Two of the top teams in the state squared off on Saturday afternoon as Millard North hosted Omaha Westside.
Westside played well early, but Millard North dominated the second half, turning a two-point half-time lead into a 73-42 rout by holding the Warriors to 12 points after halftime. Saint Thomas led all scorers with an efficient 20 points while 5-star recruit Hunter Sallis chipped in 12 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
The last time I was at Millard North, it was to watch the Mustangs host Lincoln North Star and Donovan Williams. Millard North packed the gym and had to shut the doors well before tipoff, and there were D-I coaches from some big-time schools in the house.
With a lineup filled with Division-I talent including a few high-flyers and playing an aggressive, up-tempo style, Millard North became one of the hottest tickets in town last season.
The Mustangs had to cut off admission again on Saturday, but for very different reasons. Pandemic protocols severely cut down attendance and created a very strange environment. Millard North still got plenty of transition opportunities, a handful of blocks and dunks for Hunter Sallis, Saint Thomas and Jasen Green, and the small crowd of family members made as much noise as they could, but it wasn’t the same.
It’s a shame fans won’t be able to pack the gym for teams like Millard North and others this season, but the most important thing is that they get the opportunity to play and schools are taking every precaution they can to make sure that happens.
Tyler Sandoval, the 6-foot-9 senior who is sliding into the starting lineup this season to replace current Stanford Cardinal freshman Max Murrell, but he was in street clothes on the Millard North bench Saturday afternoon.
The Mustangs still had 6-foot-7 junior and 2022 Nebraska target Jasen Green, however. He opened the game with a dunk on Millard North’s second possession and made his presence felt throughout.
Green finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Six of those offensive rebounds were on the offensive end as the undersized Warriors had a tough time keeping him off the glass. He reads the ball well coming off the rim and does a great job of putting himself in position when the shot goes up.
Green looks ready to take a step forward this season, and D-I coaches will be watching.
Reggie Thomas Takeover
Jadin Booth carried a heavy offensive load for Omaha Westside the last few years, but he’s now suiting up for the Omaha Mavericks. His departure left a lot of shots up for grabs, and junior Reggie Thomas appears poised to take advantage.
After a slow start, Westside pulled ahead 18-11 with a 15-2 run. Thomas had 10 of those points with two 3-pointers and two layups. He cooled off in the second half, but still finished with a team-high 18 points and three assists.
Thomas averaged 10.2 points as a sophomore, and as a junior, he’s leading the Warriors in scoring through two games with 41 points. Expect a big year out of the 6-foot-1 guard.
Freshmen in the Spotlight
Both teams had freshmen in their eight-man rotations, which says a lot about those kids considering the quality of the two programs.
Neal Mosser went off in the fourth quarter for the Mustangs, hitting three of his four 3-point attempts for nine points and also dishing out a beautiful assist to get a teammate a bucket. The 6-foot-2 Mosser is a lights-out shooter and a flashy passer, and he has a very bright future with the Mustangs.
For the Warriors, 5-foot-11 guard Caleb Benning — the son of former Nebraska running back Damon Benning — was the first man off the bench. CJ Mitchell, the son of Alvin Mitchell (who played at Nebraska, Cincinnati and Omaha) and younger brother of Creighton sophomore Shereef Mitchell — checked in later in the game. Neither one scored, but they made an impact in other ways — Benning had five boards and two assists while Mitchell handled the ball and contributed on defense.
All three freshmen looked like they belonged out there, and this was just the first week of their varsity careers. Both teams should get even stronger as the season goes on and their young players gain experience.
Live by the 3, Die by the 3
Omaha Westside is going to shoot a lot of 3-pointers this season. They start five guys 6-foot-4 or shorter and the tallest player on the team, 6-foot-6 junior Logan Wilson, is more of a stretch-forward than a back-to-the-basket post. They have six guys who could shoot upwards of 35 to 40% from deep this season.
But they didn’t shoot it well enough to keep up with the Mustangs on Saturday. Westside shot 4-of-10 from deep and held a 2-point lead after one quarter of play. They shot 4-of-22 the rest of the way and the game turned into a blowout.
Westside shot 7-of-21 inside the arc and had Millard North with eight blocks including four by Thomas. With Old Dominion commit Jadin Johnson at 6-foot-4, Sallis at 6-foot-5 and Thomas and Green both at 6-foot-7, teams are going to have a tough time scoring efficiently inside against the Mustangs even without the dynamic shot-blocking presence of Murrell. You’re going to have to beat them from the perimeter, and the Warriors just couldn’t do it on Saturday.
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.