Fred Hoiberg was on the road on Thursday night as the Huskers are getting ready for a game at Indiana. However, back in Nebraska, his sons took center stage and led Lincoln Pius X to a 56-54 win at Omaha North.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
The Thunderbolts lost all but two contributors from their Class B state championship team last year including Nebraska walk-on Charlie Easley, but Fred Hoiberg’s arrival in Lincoln brought some reinforcements to Pius as his twin sons, Sam and Charlie, enrolled there. The junior guards are listed at 6-foot on the roster, but Fred’s said they’re 5-foot-9. They must have inherited their athleticism from their mom, however, as both of them can get up and throw down easily.
Sam, who starts for the Bolts, made a big first impression, scoring 13 points including the game-winner in a 58-56 win at Omaha Creighton Prep to open the season. He scored 14 points in Pius’ 61-53 win against Millard West last week too.
On Thursday, Hoiberg had a quiet first three quarters with four points. He came alive in the fourth quarter and made the winning plays to keep Pius’ undefeated start going. He scored the first bucket of the fourth quarter for the Bolts, then converted a tough layup to break a 49-all tie and took a shot to the face in the process (no call). He had to come out of the game with a bloody nose. While he was getting tended to, North took the lead with a 3-pointer.
Sam checked back in and found his brother in the corner for the go-ahead 3-pointer, then on the other end, he blocked a 3-point attempt by North and grabbed the rebound, drawing a foul with 6.1 to play. He sank both free throws to seal the win.
It was Charlie, however, who was the star of the show. He went scoreless in the first game, then scored nine points in the second, shooting 1-of-4 from 3 in the first two games. On Thursday, he exploded for 21 points on 7-of-11 from the field including 5-of-8 from 3 (the rest of the team shot 0-of-8 from deep). His fifth 3 proved to be the game-winner.
The Hoiberg twins were the only Thunderbolts in double figures on Thursday, and Pius needed every one of those points to get the win.
Big Shot Ogba
I watched Omaha North play against Omaha Central on Monday this week and the Eagles held North’s 5-foot-5 junior point guard Curtis Ogba Jr., the team’s second-leading scorer, to two points.
He got loose on Thursday, however, scoring 15 points to tie his season- and career-high, and he hit some huge shots in the process. Ogba hit a 3 off the dribble at the end of the first quarter to tie it up at 13-13, then he hit another one at the end of the third quarter to pull North within three at 43-40. He gave the Vikings their final lead of the game at 52-51 with his last 3-pointer, another tough shot off the dribble.
He shot 4-of-7 overall from deep and is now 8-of-18 (44.4%) from 3 on the season.
X Gon’ Give it to Ya (on Defense)
Lincoln Pius X hasn’t been terribly efficient offensively so far this season, yet the Bolts are still 3-0 thanks largely to their defense.
On Thursday, Pius held North to 36.5% from the field and just 10 free-throw attempts. Heading into the game, North senior Wal Chuol was one of the top scorers in Class A, averaging 25.5 points on terrific efficiency through North’s first three games. The Bolts held him to half that as he finished with 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting, and they held him to just two 3-point attempts (he was 11-of-20 in the first three).
Pius used four or five different defenders on him throughout the game, from the Hoiberg twins to senior guard Kolbe Rada to senior forward Tayden Gentrup. Churl didn’t even attempt a shot in the fourth quarter, and Charlie Easley completely denied him off the ball on the possession where Sam Hoiberg blocked the 3-point attempt from Ogba.
Pius turned the ball over 17 times yet still managed to win the game thanks to its defensive effort.
North’s Offensive Spark
The Vikings have had some issues scoring the ball this season. One guy that might help in that area is senior forward Evan Decker, the younger brother of former Nebraska offensive lineman Michael Decker (who was in the crowd to watch the game; he’s really slimmed down since his retirement from football).
Decker missed North’s first three games while dealing with a hip issue, but he was back in the lineup on Thursday. He showed some signs of rust early—his first two 3-point attempts were well short and he’s still building his stamina back up — but he did knock down a huge 3 in the fourth quarter that gave the Vikings a 49-47 lead with 3:30 to play. He finished with seven points and two rebounds off the bench.
At 6-foot-4, he gives North the option to play five-out on offense without giving up too much size, and that should help clear the lane for guys like Chuol and Ogba and sophomore Keshaun Williams to get to the rim.
Down to the Wire
North and Pius was my fourth game of the season and it was the first close game I’ve seen. North has really improved from last season from an effort and intensity standpoint; the Vikings are going to be a tough out for most of the teams they play this season.
The game was tied after one and Pius led by three after the second and third quarters. Neither team ever built up a double-digit lead, though there were handful of ties and lead changes. The fourth quarter was terrific with both teams making big plays and trading buckets down the stretch. Props to both squads for putting on a heck of a show.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.