The boys Metro Holiday Tournament began on Monday with the play-in games, including 16th-seeded Omaha Burke hosting No. 17 Bellevue East. The visiting Chieftains built a lead early, gave it up, pulled away again and then held off a late Burke rally to secure a 67-62 win and advance.
Here are five thoughts.
Team Work Makes the Dream Work
Bellevue East had terrific offensive balance with four scoring in double-figures and seven of the eight players who saw the floor recording at least one assist. In total, the Chieftains had 16 assists on 24 buckets.
Burke was aggressive all night with its full-court pressure, and Bellevue East did a good job attacking it for easy buckets, particularly late. After failing behind 17-9 after the first quarter, the Bulldogs rallied to tie the game at 45-all heading into the fourth. Then Bellevue East opened the final period with a 14-4 run that was mostly the result of East getting buckets in scramble situations or 3s in transition against the press.
Senior point guard Paul Schuyler, a four-year varsity player, dished out seven assists and scored 12 points. Junior forward Eli Robinson was the primary beneficiary of his teammate’s playmaking with 16 points on 6-of-10 from the field and 4-of-5 from the foul line, and he also secured 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.
Bellevue West transfer Jaeden Jiminez shot 5-of-11 from deep for 15 points and is shooting 38% on the season. He hit back-to-back 3s to cap that 14-4 start to the fourth and put East in the driver’s seat. Senior Sam Prokupek did most of his damage in the second quarter with eight of his 15 as foul trouble slowed him down in the second half, and he hit all six of the shots he took from the field.
Live by the 3, Die by the 3
Burke shot 5-of-6 from deep in the third quarter during its rally to tie the game. In the other three quarters combined, the Bulldogs shot 4-of-23 including 2-of-13 in the fourth quarter. Burke probably panicked a bit in the fourth quarter, firing up early-possession 3s a little sooner than they needed to, and when they didn’t fall East was able to pull away.
Burke junior guard Dakarai Davis needs a shoutout, though, as he hit two-thirds of the team’s triples. He finished with 26 points on 10-of-19 from the field including 6-of-11 from deep.He scored 11 of the team’s 19 points and hit all three of his treys in that third quarter.
Monday was the second time I’ve seen Davis shoot 6-of-11 from deep in a game as I saw him do the same thing in a game this summer with his Omaha EYCE team. He got off to a bit of a slow start this season, but is 9-of-17 in his last two and can really catch fire.
Something to Build On
Monday was Bellevue East’s first win of the season after an 0-5 start. Over the years, I’ve seen a number of these play-in games, and to be blunt, the basketball is usually pretty terrible. I was impressed by what I saw in this one, however, particularly with the way Bellevue East played.
It wasn’t a perfect game by any means. The Chieftains turned the ball over 15 times against Burke’s pressure and shot just 14-of-28 from the free-throw line. Those are two areas they’ll certainly have to clean up if they want to pick up some more wins moving forward. However, if they can continue to grow, they won’t be an easy out for a lot of teams this season as players adjust to more featured roles after East lost its top three scorers from last year.
Eleven players saw the court for Burke on Monday. Just one of them was a senior, and just three of them played varsity ball last year (combining to score a grand total of 82 points). Coach Cody Fisher played seven juniors and three freshmen.
The Bulldogs are young and incredibly inexperienced, but there are some intriguing pieces to build around. Davis is playing varsity for the first time after transferring from Omaha Central. David Boatman, a 6-foot-5 junior, got in foul trouble and didn’t even attempt a shot, but he hauled in six boards and blocked a shot whole he was out there. Christian Jones, a 2024 Nebraska football target, was in the starting lineup for the basketball team as well and certainly looks the part at 6-foot-3. Another freshman, Amir Martin, came off the bench to score 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting including a pair of 3-pointers.
The Bulldogs finished below .500 the past three seasons. Fisher inherited a program in need of a rebuild when he took over last year. Burke isn’t there yet, but the Bulldogs do look to be on an upward trajectory even with a 1-5 start to this season.
With the win, the Chieftains move on to the first round of the tournament and will face No. 1 Bellevue West in an early Battle for Bellevue in the Thunderdome on Tuesday night.
In the other play-in game, No. 15 Omaha Bryan handled No. 19 Omaha Northwest, 71-50, behind 25 points from senior big man Lam Kuany. After a rough first game, Kuany has scored 20-plus in each of his last five. When he’s engaged and active, he has the size at 6-foot-7 and skill to give a lot of teams problems inside and out.
Bryan moves on and will face No. 2 Millard North on Tuesday night.
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.