After spending 2019-20 in Class A, Elkhorn is back in Class B and made a statement in its first game of the season, handing the Bennington Badgers a 55-30 loss in their own gym.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
Elkhorn dominated the game on the defensive end, and it did it using a 1-3-1 defense.
The Antlers started a lineup with 6-foot-6 Midland commit Colton Uhing at the top of the zone, 6-foot-5 senior Drew Christo in the middle and 6-foot-5 senior Trevor Bills, 6-foot-2 senior Dawson Kline and 6-foot-1 senior Caden Reynolds filling out the other spots. The Antlers brought 6-foot-5 senior Gannon Gragert and 6-foot-4 junior Dane Petersen off the bench as well.
That’s a lot of length, and the Badgers never quite managed to figure out how to pick it apart. They also couldn’t buy a bucket from the perimeter and thus couldn’t shoot the Antlers out of the zone.
Bennington shot 26.8% from the field including 15.4% from 3 (4-26) and only attempted seven free throws. They also turned the ball over 11 times including five in the first quarter.
Foul Trouble is a Game-Changer
In Bennington’s season-opening 71-64 win against Wahoo on Thursday, junior guard Austin Holtz knocked down six 3-pointers and scored a game-high 25 points. He has a lightning-quick and effortless release on his jumper and can really catch fire.
On Friday, he picked up his second foul before the four-minute mark of the first quarter, his third foul with less than two minutes to go in the first half and his fourth foul 93 seconds into the second half. Holtz was in and out all game long and never managed to settle in and find a rhythm.
Despite all the foul trouble, Holtz led the Badgers with eight points including a pair of 3-pointers. Bennington’s best shot to beat Elkhorn’s zone was Holtz going off, and he never got a chance to do that.
Christo is a Beast
Drew Christo has a bright future at Nebraska and beyond on the baseball diamond. He just wrapped up a terrific high school career on the gridiron. Oh, and he’s also played a prominent role on the basketball court since he was a freshman. You could say the kid’s a pretty talented athlete.
Christo finished with 11 points on 4-of-7 from the field and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line, six rebounds and three assists. Five of those rebounds were on the offensive end as he is absolutely relentless, working for position as soon as the ball goes up on every shot. He’s an effective post player offensively, carving out deep post position, showcasing a few moves on the block and making great reads on his three assists.
A lot of kids play multiple sports, but there aren’t as many that are as effective and accomplished in three different sports as Christo is.
Old School Basketball
Elkhorn went inside to Christo early and often, resulting in a trip to the line, a bucket and a kick to Caden Reynolds for a 3-pointer. That is the game plan for the Antlers under Coach Benji Hoegh — old school, inside-out basketball.
Christo scored 11 points. Bills scored a game-high 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting plus 3-for-4 at the foul line. Petersen scored eight points off the bench on 3-of-4 from the field and 2-of-3 from the line. Even Nebraska baseball commit Kyler Randazzo, an undersized post who relies on strength to make up for his lack of height, chipped in a bucket.
The Antlers don’t ask their guards to create many buckets on their own. Their offense comes primarily from the post, high-low looks and off-ball screens.
In an era of pace-and-space guard-focused offensive basketball, Elkhorn sounds out.
Going for Two?
In NebPreps.com‘s preseason Class B coaches poll, Elkhorn was No. 3 and Bennington was No. 5. The Antlers made a heck of a first impression with the 25-point victory over another top-five team on Friday.
Four of the Antlers who played on Friday were also part of the state title-winning football team. Based on what I’ve seen from the first two days of the season, those players should have a chance to add more hardware to their collection. Elkhorn should be in the mix in Class B right down to the end of the 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.