Bennington played host to a varsity double-header on Friday night as the Elkhorn North girls and boys visited the Badgers, producing an overtime thriller in one game and a spectacular individual performance in the other.
Here are five thoughts on the games.
BBB: Bennington 70, Elkhorn North 63, OT
Never Say Die
Both teams showed terrific resiliency with numerous comeback efforts throughout the game.
Elkhorn North controlled things early, building up leads of 13 in the first half and 10 in the second half, but Bennington rallied to take the lead early in the fourth quarter. The teams went back and forth throughout the fourth quarter and the Wolves pulled ahead by four with 45 seconds to play.
Bennington went for the quick two then committed a foul to stop the clock with 20.7 to play. Imron Ergashev split the free throws, putting the Wolves up by three but leaving the door open. The Badgers turned the ball over with 14 seconds left, seemingly dashing their hopes.
However, Bennington wasn’t ready to quit. The Badgers set up in a full-court press, forcing the in-bounds pass to the corner than trapping the recipient. Junior Gunnar Gym deflected the pass and secured the ball himself, then rose up for his only 3-point attempt of the game, burying it to tie the game at 54-all with eight seconds left. Elkhorn didn’t get a shot off, sending the game to overtime.
Gunnar Lym for the tie.
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) December 10, 2022
Bennington opened the extra period with an 8-2 run to build a 62-55 lead, turning the tables and forcing Elkhorn North to scramble. Sophomore Will Farrington delivered for the Wolves, burying two 3-pointers to make it a one-point game with 53 seconds to play.
Nick Colvert went 3-for-4 at the line in the bonus with trips sandwiching an Elkhorn North turnover. Farrington hit a pair of bonus free throws, but Colvert did the same with 8.8 to go, putting the Badgers up by three. Elkhorn North had one more chance as the Waves pushed the ball up the floor to their best shooter in Farrington, but senior Trey Bird blocked the potential game-tying attempt and secured the rebound, hitting a pair of free throws on the other end to seal the victory.
Trey Bird with the game-sealing block on the tying 3-point attempt. pic.twitter.com/lnaac01mjU
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) December 10, 2022
Both teams struggled to score efficiently inside the arc as Bennington shot 36.1% and Elkhorn North shot 39.1% on 2-point attempts.
It was a different story from the perimeter as the teams combined to shoot an incredible 23-of-48 (47.9%) from 3-point range.
Elkhorn North shot 12-of-23 (52.2%) with Farrington leading the way with 17 points including 5-of-11 from deep. Junior Cole Dryak went 3-for-3 from deep with a pair of fourth-quarter triples and chipped in 10 points off the bench.
Bennington wasn’t far behind, shooting 11-for-25 (44%). Junior Bryce Dunning led the Badgers in scoring with 14 points off the bench on 5-of-8 shooting including 4-of-6 from deep, and all of his makes came in the second half after an 0-for-3 first quarter. Colvert hit three straight 3s in the second quarter to get the Badgers back in the game after they fell behind 25-12, finishing with 13 points. Bird knocked down both of his 3-pointers as well, matching Colvert with 13 points. Of course, Lym hit the biggest 3 of the game and finished with 12 points for the Badgers.
Quantity Over Quality
Elkhorn North was actually the more efficient team on Friday night, shooting batter from inside and outside the arc. However, Bennington made up the difference by dominating possession.
First, the Badgers only turned the ball over nine times in four-and-a-half quarters while forcing 14 turnovers from the Wolves (11 of which were Badger steals).
Second, Bennington crashed the offensive glass hard, winning that battle 11-3. Isaac Conner, a 6-foot-3 senior, set the tone with four offensive rebounds (and eight overall) while Dylan Casart, Bennington’s 6-foot-5 senior center, snagged three of his own.
The turnover and rebounding edge manifested in 15 extra shot attempts for the Badgers, which was just enough to offset Elkhorn North’s greater efficiency from the field.
GBB: Elkhorn North 65, Bennington 22
Britt Prince Put on a Show
Friday didn’t look like it was going to be Elkhorn North junior Britt Prince’s night. A top-10 prospect nationally in her class, Prince made her first shot attempt, a layup, then proceeded to miss seven straight shots from all three levels.
That changed in a flurry, however, as Prince showed how special she was in the final two minutes of the first half. Prince finally got a pull-up jumper to fall, but missed a 3 on her next touch. At that point, she was 2-for-10 from the field.
In the span of a few possessions, she broke her defender’s ankles off the dribble and nailed the pull-up jumper, stole the ball and delivered a behind-the-back dime to Grace Thompson for a layup, grabbed a defensive rebound and pushed it up the floor herself, crossing up a defender on her way to the basket for a layup and finally shook her defender with a ball fake and hit a 3-pointer just before time ran out.
Prince only missed two more shots the rest of the way, finishing with 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting (4-of-10 from 3) and 4-of-4 from the foul line. She also grabbed 14 rebounds, dished out four assists and snagged four steals.
She’s a special talent and showed why once again on Friday.
Elkhorn North has won back-to-back Class B titles, and Prince is the biggest reason why. However, the Wolves aren’t a one-player show. As spectacular as Prince can be on offense, Elkhorn North’s defense is as much the driving factor behind the program’s success as anything.
Prince eventually got going and finished with her 30, but Friday wasn’t a great night for the Elkhorn North offense as a whole. The team shot 35.8% from the field including 4-of-21 from 3 and missed five of its 18 free-throw attempts.
However, it didn’t matter as the Wolves allowed just 22 points including eight in the second half. Bennington shot 8-of-35 (22.9%) from the field with just two 3-pointers.
I thought Bennington handled Elkhorn North’s trapping full-court pressure well early on, but eventually the Badgers began breaking down. Elkhorn North forced 26 turnovers, 17 of which happened during the second and third quarters as the Wolves extended their lead from 11 after one to 26 heading into the fourth.
Bennington was 2-1 heading into Friday’s game with back-to-back 50-point outings, but the Badgers just couldn’t find a way to crack the Elkhorn North defense.
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.