Bellevue West avenged its Metro Holiday Tournament loss to Omaha Creighton Prep on Saturday night, running away from the Junior Jays in the fourth quarter for a 75-56 win at the Thunderdome.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
Bellevue West jumped out to a lead midway through the first quarter and maintained it throughout, but the game went back and forth throughout the first three periods. Bellevue West stretched the lead to 11, Prep cut it down to five, then the cycle repeated itself a few more times.
Bellevue West slammed the door shut and barred it at the start of he fourth quarter, however, as it outscored Prep 20-3 to open the period. The Junior Jays unraveled with turnovers, bad shots and missed open ones, and the Thunderbirds capitalized going to the other way.
Prep shot 5-of-17 from the field with seven turnovers in the fourth quarter. Bellevue West made more shots than prep did points. A competitive, well-played game turned into an absolute blowout in the span of about three minutes.
Feed the Beast
AJ Rollins, a 2021 Nebraska football target, got off to a great start for Bellevue West. He scored 10 points in the first half and hit all five of his field goal attempts on post ups, pick-and-roll seals and a put-back.
However, he scored just one point in the second half and didn’t even attempt a field goal. That can’t happen when Prep is struggling. Rollins needs to stay engaged and the perimeter players need to look for hm, regardless of the kind of defense the other team is playing. Prep had nine turnovers in the second half and shot 37% from the field. A post touch or two might have been a good way to settle the offense when Bellevue West turned up the pressure, but it didn’t happen.
Multiple Ways to Beat a Zone
Bellevue West put up 21 points in the first quarter with seven different players finding the scoring column. To change things up, Creighton prep switched to a 2-3 zone in the second quarter, and it worked to a certain degree — Bellevue West shot 1-of-9 from 3 in the period.
However, the downside to playing a zone is it’s hard to find a body to box out, and the Thunderbirds took advantage of that by crashing the offensive glass hard. Bellevue West grabbed seven offensive rebounds in the second quarter, the last of which, a put-back by senior John Shanklin just before the buzzer, have the T-Birds a 37-29 lead at halftime.
Shanklin, a Division II Black Hills State commit, was a monster all game, recording a double-double with 14 points on 5-of-7 from the field and 4-of-4 from the line and 11 rebounds, seven of which were offensive. His most impressive sequence came early in the fourth quarter when he threw down a dunk on a defender’s head, then blocked a dunk attempt on the other end.
Justin Sitti Shines
Rollins had a great first half, but Prep’s best player from start to finish on Saturday was junior point guard Justin Sitti. He led the Junior Jays with 17 points on 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-6 from the foul line, five assists, two rebounds and two steals.
Sitti accounted for 13 of Prep’s 15 first-quarter points, scoring nine himself and assisting on two more buckets. He’s also a tough defender and drew the Chucky Hepburn assignment when Prep was playing man-to-man.
Sit has been a bit up-and-down during his first season of varsity basketball, but when he’s locked in he can impact the game in a lot of different ways. He’s athletic, crafty around the basket, he has terrific vision as a distributor and he’s shooting almost 40% from 3 this year.
Played ‘Em Like a Fidler
When both Fidler brothers are locked in, the Thunderbirds are tough to beat. Chucky Hepburn, a 2021 Wisconsin commit, is going to bring it in one way or another every game (16 points, nine assists, four rebounds and three steals on Saturday), so when Louis and Frankie Fidler pour in the points as well anybody they face is going to have a hard time keeping up.
Frankie Fidler, the 6-foot-6 junior with an offer from Omaha, scored a game-high 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting (3-of-4 from 3) and 3-of-4 from the line. He played in the middle of the zone and made plays for himself and others, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out three assists. He scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to spark the big run.
Louis Fidler, who announced his commitment to Morningside earlier in the day, chipped in 11 points including a dunk, giving Bellevue West four double-digit scorers.
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.