Photo Credit: Jacob Padilla

5 Thoughts on Omaha Central at Omaha Westside

February 12, 2022

Omaha Westside hosted Omaha Central for a girls and boys varsity double-header on Friday night, splitting the games.

The boys produced one of the best games of the season as the Warriors rallied in the fourth quarter to take down the Eagles 73-69 and extend their winning streak to 19.

In the girls game, the Eagles put on an offensive clinic to cruise to a 74-57 win.

Here are five thoughts on the action.

Sophomore Studs

Westside is a veteran team with four seniors and a junior in the starting lineup, but Coach Jim Simons’ young reserve backcourt came up huge to deliver the come-from-behind win on Friday.

Westside trailed 69-68 with 45 seconds remaining after a missed front end in the bonus from Central. The Eagles set up in a 2-3 zone on defense, and the Warriors showed great patience, moving the ball while looking for an opening. With 15 seconds remaining, Caleb Benning swung the ball to CJ Mitchell on the right wing then cut through to the corner. Mitchell attacked the defender on his side and jump-stopped on the block, then kicked to Benning in the corner. He buried it with 7.8 left.

Westside forced a turnover then Tate Odvody hit a pair of free throws to seal the victory.

Mitchell and Benning have been playing together since they were 6 years old, and they’ve won a heck of a lot of games together over the last decade.

The pair of sophomore guards scored 11 of their combined 14 points in the fourth quarter when Westside needed somebody to stop up after falling behind 59-51. Mitchell hit two 3-pointers in the fourth, and he added three assists to his six points. The go-ahead 3 was Benning’s first and only field goal attempt of the game as his other five points all came at the foul line. He had three assists and three steals as well.

Benning is the son of former Husker football player Damon Benning and recently received an offer from Scott Frost. Mitchell’s father, Alvin, played basketball at Nebraska, Cincinnati and Omaha, and his older brother, Shereef, is a currently playing at Creighton.

Zone-Busting

Westside has been a buzzsaw offensively this season, shooting 52% from the field, 38% from 3 and 70% from the free-throw line with a 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Warriors play a five-out style and basically everyone who steps on the floor can put the ball on the deck as well as hit the 3.

Central decided to counter that by playing a 2-3 zone. The Eagles had one player shorter than 6-foot-3 in their rotation on Friday and they used their collective length to make it tough to get to the rim.

It didn’t work early as Westside hit 3s on four straight possessions to take an early 10-point lead. The Eagles closed the first quarter on a 10-5 run, however, then tied the game up at 28-all late in the second quarter. The Eagles took their first lead at 40-38 and extended that lead to 55-48 heading into the third. After shooting 5-of-8 from deep in the first quarter, the Warriors shot a combined 4-of-18 in the second and third periods.

Westside found the range again in the fourth, however, knocking down five more triples on seven attempts including Benning’s go-ahead bucket.

Westside nearly took twice as many 3s as it did 2s (33 to 17) and 42 of their 73 points came from behind the arc.

Dynamic Duo

Central features one of the highest-scoring duos in the state in seniors Jay Dawson and PJ Davis, and they nearly led the Eagles to a huge win on Friday night.

Dawson put up a game-high 27 points on 9-of-13 from the field (4-of-5 from 3) and 5-of-7 from the free-throw line with three assists and two steals. The Loyola-Chicago commit poured in 24 of those points in the first three quarters, including a ridiculous contested shot from half court near the right sideline at the end of the third quarter.

PJ Davis, a Central Community College commit, added 18 points and five rebounds. He’s incredibly hard to stop once he gets going downhill to his dominant left hand as he converted three and-ones and shot 7-of-8 from the foul line overall.

Central got eight points from Keah Paljour and seven (all in the second half) from Awit Mamer plus four points apiece off the bench from Raheem Briggs and Quinton Butts, but it wasn’t quite enough to get the win. Still, any time both Dawson and Davis have it going, the Eagles will have a chance to win.

Westside Balance

Whereas Central had two players account for nearly two-thirds of its scoring, Westside got offensive contributions from all nine players that set foot on the court as each of them scored at least four points and three of them reached double figures.

Senior Payson Gillespie, a Concordia commit, led the way with 14 point on 5-of-10 shooting including 4-of-9 from deep and seven rebounds. Junior Tate Odvody, the team’s leading scorer, went 3-for-3 from 3 in the first quarter, then scored just two points the rest of the way until his game-clinching free throws. He finished with 13 points and five rebounds.

Senior Reggie Thomas had a quiet first half but came alive in the fourth quarter. After Central pulled ahead 59-51, Thomas converted a three-point play to keep the deficit from reaching double figures. He answered a Dawson 3-pointer with one of his own, then a couple plays later he found Mitchell for a 3 to cut the deficit to one. Then Thomas stole the ball and drew a foul at the rim, hitting both free throws to give Westside the lead. In total, he scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth.

Senior point guard Chandler Meeks only scored six points, but he also dished out six assists with just one turnover, and it was his ball pressure that led to Dawson stepping on the sideline after Benning’s go-ahead 3.

The Warriors recorded 17 assists on 23 buckets and got a combined 23 points form their bench.

GBB: Webb for the Win

The Eagles out up 45 points in the first half on Friday night, shooting 64% from the field including 6-of-9 from 3 and hitting all seven of their free throws. They scored 18 more in the third and shot just over 50% from the field before the rotation players subbed out and the reserves closed out the game.

The biggest reason for the efficient offensive explosion was senior Aaniya Webb. She didn’t miss a shot until midway through the third quarter, hitting her first eight shots from the field. She finished with 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting (4-of-5 from 3) and 3-of-4 from the line. The 5-foot-10 wing poured in 18 points on 100% shooting in the first half alone, and she hit some tough shots to get there including multiple 3s off the dribble.

Webb is a streaky player, but when she’s hitting like she was on Friday the Eagles are almost impossible to beat. They got 17 points, nine boards and three assists from Northern Colorado commit Aniah Wayne as well as 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, five blocks and four boards from Texas A&M volleyball commit Ital Lopuyo. Sophomore point guard Inia Jones only scored six points, but she also dished out eight assists with just one turnover.

The Warriors stayed in the fight early one with good ball movement and shot-making, but shots stopped falling in the second quarter and the Eagles pulled away. Madilyn Siebler led Westside with 10 points on 4-of-5 from the field and 2-of-2 from the foul line.

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