Omaha Central started strong and finished even stronger to pick up a 60-47 road win over a good Lincoln East team on Saturday evening.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
Two simple facts spelled bad news for Lincoln East on Saturday: three is more than two and attempting more shots than your opponent is a good way to win a game.
The Eagles hit the Spartans with a barrage of triples out of the gate, knocking down their first five 3s and racing out to a 19-6 lead. Central cooled off after that, hitting just two of its last 14 3s (and none in the second half), but that didn’t really matter since Central made more 3s in the first four minutes than East did all game.
The Spartans shot 3-of-12 from deep as a team, and junior Carter Tempelmeyer — who led the team with 15 points — was 3-of-8 himself. Four other Spartans went 0-for-1 in the game.
Through the Spartans’ first nine games (their stats from Friday’s win against Columbus had not yet been posted as of this writing), Tempelmeyer was 23-of-56 (41.1%) from 3. Jared Townsley (6-of-16, 37.5%) was the only other Spartan with more than five makes on the season.
So Central’s buckets were worth more, and compounding that issue for East was the fact that the Eagles also got off more shots. Central grabbed five offensive rebounds and forced six turnovers in the first half. Conversely, East grabbed just two offensive boards and forced just three turnovers. In total, Central had seven more chances to score in the first half, and if you include the extra points from the triples you get a 36-22 halftime lead.
In total, Central earned 10 more chances to score in the game. You’d have to be incredibly efficient with your opportunities to overcome that big of a disparity, and East shot under 50% inside the arc as well.
Senior PJ Davis finished with a game-high 25 points, marking his fourth straight game in which he’s led the Eagles in scoring. That’s pretty impressive considering he shares the court with a Division I commit in Jayden Dawson (Loyola-Chicago).
In those four games, Davis has totaled 108 points (27 per game) on 52.9% from the field, 39.3% from 3 and 92% from the free-throw line. At 6-foot-3, Davis has a powerful frame and uses it well, carving out space around the rim or attacking the basket seeking contact (25 free-throw attempts in four games). He’s a streaky perimeter shooter but can certainly catch fire from there as well.
Before scoring 20-plus in each of these last four (including a career-high 35 last week against Omaha Bryan), Davis had cracked 20 just twice in his entire career (once as a freshman and once earlier this season). If he’s going to be scoring 20 on a regular basis, the Eagles are going to be a tough out the rest of the way this season.
The Eagles led 21-9 after one and 34-22 at halftime. Central struck first in the third quarter as well with a mid-range jumper from Davis. Things were looking dire, but the Spartans didn’t quit.
After struggling to get stops in the first half — either in man or zone — East buckled down in the third quarter and climbed back into the game with a 12-0 run including six points from senior point guard Brayden McPhail and four from Tempelmeyer. Central responded with four straight to push the lead back to eight, but East scored last to make it 42-36 at the end of the third — a much more manageable deficit.
East held Central to 2-of-11 from the field including 0-of-4 from deep.
East made one more push in the fourth quarter as a 3 from Tempelmeyer made it 47-43, and Tempelmeyer got another look from the corner that would have made it a one-point game. The shot was right on but caught the back of the rim and bounced out, and the East comeback ran out of gas.
Central scored 13 straight to put the game away before East scored a couple of garbage time buckets to create the final margin.
It takes a lot of energy for a team to dig itself out of a double-digit hole, and getting over the hump to complete the comeback is even more difficult. The Spartans turned the ball over four times and shot 1-of-4 from deep in the fourth.
Dawson was no slouch himself. The 6-foot-4 guard scored 20 himself on 7-of-12 from the field (3-of-6 from 3) and 3-of-4 from the free-throw line, and he dished out a team-high five assists as well.
The 5-for-5 start from 3 for the Eagles? Dawson hit three of them. When East switched to a 2-3 zone, Dawson transitioned into more of a distributor as the Spartans made sure to mark him even in the zone.
Dawson was quiet in the second quarter as Davis scored 13 of the team’s 15, but when Central needed someone to step up and halt East’s rally, Dawson was there. He got to the free-throw line and hit two shots then knocked down a turnaround jumper in the post for the team’s first field goal since the first possession (Davis’s jumper).
Dawson scored seven more in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory, including a couple of athletic but smooth layups in traffic.
Davis and Dawson nearly outscored East by themselves and form as tough a one-two punch as you’ll find in the state. So long as the Eagles can get enough from the supporting cast, Central should have a chance to make a run in March.
Rough Day for Lincoln
Saturday provided a chance for Lincoln to prove itself, but the top teams in the city failed to take advantage. Three of the top four seeds in the HAC tournament had home games on Saturday against good teams, and all three of them lost.
East was the No. 2 seed in the tournament, and after losing to the Eagles — no shame in that, but still a missed opportunity — the Spartans stand at 6-5.
Three Omaha Metro schools have established themselves as the top tier in Class A — Omaha Westside, Millard North and Bellevue West — and one of them, the Mustangs, traveled to take on HAC Tournament champion Lincoln Northeast. Behind a big game from Creighton commit Jasen Green, the Mustangs shot down the Rockets 71-55.
The top seed in the HAC Tournament, Lincoln Southwest, fell to Gretna in overtime, 59-54. The Dragons outscored the Silver Hawks by five in the fourth quarter to tie it up then shut them out in the extra period.
Lincoln Pius X, the No. 3 seed in the HAC and tournament runner-up, did score a win on Saturday — 74-38 at Omaha Bryan — but it comes after losing on Friday to a Lincoln High team that had one win on the season heading into the game.
All four of those teams have a good amount of talent, but it appears they still have some ground to make up on the top teams from Omaha.
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.