On Friday night, Omaha Central and Omaha South faced off for the first time since the the Packers knocked off the Eagles in the Class A State Championship back in March. Central got its revenge, dominating the second half en route to a 64-49 win.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold
A regular season win doesn’t ease the pain of a postseason loss, but the Eagles certainly enjoyed the win on Friday night.
THE ONE AND ONLY CHAMP HIGH #VENGEANCETOUR 🦅💜 pic.twitter.com/kf1px1GsCO
— Central Nest (@CentralNest) February 8, 2020
After a good first quarter for the Eagles (18-12), the Packers muddied up the game in the second quarter and made it a four-point game at halftime, 24-20. However, the game flipped in the third quarter as the Eagles went off while the Packers fired up blanks in a 22-10 period.
Central shot 9-of-13 from the field including 2-of-3 from deep while South was just 4-of-16 including 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. The Eagles capped off the third quarter with a steal and breakaway slam from senior Teth Tut.
South shot a firrier 33.9% from the field including a brutal 3-of-21 from 3. The Eagles didn’t ave a great day from the perimeter either (4-of-12) but they shot over 50% from the field overall to cruise to victory and improve to 13-3.
Chef Saunders has Been Cooking
Jay Saunders didn’t have a great offensive game on Friday, but he led the Packers with 17 points and accounted for all three of the team’s 3-pointers.
Saunders, a senior guard and four-year starter for South, has been on an absolute tear lately. He’s scored over 20 points in seven of his last 10 games including a career-high 33 points in South’s overtime loss at Omaha Westside on Tuesday. He’s now averaging 20 points on 54% from the field, 51% from 3 and 76% from the free-throw line, 5.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.2 steals per game.
Saunders is only 6-feet tall but he’s long, athletic and skilled and makes a big impact on both ends of the court. Wayne State got a good one.
When both guys are feeling it, Central has one of the best backcourts in the state in seniors Max Polk and Latrell Wrightsell Jr., and they both made a big impact on Friday.
Polk scored 18 points on 7-of-12 from the field, 1-of-2 from 3 and 3-of-3 from the line with five rebounds. He scored 11 of his points in the second alf including six in the third quarter when Central took control. Polk got to his spots on the floor consistently and converted at a high rate, whether on in-between shots or at the rim.
Wrightsell tied Polk for game-high honors with 18 points, though he only shot 6-of-14 from the field and 6-of-9 from the foul line. He made up for his inefficiency in other areas, however, with a team-high nine rebounds and four steals. Most of his struggles came in the second quarter where he went scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting. In the other three quarters he was 6-of-9 from the field. Wrightsell is one of the better 3-point shooters in the Omaha Metro but has hit a cold stretch recently including an 0-of-5 performance against South. He needs to rediscover his perimeter stroke if the Eagles want to make a run in March.
Big Three, Little Production
South is incredibly reliant on its big three of senior guards Saunders, Ty Griggs and Skyler Wilson to carry the bulk of the scoring load. Saunders had 17 on Friday but it was on 17 shots and the other two, who average about 30 points between them, combined for half that with 10 from Griggs and five from Wilson.
Senior forward RaShawn McNeal-Lee had a nice game, coming up just short of a double-double its nine points and nine rebounds, but the Packers need more from the three guards. When those three are on, it’s tough to beat them. They were way off on Friday, however, and it opened the door for the Eagles to score a big road win.
Junior Fai Germany has been starting most of the season, but he was in a walking but and not suited up on Friday. Sophomore P.J. Davis stepped up in his absence, however, scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting with three rebounds (all offensive), two assists and a steal.
Davis has a strong frame for a guard at 6-foot-3 and converted some tough put-backs on Friday and he also showed off a soft touch by knocking down his only 3-point attempt. Davis has a lot of upside and is only starting to scratch the surface of his potential. the Eagles will lose Wrightsell and Polk after this season, but the Eagles will be in good hands with Davis and sophomore wing Jay Dawson among others ready to step in.
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.