After a back-and-forth first quarter, Papillion-La Vista South controlled the action for the last three periods and turned a competitive game into a blowout in the fourth as the Titans pulled away for a big 75-52 win on Senior Night.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
The best player on the floor Friday night was wearing a Titan uniform. Danair Dempsey, a 6-foot-6 junior forward, was a force all game long. He put up a game-high 24 points on 9-of-14 from the field and 6-of-9 from the free-throw line and 12 rebounds including four on the offensive end.
Dempsey showed off his versatility as he scored in a variety of ways — in the post, off the dribble, on the offensive glass, at the foul line. He punished Prep for switching by burying smaller players in the post and used his quickness to get past Prep’s bigs and draw fouls.
Dempsey is averaging 13.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in his first season at Papillion-La Vista South after moving to Nebraska from Wichita, Kansas.
Dempsey was the star, but he wasn’t the only standout for Papio South. Senior guard Jared Mattley went out with a bang on senior night, putting up 22 points on 6-of-14 from the field, 4-of-7 from 3 and 6-of-7 from the foul line.
Mattley scored 11 of Papio South’s first 24 points as the Titans turned a 13-7 deficit into a 24-17 lead midway through the second quarter. However, Prep made it a three-point game and then Mattley picked up his second and third fouls in the span of 7 seconds, taking a seat for the last 4:37 of the first half.
Sophomore Daniel Brocaille picked up the slack, scoring the last eight Titan points of the half to give Papio South a 34-27 lead at the break.
Mattley was ice cold when he got back on the court, missing his first five shots of the third quarter, but he converted a three-point play to give the Titans a 47-36 lead late in the quarter. He tacked on eight more points in the fourth — on a 3 and 5-of-6 free-throw shooting — as the Titans outscored the Junior Jays 28-14.
Who’s the Go-To Guy?
Creighton Prep has wins over the three best teams in the state — Millard North, Omaha Central and Bellevue West — but it also has seven losses including one to a 9-13 Millard South team. The up-and-down nature is a direct result of how inconsistent it’s best players have been.
Prep doesn’t have a single player averaging 12 points, but it does have six different players that have scored in double figures at least four times this season, and all six have games of 17 or more.
Fresh off a 37-point explosion against Elkhorn South, junior wing Brendan Buckley scored seven points on 3-of-8 shooting against the Titans. Spencer Schomers, a Northwest Missouri State signee, is second on the team in scoring and has three 20-point games this season, but he shot 1-of-7 from 3 and scored just nine points on Friday. Junior Mai’Jhe Wily has nine double-digit games this season but finished with three points and didn’t even take a shot in the second half against the Titans.
Prep’s most effective scoring option was AJ Rollins, a 2021 Nebraska football target who is leading the team in scoring this season. He made five of his six shots for 11 points on Friday, but he only took six shots as Papio South did a good job of keeping the ball out of his hands.
Prep has enough talent to beat anybody on any given night, but to make a run through districts and into state the Junior Jays are going to need somebody to step up as a go-to guy who produces night in and night out.
Crash the Glass
Creighton Prep’s starting five goes 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, 6-foot-3 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6 and three of its top four subs stand 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-8. Prep has plenty of height and length. Yet the Junior Jays couldn’t find a way to keep the Titans off the offensive glass and second-chance offense proved to are a big factor in the game.
The Titans grabbed 12 offensive rebounds, and it feels like they converted almost all of them into points. Meanwhile, Prep only had six offensive rebounds, three of which came in the fourth quarter after Coach josh Luedtke had waved the white flag and sent in his deep bench players.
Prep shot under 40% from the field and under 50% from the free-throw line. Combine that with Papio South getting a lot more opportunities to shoot the ball thanks to its relentlessness on the offensive glass and you get a blowout.
Regular Season Complete
Friday’s game marked the end of the regular season for both teams, and it was a big win for the Titans.
Heading into Friday’s games, Creighton Prep was third in the point standings. The Junior Jays finish the regular season 17-7. Papillion-La Vista South was sixth in points and finishes 17-6 after the win.
Friday’s results dropped Prep down to sixth in the wild card point standings while Papio South jumped up to fifth. Both teams will host districts, and Prep’s spot is locked in as the No. 6 overall seed if I understand the situation correctly.
But Papio South’s fate is still up in the air. There’s a huge game on Saturday between Omaha Central and Omaha Westside that will determine the final ranking of the district hosts. If Westside loses to Central, the Titans will move up to the No. 4 spot while Westside slides to five. If the Warriors beat the Eagles, the Titans will stay at No. 5, Westside will jump to No; 3 and Central will drop to No. 4.
There’s still a lot to be decided on the final day of the regular season
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.