Platteview and Beatrice faced off for the second time this season on Thursday night with the Trojans pulling away in the fourth quarter to advance to their conference tournament championship.
Here are five thoughts on the 70-59 Platteview win.
Blazing New Trails
This week marks the inaugural basketball tournament for Nebraska’s newest conference — the Trailblazer Conference. Wahoo, Plattsmouth, Nebraska City and Ralston joined Platteview and Beatrice to form the new alliance.
Beatrice beat Ralston 77-51 and Plattsmouth beat Nebraska City 53-48 to advance to Thursday’s semis. On the other side of the bracket, the top-seeded Warriors took down Plattsmouth 83-50.
Wahoo will host Platteview in the Trailblazer Tournament Final on Saturday, then they’ll meet again at Platteview on Tuesday for their regular season meeting.
The best word I can come up with to describe Platteview sophomore star Connor Millikan is “relentless.” He’s just going to keep coming at you no matter what you do.
Beatrice couldn’t have defended him better in the first quarter. The Orangemen held him scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting with two turnovers in the first eight minutes. They did a great job of staying between him and the rim, walling up when he tried to go up in the paint and contesting his jump shots.
Then he swished a 3 on the first play of the second quarter, and that’s all he needed. He scored 24 points on 8-of-14 from the field (4-of-8 from 3) and 4-of-6 from the free-throw line in the last three quarters.
Millikan scored 10 point in the second quarter to help stretch a one-point lead into an eight-point advantage at halftime. Then he poured in nine more points in the third to help fend off a Beatrice comeback attempt.
The Orangemen cut the deficit down to three early in the fourth, then Millikan took over. He set up teammate Michael Wiebelhaus for a 3 then converted a pair of really tough layups himself back-to-back for a 7-0 run, pushing the lead back to 10 and giving his team enough of a cushion to cruise to the finish.
In addition to his 24 points, Millikan grabbed eight rebounds, dished out six assists and blocked two shots emphatically. He’s one of the very best players in his classes and has been one of the most productive players in the entire state all season long.
Beautiful Ball Movement
One thing I was impressed by during the game was the passing by both teams. I counted 30 assists on 49 buckets with each team dishing out 15 helpers, and there were a number of blown bunnies and missed open perimeter looks that could have boosted that number even higher.
For Platteview, all five starters recorded at least one assist with the team’s two leading scorers — Millikan and senior Tyler Riley — combining for 10 assists, leveraging the defensive attention they drew to create opportunities for teammates.
For Beatrice, all five starters also notched at least one assist with Elliot Jurgens and Kaden Glynn leading the way with four assists apiece. Jurgens is a very good floor general at the point guard spot while Glynn is one of the best passing wings in class B. As a team, Beatrice did a great job of sharing the ball, and their interior passing in the lane was particularly impressive.
As a fan of great passing, Thursday’s game was fun to watch on both ends of the floor.
Supporting Cast Steps Up
Platteview went 14-11 last season. They brought back two of their three double-digit scorers in Millikan and Riley but graduated almost everyone else from their rotation. Millikan and Riley (a Peru State commit) stepped their games up significantly this season, but that wasn’t going to be enough firepower for the Trojans to take a big step forward. They needed a real supporting cast to emerge, and that appears to be happening.
Alex Draper scored 20 points in 17 games as a freshman last season. This year, he’s averaging right around 10 points on really solid efficiency. On Thursday, he finished with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting, knocking down his first five 3-point attempts before finally missing one in the fourth quarter.
Junior Michael Wiebelhaus made some big plays in the second half as well after going scoreless in the first 16 minutes. He had a couple timely cuts for layups in the third quarter, he hit the big 3 off Millikan’s pass early in the fourth and he went 4-for-4 at the charity stripe when Beatrice started playing the fouling game. He finished with 11 points, five boards and two steals.
Platteview is getting 43 a night from Millikan and Riley. If they get this kind of production from guys like Draper and Wiebelhaus as well, they’re going to be a tough out.
Platteview has one major star in Millikan through whom they run everything. Beatrice, on the other hand, looks to be much more balanced with a number of capable contributors. Seniors Glynn, Bennett Crandall and Devin Smith led the Orangemen with 13 points and five boards apiece, Jurgens chipped in nine and a team-high seven rebounds and senior Jace Pethoud chipped in six points on 3-of-4 shooting.
Crandall and Glynn carried the offense early with 11 apiece in the first half. Crandall scored three of Beatrice’s first three buckets as the Orangemen jumped out to a 10-6 lead. Platteview countered with a 15-3 run to pull ahead 21-13, but Glynn ended Beatrice’s drought with back-to-back 3-pointers. Glynn added another triple later in the quarter.
Platteview hit four of its first five fields goals (and the only miss went right back to Millikan for a put-back) as the Trojans raced out to a 46-34 lead midway through the third quarter. After a scoreless first half, Smith exploded for a personal 12-3 run to make it a three-point game. Jurgens added seven points to Smith’s 12 as the Orangemen scored 23 points overall in the third quarter.
Beatrice ran out of gas in the fourth quarter, missing all six of its 3-point attempts after shooting 7-of-9 in the first three periods, but the Orangemen still have plenty of firepower and will continue to be tough to deal with because of their balance.