to score in the final 1:42, sending the game to overtime.
Junior Alec Noonan and senior Henry Burt got the Storm off to a great start, accounting for the first six points. Burt hit a pair of free throws, then Noonan knocked down two more, then Noonan found Burt under the basket for a bunny, making it 60-54 with 90 seconds to play.
North Star kept fighting to the buzzer, though. Brennon Clemmons Jr., the son of former Husker hooper Brennon Clemmons, scored inside on a tough layup, then the Gators forced a turnover and Clemmons scored again on a put-back with 29.1 to play, cutting the deficit to two.
Noonan hit a pair of bonus free throws to push the lead back to four but sophomore KG Gatwech answered with a 3 to make it 62-21 with 8.4 to play. Elkhorn South got the ball in to Noonan and he went 2-for-2 once again to push it back to three, then on the other end he got a hand on the ball on the way up as Gatwech rose up looking for the tie at the buzzer, forcing a wild miss and securing the win.
Noonan, the son of former Husker football player Danny Noonan, was quiet through the first three quarters but hit all six of his free throws in the overtime period to finish with 12 points, and he chipped in four boards and three assists.
Jake Hilkemann is a name you’re going to want to know from the 2024 class. The 6-foot-4 wing led all scorers on Saturday with 22 points on 8-of-15 from the field and 5-of-5 from the line. He also pulled down a team-high eight rebounds including six on the offensive end and nabbed two steals.
Hilkemann scored eight points in the second quarter when the Gators needed a spark, then he came alive in the fourth once again and dropped 12 points in the period including a steal and three-point play that made it 45-43 Gators with 5:50 to play and a 3-pointer to make it 50-47 later in the quarter.
Hilkemann attacks the basket hard and the glass even harder, and although he isn’t a consistent perimeter shooter yet he has the capacity to become one. He’s one of three sophomores on the varsity roster, and that group should grow into a nice core for coach Tony Quattrocchi to rely on over the next couple of years.
Once again, Elkhorn South won with balance. Nine of the 10 players who saw the court for Coach Nolan Reilly scored, and four of them cracked double figures.
I already mentioned Noonan, but it was senior Chase Anderson who led the team in scoring. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-9 from the field (2-of-5 from 3) and 2-2 from the charity stripe.
Senior Henry Burt matched Noonan with 12 points off the bench and junior point guard Jackson Moeller Swan stuffed the stat sheet and impacted the game in a lot of ways. He finished with 10 points on 4-of-6 from the field including 2-of-2 from deep. I had him with eight rebounds, six assists and two steals as well.
The Bruegman Can
The biggest reason besides Hilkemann that North Star had a chance to win the game was Lynden Bruegman. The 6-foot-2 senior tied his career-high with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting including 5-of-7 from deep.
Bruegman hit a pair of 3s in the second quarter, and he put the team on his back in the third with eight of the Gators’ 10 points including two more triples. After Noonan opened the fourth quarter with a 3 to push Elkhorn South’s lead to four, Bruegman answered with one of his own to cut it back to one.
Bruegman had only made sevens 3s all season heading into Saturday, and he hit some tough ones against the Storm. If he can emerge as a more consistent threat from the perimeter, it could provide a nice outside complement to what the 6-foot-8 Clemmons — the team’s leading scorer — does in the paint and could open up more driving lanes for the likes of Hilkemann.
Shot Clock Sadness
Earlier this week, NebPreps.com‘s Mike Sautter shared that the hope for a shot clock in Class A for the 2022-23 season was all but dead, and I was even more disappointed about that after watching this game. It wasn’t necessarily egregious, but I did see quite a bit of holding the ball late in the first three quarters and in the fourth.
Both teams were guilty of trying to chew up more than 45 seconds of game clock at different points throughout the game, and it definitely makes for a worse viewing experience.
Unfortunately, it looks like that strategy is here to stay for at least one more season.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.