The OPS showdown between Omaha North and Omaha South was close at the end of the first quarter, but the visiting Packers dominated the second and fourth quarters to run away with a 68-45 win on Thursday night.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
Omaha South doesn’t have a single senior on its roster. The Bulls start three juniors — only one of whom was a rotation player last season — along with a sophomore and a freshman. Their first two subs were sophomores, and their third was a freshman.
In total, South has five sophomores and three freshmen on its varsity roster, and that includes 6-foot-6 Jacob Arop, the younger brother of current Husker Akol Arop who is currently out with an injury.
South is one of the youngest, most inexperienced teams in the Metro. It’s not hard to understand why the Packers got off to a 1-7 start this season. The Vikings were coming off a big win over a quality Millard West squad to start the season 6-4.
Thursday was a big win for the Packers as they continue learning how to have success at the varsity level with a lot of guys who haven’t played very much at that level before this season.
Loftin Leads the Way
The most impressive of South’s youngsters was freshman guard Rickey Loftin. He’s South’s leading scorer this season at 9.9 per game heading into Thursday, and he put up a new career — and game — high with 19 points against the Vikings.
Loftin shot 4-of-5 from deep — and is now 18-42 (42.9%) on the season — while grabbing six rebounds and three steals and dishing out a pair of assists. He’s scored in double figures in six of his first nine varsity games.
Loftin handles a lot of the ball-handling duties and also isn’t afarid to mix it up on the glass for a team starting four guards. The freshman will certainly be one to keep an eye on over the next three-and-a-half years.
Pack it In
South led 18-16 at the end of the first quarter. At halftime, it was a 16-point game. The Packers dominated the second quarter 19-5 thanks in large part to their defense.
Veteran South coach Bruce Chuck Sr. threw out a 3-2 zone, and it gave the Vikings fits. North relies on a lot of guard penetration normally, but with the length the Packers put up top there were not many gaps for those guards to drive through and make plays.
North missed its first seven field goals of the second quarter and turned the ball over four times as South outscored the Vikings 9-0 in the first five minutes. North shot 2-of-11 overall including 0-of-7 from 3 with five turnovers in the second quarter.
The offensive woes continued into the third quarter as North just couldn’t find a solution to the South zone. The Packers took their largest lead at 51-24 before cruising to the victory. North shot 7-of-28 from 3 and 33.3% overall with 18 turnovers. That’s certainly not going to get it done.
Williams, Thomas and Bennett Push Back
The Packers were about to run the Vikings off their own court before the start of the fourth quarter. As I wrote about, South mored than doubled North up midway through the third quarter.
However, instead of quitting, North fought back, reeling off a 17-2 run spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters. Freshman Daleron Thomas got things started with a 3, then Keshaun Williams fed Taejon Williams in the post for and and-one. Williams scored five straight himself including an and-one, then Thomas stole an in-bounds pass and found Darryl Bennett Jr. for a 3 at the buzzer. Bennett opened the fourth quarter with a 3 as well to make it a 12-point game, but North couldn’t keep it up past that point.
Williams, a fantastic football player, showed off his athleticism as he led the Vikings with 13 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists. Bennett hit three 3s and finished with 11 points. The senior guard is 16-of-28 (57.1%) in his last five games including a perfect 6-for-6 performance against Millard West. Thomas got off to a great start, assisting three of North’s first four buckets and scoring the other himself, a triple. He’s another freshman to keep an eye on over the next few years.
Sixth Man of the Game
Each of these teams bring one of their best players off the bench. Junior guard Mason Strong was averaging a team-high 18.4 points this season for North while sophomore guard Jacob Martin was chipping in 9.3 points per game for the Packers, good for third on the team.
Martin won that battle decisively on Thursday. Strong finished with six points on 2-of-8 shooting as the Packers did a good job of crowding him on every touch.
On the other hand, Martin scored 15 points on 6-pf-9 shooting including 2-of-3 from deep. He also grabbed five boards, dished out four assists and nabbed two steals to give South a big spark off the bench. The performance had to feel good for the sophomore after spending his freshman year at North.
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.