Tuesday was the final night of district action, and for the second straight year, Omaha Westside punched its ticket to the state tournament on its home court. This year’s final, however, was a little less dramatic than last year’s as Westside pulled away from Papillion-La Vista for a 73-60 win.
Here are five thoughts on the A-4 District Final.
Back and Forth We Go
Westside pulled away late, but the game was fun start to finish and the first three quarters were very competitive with a few big momentum swings.
After Papio struck first with a three-point play, Westside hit the Monarchs with a 10-0 run. Papillion-La Vista settled in and used a 13-5 stretch to retake the lead at 16-15. Westside scored the last six points of the quarter (see more on that below) to take a 21-16 lead after one.
Papio cut it to one at 24-23 before Westside ripped off a 9-1 run to take its biggest lead yet at 33-24. The Monarchs cut the deficit to four at halftime then junior guard Joey Hylok got them going to open the third quarter with five quick points and an assist to big man Preston Kellogg to give Papio a 41-39 lead. Kellogg scored again to make it 43-39, Papillion-La Vista’s largest lead of the game, but Westside quickly closed that gap to tie it again.
Papillion-La Vista went back to Kellogg and he scored again to make it 45-43, but the Warriors closed the quarter on a 7-0 run to make it 50-45 after three.
Westside turned a close game heading into the fourth quarter into a comfortable win with an outstanding offensive period. The Warriors shot 6-of-9 from the field including 2-of-3 from 3 and 9-of-10 from the line for 23 points.
Westside opened the fourth on an 8-2 run to take its first double-digit lead of the game at 58-47 and the sides traded buckets the rest of the way from there until the Monarchs ran out of gas. All five starters scored in the fourth for Westside but senior point guard PJ Ngambi, who had a rough first three quarters, closed out the game with eight of his 15 points in the fourth, hitting all three of his field goals and both of his free throws.
Senior guard and Omaha signee Jadin Booth walked off the Westside court for the final time in a Warrior uniform on Tuesday night. He’s the school’s all-time leading scorer and went out with a classic Booth performance, although Westside didn’t need him to dominate individually.
Booth came out on firs in the first half, scoring eight points in each of the first two quarters to lead the Warriors to a four-point halftime lead. After Papio made it’s first-quarter run to take the lead, Booth hit a pull-up 3 then drew a foul on another 3-point attempt and made all three foul shots.
He finished with 20 points, and did so in efficient fashion. The 6-foot-2 guard shot 5-of-10 from the field, 3-of-6 from 3 and 7-of-7 from the free-throw line. He also dished out five assists and recorded two steals.
Clash of Styles
Papillion-La Vista is one of the biggest teams in the state with Kellogg, a 6-foot-6 offensive lineman headed to play at Augustana next year, at center and Matt Adamek, a 6-foot-10 senior committed to Doane behind him. Sophomore Kyle Ingwerson starts at the four at 6-foot-5 while Luke Lindenmeyer, a 6-foot-4 sophomore with a big frame, backs him up and also plays alongside him. Hylok, at 6-foot-2, is a downhill kind of guard that does his best work in the paint.
Omaha Westside, on the other hand, is one of the smallest teams in Class A. A 6-foo-4, Carl Brown is the tallest player in the rotation and he’s more of a 3-point shooter than a guy who will mix it up in the paint. The Warriors play four and sometimes even five guards.
Papio exploited its size with 14 offensive rebounds, and the Monarchs outscored the Warriors 36-20 inside the arc. However, after shooting 3-of-7 from 3 in the first quarter, the Monarchs went 1-for-14 the rest of the way, making it tough to keep up with Westside. The Warriors shot 11-of-27 (40.7%) for the game while the Monarchs were just 4-of-21 (19%).
I may be a journalist, but even I know that 3 is more than 2.
The Thomas Takeover
I saw Omaha Central pull off a comeback win at Westside in the final game of the regular season, and one of my standouts from that game was sophomore Reggie Thomas, primarily for his defensive effort.
On Tuesday, Thomas was stout on the defensive end again, but he was also the best player on the floor overall, which is saying something considering how well Booth played.
Thomas finished with a game-high 21 points on 7-of-9 from the field, 5-of-6 from 3 and 2-of-4 from the line. He scored eight of Westside’s 14 points in the third quarter and then hit the 3 early in the fourth that put Westside up 11. He also grabbed three offensive rebounds, including one where he ripped the ball away from a much taller Monarch and put it back up and in. He also had three blocks and two steals and did not turn the ball over.
If Thomas continues to play like he did against Central and Papio, the Warriors are going to have a shot at making a run in Lincoln. They’ll open their postseason as the No. 4 seed against No. 5 Omaha Creighton Prep in a first-round rivalry game.
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.