Omaha Central took down Omaha Creighton Prep in front of a packed house on Saturday night, closing out the regular season tie a 57-51 win.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
Honoring a Legend
Saturday night was the final regular season home game for legendary Omaha Central coach Eric Behrens. After this season, Behrens is moving on to become the athletic director at the new Omaha Westview High School.
Under Behrens, Central earned the moniker “Champ High.” The Eagles won seven state titles in an eight-year span under Behrens before he moved on to the collegiate level, spending a few years at Peru State. He returned to Central in 2018 and led the Eagles to a runner-up finish at state that first season, then took them back to the tournament the following year. Overall, he’s won 386 games at an 83% clip with one more postseason run remaining.
The Eagles packed the gym to send Behrens out on a high note, and the driving force behind four of those state titles, Akoy Agau, was one of the former Eagles in attendance to support their coach.
Behrens is one of the best to ever do it in Nebraska, and he’s leaving some massive shoes for the next coach at Central to fill.
Omaha Central senior Jay Dawson is arguably the best tough-shot maker in the state, and he proved that again on Saturday night. Dawson was the only Eagle in double figures, finishing with 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting (5-of-8 from 3) and 2-of-2 from the line. He also chipped in seven boards, two assists and two blocks.
Dawson scored 10 of Central’s 15 in the second quarter, and he scored 13 of the team’s 22 in the fourth. After Prep pulled ahead by five early in the fourth, Dawson responded with back-to-back pull-up 3s to take the lead for Central. After the Junior Jays scored the next four, Dawson hit another tough 3 to tie it up once again. After another Prep bucket, Dawson scored a layup and hit a pair of free throws to put Central in the lead again, 48-46, with 3:16 to play, giving him the first 13 points of the period for the Eagles.
Dawson is a career 39% 3-point shooter on nearly 350 attempts with the ability to hit both off the catch and off the dribble. He’s also developed a strong pull-up jumper game and does a terrific job of using his length and athleticism to finish at the rim when he gets going downhill.
The future Loyola Rambler has topped 20 nine times this season now, and Saturday was his second-highest-scoring game of the season behind only the 34 he dropped on Elkhorn South.
The teams might as well have cleared it out to let Dawson and Creighton Prep senior Luke Jungers go one-one-one to decided a winner, because those two combined for score 59 of the game’s 108 points including 23 of the game’s 36 in the fourth quarter.
Jungers finished with a game- and career-high 30 points on 8-of-12 shooting (2-of-5 from 3) and 8-of-8 from the foul line. He chipped in five boards and a steal. In addition to knocking down a couple of jumpers from the perimeter, Jungers was a beast in the post, showing off good footwork and a soft touch. He was the only Junior Jay with more than two buckets in the game and kept the team afloat despite significant foul trouble to the team’s starting guards. The future Omaha Maverick dropped 11 in the second quarter and didn’t miss a shot, hitting three 2s, one 3 and two free throws.
Prep dropped both of its games this weekend to two of Class A’s best in Millard North and Central, but Jungers did everything he could to give the Junior Jays a shot with a combined 53 points on 65.5% from the field.
Behrens switched up his starting lineup on Saturday, starting five seniors in their final regular season home game. DeOmbre Brodie, Raheem Briggs and Quinton Butts joined regular starters Dawson and PJ Davis on the court, and it proved to be more than a token gesture as all three of them played rotation minutes and started the second half as well.
In total, the Eagles had six seniors take the court on Saturday and all six of them scored. As close as the game was in the fourth quarter, each of those buckets proved to be key. Behrens also made a cool gesture by letting senior manager George Miedl III suit up as a member of the team.
We added a 15th player to our roster for tonight… senior manager George Miedl is getting to suit up for the first time this season. He has done a tremendous job as our manager all year and it is much deserved! #SeniorNight @OCBroadcasting @CentralNest pic.twitter.com/ORTkSq8urY
— CHS Boys Basketball (@OPSCHSBBB) February 19, 2022
Thrilling Cap to the Regular Season
Saturday night’s game was a fitting end to a fun regular season. Central led throughout the first half, but Prep opened the third quarter with a 15-4 run to take the lead and turn it into a back-and-forth battle the set of the way.
The Eagles scored the last four points of the third to make it a 37-35 game heading into the fourth. The final period included three lead changes and three ties as Dawson and Jungers went back and forth, and the Eagles finally created some separation with a three-point play on a great back-door cut from Awit Mamer and then a stop on the other end, and the Eagles hit enough free throws the rest of the way to hold on.
We’ve seen some terrific battles between the best teams in the state down the stretch of the season, which should set the stage for a fun postseason as we head into districts and the state tournament.