The flu bug hit Omaha Westside this week but the shorthanded Warriors shot the lights out early to build a big lead in the first half and cruised to a 64-41 win at Gretna on Thursday.
Here are five thoughts on how it went down.
Depth of Talent
Westside was missing two of its starters in senior wing Carl Brown and sophomore guard Chandler Meeks. At 6-foot-4, Brown is playing center for the guard-heavy Warriors and is first on the team in rebounds and second in scoring this season. Meeks is a swiss army knife who stuffs the stat sheet on a nightly basis.
Even without two huge pieces of their team, the Warriors looked strong and dominated the action from the tip thanks in large part to a pair of sophomore guards stepping up.
Payson Gillespie, a 6-foot-3 transfer from Douglas County West, scored five of Westside’s first seven points and finished with a season-high 15 on 6-of-10 shooting (3-of-7 from 3). He also led the team with seven rebounds and five steals, making an impact on both ends.
Thomas, a 5-foot-11 guard who plays bigger than his height because of his athleticism and tenacity, led the Warriors with a career-high 18 points on 8-of-10 from the field including 2-of-4 from 3. He also grabbed five boards and took on some tough defensive assignments.
Even senior Cal Weidemann, a 6-foot-1 guard playing forward, gave the Warriors a nice spark off the bench with five points and five rebounds. He missed his junior season after tearing his ACL and had only scored three points in Westside’s first four games.
Add Brown and Meeks back into that lineup and the Warriors will be a tough out, even if they do lack a true post presence.
Gretna has one of the best coaching staffs in the state with head coach Brad Feeken and defensive coordinator Bill Heard, but those two had no answer for what Westside threw at them offensively on Thursday night.
Gretna used a variety of different defenses — a 3-2 zone, man-to-man, even triangle-and-2 — but none of them really worked. It took Westside a little bit to get going, but the Warriors went off from the perimeter in the second quarter, shooting 6-of-10 from 3 against the zone.
Gretna came out in a different look in the second half, trying a triangle-and-2 to slow down the two guys that led the way for Westside in the first half in Gillespie and senior guard Jadin Booth, so Thomas took advantage with nine points in the third. The Dragons tried some straight man-to-man int he second half as well and it did slow down The Warriors from the arc (1-of-12 after halftime) but they got going inside and made 111 of their 12 shots inside the arc to prevent a comeback attempt.
The Warriors shot 50% from the field, only missing four shots inside the arc all game, and 12-of-14 from the free-throw line for an efficient 64 points. Gretna hadn’t allowed more than 55 heading into the game.
Lock Down Defense
Gretna wasn’t the only team who played zone. The Warriors opened in a 3-2 as well, only they had a bit more success. They mixed it up with some man-to-man later on as well.
Westside didn’t give up its first field goal of the game until the 5:21 mark of the second quarter. Gretna had just two points after one quarter and just 10 at halftime. Gretna shot 2-of-16 from the field in the first half including 0-of-8 from deep.
Westside knew its scouting report well, closing out to Gretna’s best shooters in Hershal Vuksich (15-of-29, 51.7% from 3 heading into the game) and Clay Frost (9-of-19, 47.4%) hard and taking away their easy looks. They combined to shoot 1-of-8 from 3 on Thursday. In total, Westside held four of Gretna’s five starters to a bucket or less apiece, and only one guys off the bench had more than one score.
Overall, Gretna shot 31.6% from the field (including just 5-of-16 inside the arc) with 12 turnovers.
The only one who reached double figures for Gretna was senior forward Ely Doble. He scored eight of Gretna’s 10 first-half points and assisted on the other bucket, then scored eight more in the third before Gretna sent in its reserves midway through the fourth.
Doble finished with 16 points on 5-of-11 from the field, 2-of-3 from 3 and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line. He did a good job of finding the cracks in the zone early and got some good looks off baseline-out-of-bounds plays. He scored the first five points of the second half as Gretna made a brief push to get back into the game, and then he hit a buzzer-beating quick-release 3 at the end of the third quarter.
Doble is averaging 18 points to lead the way for Gretna this season and is committed to Morningside.
Jadin Booth has the Goods
With Thomas and Gillespie shouldering much of the scoring load, Westside didn’t need Booth to assert himself all that much. He took a season-low eight field goal attempts and scored a season-low 12 points, but he looked impressive doing it.
The Omaha signee hit a couple of 3s off the dribble and converted a tough and-one inside. He also broke down the defense off the dribble throughout the night, making some impressive passes and dishing out three assists in total.
Booth’s skill level is through the roof. The Mavericks are getting a good one.
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.