Lincoln’s best team made the trip up to the Metro on Tuesday night as 9-1 Bellevue West hosted 7-0 Lincoln Pius X at the Thunderdome. The Thunderbolts gave the Thunderbirds a run for their money, but Bellevue West pulled away in the fourth quarter for an 82-65 win.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
Always in Control
Few, if any, players have ever controlled a game as well as Bellevue West senior point guard and Wisconsin commit Chucky Hepburn during the nine years I’ve been covering high school basketball.
That ability was on full display on Tuesday night. Hepburn missed his first two shots and scored one point in the first quarter. The T-Birds trailed 21-19 at the end of the period, then Hepburn took over. He scored 12 points on 6-for-6 shooting in the second and gave his team a 41-39 lead at the break, then Bellevue West controlled the second half.
Hepburn finished with 24 points on 9-of-13 from the field and 6-of-7 from the foul line with 13 assists, four rebounds, three steals and just two turnovers. He mercilessly exploited mismatches and pseudo the ball up the floor in transition off of both makes and misses.
Over his past seven games, Hepburn has dished out 73 assists with just 19 turnovers. He has four double-doubles during that span and is averaging 17.5 points, 8.8 assists and 4.1 steals overall this season. Greg Gard is getting one heck of a point guard up in Madison next year.
Sam and Charlie Hoiberg, the twin sons of Nebraska basketball coach Fred Hoiberg, have been leading the way for the Thunderbolts. The 6-foot seniors are both averaging double figures this season and they combined for 30 points against Bellevue West on Tuesday.
Sam led the Bolts with 18 points, six rebounds and three assists. He does a great job changing speeds and using his body to create angles to finish at the rim, and he knocked down a tough pull-up jumper at the end of the first quarter to beat the buzzer and give Pius the lead.
Charlie scored eight of his 12 points in the third quarter when Bellevue West threatened to pull away, and he also chipped in four boards, four steals and three assists.
Next Man Up
Bellevue West played without a starter and their sixth man on Tuesday but it didn’t look like the T-Birds missed a beat. Hepburn and Omaha commit Frankie Fidler are averaging 39.5 points between them this season, and they hit right at their average as Fidler added 16 points to Hepburn’s 24. Instead of those two upping their volume, others stepped up to make up for the absence of Greg Brown and Evan Inselman.
Junior guard Preston Ames got the start in Brown’s place and chipped in five points on a crafty reverse layup and a 3 in the first half after scoring 11 total points on the season heading into Tuesday night.
Jaxon Stueve, a talented sophomore who has struggled with his shot so far this season, shook off three misses in the first half to bury two big triples in the second half.
The star of the night, however, was sophomore Josiah Dotzler. The younger brother of former Creighton point guard Josh Dotzler put up a new career-high of 23 points on 7-of-10 from the field, 5-of-7 from deep and 4-of-4 from the foul line. Thirteen of those points came in the fourth quarter where he didn’t miss a shot. Dotzler is shooting 47.5% from 3 this season and 51.3% overall, and he’s missed just one of his 17 free-throw attempts.
The Other Sam
Lincoln Pius X has to lead the state in varsity players named Sam. Coach Brian Spicka has three of them on his team, and he also has two sets of twins.
Sam Hoiberg led the team in scoring on Tuesday, but Sam Hastreiter, a 6-foot-6 junior, wasn’t far behind. The other Sam finished with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting (2-of-3 from deep) and 1-of-2 from the foul line. He also had five boards, three assists and a steal.
While the Hoibergs have led the Bolts in scoring this season, Hastreiter is the player with the biggest upside. He’s one of just a handful of players in his class with a Division I offer as Idaho offered back in September. Hastreiter played for Lincoln Supreme alongside Isaac Traudt this summer.
He’s long, athletic and he can shoot. As he continues to develop over the next year-and-a-half, he has a chance to become a Division I player for sure.
As for the third Sam, his last name should be familiar to Nebraska fans: Easley.
Live by the 3, Die by the 3
The 3-point line can be so fickle. On Tuesday night, the Thunderbirds lived there and the Thunderbolts died.
Bellevue West shot 10-of-20 from deep with four different players hitting at least one. On the other end, Pius shot just 4-of-22. The Hoiberg twins — both capable shooters (Sam was at 33.6% and Charlie at 41.7% last season) — combined to shoot 1-of-15 from deep including 0-of-5 in the fourth quarter as the Thunderbirds started to pull away and the Thunderbolts tried to keep up.
The Bolts shot nearly 75% inside the arc, but 3s are worth more than 2s and the T-Birds shot 4-of-5 from deep in the fourth as a two-possession game heading into the final period turned into a 17-point spread.
Besides too may turnovers, especially in the third quarter, Pius played well enough to keep that game close. It just didn’t shoot well enough.