Omaha Roncalli welcomed Bennington into the Lions’ Den on Tuesday night for a match-up of top-five teams in Class B, and the Crimson Pride pulled out a 52-44 victory withe a late run.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
The game got off to a pretty ugly start. Roncalli missed eight of its first 10 shots. Bennington missed five of its first seven and turned the ball over four times. It was 4-4 well into the first period.
Things picked up from there, however, and a hotly-contested game broke out. Roncalli used a 7-2 start to the second quarter to pull ahead, then Bennington responded with a 7-2 run of its own to open the third quarter and tie it up again.
The teams went bucket for bucket and stop for stop into the fourth quarter with a number of lead changes. Bennington took a 42-41 lead on a layup from Dylan Casart off a nice feed from Isaac Conner with 3:03 to play.
It was all Roncalli the rest of the way, however, as the Crimson pride closed the game on an 11-2 run to improve to 13-4 and further strengthen its claim to be the second-best team in the class behind undefeated Omaha Skutt.
The driving force behind Roncalli’s strong finish was senior wing Jake Orr. At 6-foot-3 with tremendous athleticism, Orr’s ability to impact the game in so many ways is part of what makes Roncalli so difficult to deal with.
Orr didn’t score in the first quarter, but he got going a bit in the second and that carried over into the second half where he only missed one shot from the field en route to a game-high 17 points on 5-of-10 from the field and 7-of-9 from the foul line.
He’s not just a scorer, though. He also posted game-highs in rebounding (11) and assists (four) to go with three steals and one block.
During the 11-2 closing stretch, Orr had an assist for a 3, a layup, another layup off a mid-air catch in transition and a pair of bonus free throws. He scored seven points in all in the fourth and 12 in the second half.
Orr is a no-brainer all-state player in Class B and is committed to Midland University in Fremont. His future head coach, Oliver Drake, was in the gym watching him lead his team to victory on Tuesday.
Bennington has had pretty good offensive balance all season, but the driving force has been the backcourt of senior Austin Holtz (16.3 points per game, 44% from 3) and junior Trey Bird (10.4 points per game, 42% from 3).
Holtz finished with 10 points on Tuesday and the Crimson Pride did a great job of making every one of his looks difficult. Bird scored just seven points. He knocked down a go-ahead 3 early in the fourth that put the Badgers ahead 40-39, but it proved to be his only shot attempt of the fourth quarter (and his only 3-point attempt of the game) as Roncalli crowded him all game and did a great job of cutting off his driving lanes as well.
When Holtz is on, Bennington is difficult to beat (the Badgers are 9-0 when he scores 18 or more points). He just couldn’t quite find the range on Tuesday night and the rest of the Badgers couldn’t pick up the slack.
Seniors Stepping Up
I already mentioned Orr’s impact down the stretch, but he wasn’t the only Roncalli senior who stepped up in the fourth quarter.
Quincy Evans had a rough first three quarters, shooting 2-of-8 from the field. He stepped up when the Crimson Pride needed him most, though. After missing his first four 3-point attempts, he knocked down a go-ahead 3 off a dish from Orr to spark Roncalli’s knockout run. He scored two times before that as well, scoring seven points in the fourth to finish with 11 before getting banged up and checking out with two minutes to go.
Austin Schwarz came up big in the fourth as well after a quiet first three quarters. He knocked down a go-ahead 3 early in the quarter and he was the one who fed Orr in transition for the mid-air catch-and-finish. He did miss the front end of the bonus with Roncalli up four at 35.5 to play, but the Crimson Pride forced a turnover on the other end so it didn’t hurt them and Schwarz went 2-for-2 during his next opportunity. He finished with seven points, six rebounds (four offensive) and two assists.
The Crimson Pride shot 6-of-8 from the field (2-of-3 from 3) and 5-of-7 from the free-throw line for 19 points in the first, the those three senior starters accounted for all of that.
Bennington just faced arguably the most difficult two-game stretch in Class B this season, facing No. 1 Omaha Skutt last Tuesday and then traveling to No. 2 Roncalli this week. They went 0-2 in those games.
Before facing the SkyHawks, Bennington had won nine games in a row including one against Platteview and two against Waverly. The Badgers still look like a clear top-five team in B, but a win over the Crimson Pride would have certainly muddied the picture behind Skutt.
As things stand, Roncalli will stick at No. 2 with a win at Blair on Saturday. Scottsbluff (15-4) is currently No. 3 and has a big week ahead with a trip to North Platte on Thursday and with No. 6 McCook visiting on Friday. At No. 4, the Badgers will face Lincoln Christian. Platteview rounds out the top five of NebPreps.com‘s Class B coaches poll.
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.