The postseason has officially arrived for boys high school basketball in Nebraska. Subdistrict play for Class B began on Monday and Omaha Skutt played host to one of the best games I’ve seen all year in the B-2 subdistrict.
First, the host SkyHawks made short work of Ralston, blowing out the Rams 93-58.
In the second game, Elkhorn Mt. Michael staged a late come-back to take Elkhorn to overtime before emerging victorious in double-overtime 73-70.
Skutt will face Mt. Michael in the subdistrict final a Skutt on Tuesday evening at 5. The Knights handed the Skyhawks one of their four losses on Jan. 17, 48-44.
Here are some thoughts on each team in the subdistrict.
Omaha Skutt (20-4)
The SkyHawks are a clear Class B contender after coming up just short against York in the state championship last year and returning most of their rotation. On Monday, they showed just how much of a juggernaut they can be on both sides of the ball, shooting nearly 60 percent from the field and forcing 22 Ralston turnovers.
If Skutt is hitting from the perimeter, there aren’t many teams that can hang with them and that’s exactly what they did in the second half as they shot 8-of-12 from 3. Jake Kudron shot 4-of-5 from deep in the third quarter while Grant Bertucci hit 4-of-5 in the second half.
I’ve written about him after every Skutt game I’ve covered this year, but Tyson Gordon was the bast player on the floor once again. The 6-foot-3 junior finished with 21 points on 8-of-10 from the field and 5-of-6 from the foul line, six rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks. Ralston couldn’t keep him from getting to the rim (especially in transition), and when the Rams did cut him off with help defense he hit the open man for an easy bucket. He was a menace on defense as well.
Skutt was just too big and too athletic up and down the lineup for Ralston to handle. The SkyHawks had 19 assists to 10 turnovers and 15 of Ralston’s 22 turnovers were steals.
In Year 2 under new coach Bo Buettenback, Ralston improved from 2-21 to 7-17 and the Rams have a lot of underclassmen contributors set to return next season.
Ralston was down a man as sophomore guard Chaz Cullum, one of the team’s leading scorers, was in street clothes on the bench. Skate raced out to a 9-0 lead as the Rams turned the ball over three times and missed their first five shots. Four different players picked up two first-half fouls including two senior starters in the first quarter. Even so, the Rams battled back and hung around for a while, showing a bit of resiliency.
Drew Anderson, who led the Rams with 14 points, will be back for his senior year. Sophomore point guard Jeff Evans, who started last year as a freshman, played very well with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting (3-of-6 from 3), three assists, a steal and a block. Evans is small but a good athlete, converting a pair of impressive layups at the rim. He hit a few tough 3s as well as a step-back in the corner to open the second half. He displayed some good court vision as well and probably could have had a few more assists had teammates made shots. Evans, Anderson and Cullum is a good group of guards to build around for next year.
Senior point guard Mercel Lewis missed a bunch of time this season because of a summer knee injury and was limited even in the games in which he did get to play, but he was able to suit up one last time on Monday. A 35-point loss isn’t the way any senior wants to go out, but Lewis at least made the most of his minutes with a pair of highlight-reel dishes and an impressive take and finish as well.
The Rams will return seven players who saw a lot of playing time this season. They had 14 assists on 20 made field goals, showing off an improving level of unselfish play and basketball IQ. If they can learn to play a little defense, they should have a chance to take another step forward in 2019-20.
Elkhorn Mt. Michael (18-6)
The Knights fell behind in the first quarter, surged to take the lead at halftime, held onto the lead heading into the fourth, gave up a 12-4 run to fall behind then made a series of big plays to tie the game and send it to overtime. They gutted through one 3-3 overtime period then took control to finish off a big-time win in an instant classic.
Six of the seven players who took the court for Mt. Michael are sophomores and they showed incredible resiliency to fight back into that game.
Sophomore guard Brad Bennett scored 17 of his game-high 27 in the first half including four triples to give Mt. Michael a 31-25 lead at halftime. Bennett cooled off in the second half and din’t score at all in the fourth quarter or first overtime (missing all seven of his shots during those periods) but he stepped up again in the second overtime, hitting a pair of free throws to put the Knights up four then drilling a 3-pointer that made it a five-point game with less than two minutes to play.
Joe Chouinard, another sophomore guard, was quiet for much of the game, scoring two points in the first three quarters. He came alive late, however, scoring eight points in the fourth quarter and first overtime to finish with 10 points, five assists and a big block in the second overtime. He also hit the biggest shot of the game, a 3-pointer for the tie at the end of regulation.
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) February 19, 2019
The rebound that led to Chouinard’s 3 was one of three huge offensive rebounds down the stretch by Hottovy who grabbed five offensive boards int he game and nine total off the Mt. Michael bench. He only scored two points, but it was a big two as he hit two free throws late that cut the deficit to one at 57-56 in the final minute of regulation.
Sophomore big man Kaleb Brink scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half including the dagger dunk in the second overtime.
— Sharon Carleton (@sharoncarleton) February 19, 2019
Finally, sophomore point guard Airan Lopez came up big with just his sixth double-digit scoring game of the season. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting including 4-of-5 from 3 and had three assists including one to Bennett for his 3-pointer in the second overtime.
Mt. Michael beat Skutt once already and certainly has the talent to give them another great fight in the district final.
Elkhorn gave Mt. Michael all it could handle but came up just a bit short, showing a lot of heart in the process.
Senior guard Mitch Kahre led the Antlers with 21points including 10 in the third quarter. He scored from deep (2-of-5 from 3), at the rim (4-of-7 inside the arc) and from the free-throw line (7-of-8).
Junior forward Cade Schutte had a big second half to record a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He shot 4-of-6 from the field including three 3-pointers and 2-of-3 from the line for 13 points in the second half.
Finally, sophomore forward Drew Christo, the son of former Husker Monte Christo, made some big plays and finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Four of his boards were on the offensive end as the 6-foot-4 sophomore is incredibly physical on both ends of the floor. Christo is a three-sport standout as he stars for the Elkhorn football and baseball teams in addition to starting for the basketball team.
Elkhorn was 5-18 last season but improved to .500 this year under new head coach Benji Hoegh. The Antlers will have to find some scoring to replace what the senior backcourt of Kahre and Wyatt Behlen brought to the team but a frontcourt of Schutte and Christo is something Elkhorn can build around next year.
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.