Lincoln East made the trip up I-80 to take on a young but talented Gretna squad on Saturday afternoon. Both sides defended well, but the Spartans managed to get a lead on hold onto it despite late Gretna rally.
Here are five thoughts on the 50-44 win that improved the Spartans to 3-1.
Must Be the Name
Last year, Lincoln East senior Carter Glenn was one of Class A’s leading scorers, averaging nearly 20 points per game for the Spartans. He’s now starting for Nebraska Wesleyan as a freshman and averaging 14.3 points per game.
Glenn’s graduation left some big shoes to fill at East, and it appears another Carter has stepped up to fill the void. Junior Carter Tempelmeyer has led East in scoring in each of the Spartans’ first four games, guiding them to a 3-1 start.
Tempelmeyer finished with a game-high 18 points against Gretna and also led the Spartans with six rebounds and four steals. He hit a 3 at the buzzer to end the first quarter, capping a seven-point period and giving the Spartans a 12-11 lead. Then he scored again with a three seconds left in the first half with a tough layup to give East a 19-16 lead at the break.
Tempelmeyer had a steal and dunk in the third quarter, then he stole the ball again and passed it ahead to senior Brayden McPhail for a layup that put the Spartans up by seven. In the fourth, Tempelmeyer had yet another steal that he took the other way for a three-point play with three minutes to play that put the Spartans up by eight, He put the finishing touches on the win at the free-throw line with 16.9 to play, singling both shots.
You’ll be seeing Tempelmeyer’s name a lot this season.
Gretna is one of the youngest teams in Class A as seven of the 12 players on their varsity roster are sophomores including four starters and six of their top eight. Some of those sophomores saw significant playing time as freshmen last year.
Landon Pokorski is one of the best players in the 2024 class. The combo-guard finished with a team-high 16 points and three assists on Saturday. The 3-ball wasn’t falling at his normal rate, but he’s a capable shooter with deep range. He’s also terrific off the bounce with his floater, using the glass from tough angles to get the ball in the basket.
His running mate on the wing, Alex Wilcoxson, is a terrific shooter and added 12 points including 2-of-3 from deep. Point guard Michael Stukenholtz is a blur with the ball in his hands and a pest on defense, while Alec Wilkins and Joey Vieth both have good upside as well.
Saturday didn’t go Gretna’s way, but the Dragons should only continue to get better and better as the young players continue to grow at the varsity level.
Strength in Numbers
East has 12 players listed on its varsity roster, and coach Jeff Campbell isn’t afraid to put any of them in the game. All 11 healthy players saw the court at least briefly against Gretna, while junior Connor Hamilton played in both of East’s first two games but will miss some time with an ankle injury. Malachi Coleman, a 2023 Nebraska football target, played in the last two games after missing the first two.
Tempelmeyer and McPhail have been the constants for East early this season and should be all year (though McPhail had to deal with foul trouble on Saturday and finished with just nine points) The key for continued success will be others stepping up, and that could be any of a number of guys depending on the game.
On Saturday, it was junior Jared Townsley who stepped up with nine points including five in the third quarter when the rest of the Spartans were struggling to score.
Man in the Middle
The one upperclassman who plays a big role for Gretna is senior center Grant Jansen. He’s a bit undersized for a class A big man as he’s listed at 6-foot-4, but he has a strong frame and does a great job of carving out space in the paint.
Jansen had a double-double on Saturday with 11 points and 12 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end. He’s great at following up his own misses and had two big put-backs to open the fourth quarter that cut Gretna’s deficit to two.
Jansen is the one source of interior offense for an otherwise heavily perimeter-based team.
Lincoln East led much of the way, but the Dragons never quit. Gretna made multiple pushes late in the fourth quarter, but each time the Spartans had an answer.
After Jansen’s buckets made it 31-29 early in the fourth, Lincoln East responded with a 6-0 run with buckets by McPhail, Townsley and senior Zach Van Genderen.
After shooting 1-for-11 from 3 in the first three quarters, the Dragons got hot in the fourth with a pair of 3s from Wilcoxson and another from Pokorski, which cut the deficit all the way down to three at 47-44 with 31.9 to play, but East went 3-for-4 at the free-throw line and got a stop to seal the victory.
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.