After taking down Omaha Central in the semifinals of the Metro Holiday Tournament, Millard North went to the Eagles’ nest on Tuesday and handed them their second loss of the season in a match-up postponed by Friday’s weather.
Central surged in the fourth quarter to cut a double-digit deficit down to one possession, but Millard North closed the game on an 8-0 run fo a 69-58 win.
In the first game of the day, the Central girls protected their home court with a 47-41 win over the Mustangs in a chaotic game.
Here are five thoughts on the action.
Tuesday’s win was big for Millard North because it came against one of the best teams in the state, but beyond that it held special significance for one Mustang in particular — the head man. The victory was the 500th of Coach Tim Cannon’s storied coaching career.
The fact that it came against another legendary coach in Central’s Eric Behrens just added to the scene after the final buzzer sounded. Central did a great job, recognizing Cannon’s accomplishment after the game and awarding him the game ball.
Cannon spent six years at Omaha Cathedral and 28 years at Omaha Bryan, and he’s been at Millard North since 2013. The outpouring of congratulations and support from so many on social media after the game shows how many people Cannon has made an impact on over his 40-plus-year coaching career. This tweet below from one of his former players is but one example.
Saint and Sallis Step Up
Central jumped out to an 11-2 lead less than three minutes into the game, but Millard North’s two starts made some big plays to settle the Mustangs down and get them back into the game. Hunter Sallis converted a three-point play then Saint Thomas knocked down back-to-back 3s to tie the game up at 17-all.
Central led 21-19 after one, then Sallis took over and scored as many points (10) as the entire Central team in the second quarter to give the Mustangs a 39-31 lead at halftime. After a balanced third period for Millard North, Sallis picked up his fourth foul early in the fourth quarter. So Thomas stepped up in the fourth and scored eight points to help Millard North hold onto their lead.
The duo combined for 40 points on 60% from the field and 87.5% from the free-throw line.
A couple hours before tipoff, Thomas tweeted that he had received an offer from Florida Atlantic. The Owls joined Bradley and Murray State as schools to extend offers recently. As for Sallis, he still has his final eight that he’s considering.
Millard North shot nearly 62% from the field including 73% inside the arc. Omaha Central shot 41% from the field. So how did the Eagles keep it close? Pressure.
Central forced 20 turnovers, which allowed the Eagles to get off 12 more shots and somewhat balance out Millard North’s much better scoring efficiency. Central plays with five guards for the majority of the game, and all five starters are capable of getting down in a stance and making life difficult for the ball-handler. Of those 20 turnovers, 14 were steals led by senior guard Faisaun Germany with six.
Millard North’s four Division I players — Sallis, Thomas, Old Dominion signee Jadin Johnson and 2022 Nebraska target Jasen Green — accounted for all but one of those turnovers. When a team lacks size, it has to make up for that with aggressiveness and athleticism, and the Eagles certainly showed plenty of both on Tuesday.
Green the Glue Guy
Jasen Green holds a handful of high-major offers, but the 6-foot-7 junior has no problem being the third option for the stacked Millard North team. He finished with 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 11 rebounds on Tuesday, and he put the finishing touches on the win with a dunk late.
However, it was his defense that caught my eye against the Eagles. When a team goes with a five-guard lineup like Central does, the hope is that the increased skill will be able to offset the size the team is giving up. It puts stress on the opposing bigs to be able to guard on the perimeter.
Well, that was no problem for Green who took on the assignment of Central’s leading scorer, Denim Johnson. The 6-foot-1 guard gave the Mustangs fits in the first meeting, putting up 18 points and 14 rebounds including eight offensive boards thanks to his explosive leaping ability.
Johnson led the Eagles in scoring again in round two with 14 points, but he shot just 5-of-12 from the field and was held to four offensive boards. Few if any of his points came one-on-one against Green in the halfcourt as the junior was able to stay in front of Johnson off the bounce as well as challenge his shots vertically, including an impressive block on an attempted jumper.
Green needs to finish a bit stronger at times and he’s still working on finding consistency with his perimeter jumper (though he was 1-for-1 on Tuesday), but he’s be able to impact the game in a lot of areas because of his two-way versatility.
Eagles Survive Late Stampede
In the girls game, Central essentially led wire-to-wire as the Eagles had doubled up the Mustangs 24-12 midway through the second quarter. Millard North cut the deficit in half (31-25) midway through the third before the Eagles closed the period n a 10-2 run. The Mustangs made another push, shaving 10 points off the lead to make it 44-41 with 25.2 to play, but Central hit a couple of free throws and got a stop to seal the win.
It wasn’t the prettiest game I’ve ever seen considering their were a combined 46 turnovers and neither side shot the ball particularly well, but Central’s length and athleticism proved to be too much for the Mustangs to overcome. Aaniya Webb (16 points and six rebounds) and Aniah Wayne (14 points and seven rebounds) led the way for Central while 6-foot-5 junior Ital Lopuyo changed the game off the bench with five blocks to go with her seven points on 3-for-3 shooting and eight rebounds.
The Mustangs grabbed nearly as many offensive rebounds as they did defensive with Kaylee Kessler, Kayla Preston and Megan Chambers combining for 14 of their 18 offensive boards, but Central’s length made it tough for the Mustangs to turn those second-chance opportunities into points. Preston led Millard North with 10 points.
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.