Class A No. 5 Lincoln East made the trip up I-80 on Tuesday and scored a big win, taking down No. 6 Omaha Westside 66-50 to improve to 15-4.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
Westside got off to a solid defensive start and held a 16-15 lead at the end of the first quarter after holding East to 6-of-16 shooting with three turnovers.
The Spartans settled in from there, however, and seemed to flip a switch during the quarter break as they came out of the huddle firing, hitting six of their first eight shots to surge ahead and take control.
East didn’t slow down much from there, putting up 41 points (while holding Westside to 21) in the second and third quarters. The Spartans shot 65% from the field with five 3s including three at the end of the third during a 9-2 run to build a 56-37 lead heading into the fourth.
Westside picked up the intensity in the fourth quartered held East scoreless for nearly half the period, cutting the lead down to 10, but that’s as close as the Warriors got.
East may have won the game, but the best individual performance came from a Warrior: junior Kevin Stubblefield. He finished with 26 points on 12-of-19 from the field and 2-of-4 from the foul line with five rebounds including three on the offensive end. It was his sixth game of 20-plus this season.
At 6-foot-4, Stubblefield is a matchup nightmare. He’s terrific at using his big frame to get shots up around the basket, creating contact and preventing defenders from elevating and blocking his shot. He’s too big and strong for most perimeter defenders to push him off the block or keep him off the glass, but he handles the ball well enough to burn bigger defenders on the perimeter and is a grab-and-go transition threat as well.
Stubblefield was the biggest reason for Westside’s good start, scoring 10 of the team’s 16 points in the first quarter, and he went on to finish with more than half his team’s points. Junior point guard CJ Mitchell was the only other Warrior in double figures with 14 points, eight of which came from the free-throw line.
Whereas Westside was more of a one-man show, East featured a much more balanced attack. The Spartans’ dynamic backcourt of senior Carter Tempelmeyer and junior Carter Mick have been getting it done all season and both were terrific again on Tuesday, but it was senior wing Jared Townsley who led the way.
Townsley put up a career-high 20 points on 7-of-11 from the field (3-of-4 from 3) and 3-of-4 from the foul line. He added eight boards and four assists. Townsley was a steady for for the Spartans, scoring six in the first quarter, five in the second, five in the third and four in the fourth. He showed no hesitation from deep and also converted a couple of crafty shots around the rim.
Tempelmeyer wasn’t far behind, finishing with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting including 2-of-5 from 3 and an and-one. He added nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks to his state line. Tempelmeyer got off to a slow start, missing four of his six shots in the first quarter. However, he only missed once the rest of the way and scored his team’s first eight points in the third quarter.
Mick finished right at his season average with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting (2-of-5 from 3) and 1-of-2 from the foul line. He hit two of he three 3s at the end of the third that essentially put the game out of reach heading into the fourth.
Westside only made two fewer 2-pointers and hit nine more free throws than East, giving the Warriors an eye inside the arc. However, the Spartans shot a respectable 7-for-16 (43.8%) from 3 while Westside, well… Westside didn’t make single triple. The Warriors misfired on all 15 of their attempts from deep.
Westside was up and down from deep during the first half of the season, but the Warriors fell into a rut in early January, shooting below 27% in five straight games including a 2-for-15 performance in a seven-point loss to rival Omaha Creighton Prep.
The Warriors finally shot themselves out of their collective slump last week with their best outing of the season (13-for-27, 48.1%) in a blowout win against Lincoln Southwest then followed that up with a respectable 8-for-21 (38.1%) in a win over Elkhorn South on Friday.
The Warriors couldn’t make it three good shooting games in a row, however, and fell to 13-6 as a result. In order to make a deep postseason run, Westside will have to find some sort of consistency from the 3-point line.
While the two Carters tend to draw most of the headlines as the team’s leading scorers, senior forward Christian Melissa has grown into a key part of the Spartan attack, giving the guard-heavy team a little more balance.
Listed at 6-foot-3, Melessa is a bit undersized as he plays the five for the Spartans. However, he makes up for his lack of size with his motor and his length. The senior notched his second double-double of the season, finishing with 10 points on 4-for-7 from the field and 2-for-2 from the line and 10 rebounds (three offensive). He also added six blocks, three assists and three steals in a terrific all-around performance.
After scoring in double figures in just four of his first 13 games this season, Melessa has scored at least 10 points in five of his last six and is up to 9.2 points per game — behind only the 15.2 apiece for Tempelmeyer and Mick.