The 2021 Metro Holiday Tournament wrapped up on Friday at Baxter Arena as the Millard South girls and Omaha Westside boys celebrated New Year’s Eve in victorious fashion.
Girls: No. 1 Millard South 77, No. 2 Omaha Central 68
Millard South captured its third straight Metro title and defeated Omaha Central in the final for the second year in a row thanks to a terrific shooting display and big games from its two stars.
Khloe Lemon and Mya Babbitt combined for 51 points as the Patriots shot just over 50% from the field (including 7-of-16 from 3) and 20-of-24 from the free-throw line. The Eagles went 2-of-18 from deep and only got eight points from the free-throw line.
“Super proud of the kids, they stepped up,” Millard South coach Bryce Meyers said. “They followed everything, they did everything the best they could to try to limit [Central]. They have really, really good kids and every kid on the court for them is dangerous. They can all make shots and then they have a big kid who’s really good. So we just did the best we could to try to contest what we could and try to rebound and give them one shot and done and we did that for the most part. So I’m really really proud of how they battled.”
Lemon scored 13 points in the first quarter and the Patriots hit four of their first eight 3s to take a 26-16 lead early in the second quarter. The lead bounced between 10 and five throughout the second quarter and Millard South took a 36-28 advantage into halftime.
The Patriots used a 7-0 run in the third quarter to build the lead to 12 at 46-34. During the run, Central’s 6-foot-5 Texas A&M volleyball commit, Ital Lopuyo, picked up her third and fourth fouls before the midway point of the period and had to take her 12 points on 100% shooting to the bench.
Millard South led 55-45 at the end of the third, but Central sophomore Inia Jones scored the first four points of the fourth to cut the deficit to six. That was as close as the Eagles would get until the final minute as Millard South had an answer for every Central push.
A 3 from Northern Colorado commit Aniah Wayne cut it to six with 2:10 to go, then a three-point play from Aaniya Webb pulled the Eagles within five with 58.1 on the clock, but Millard South shot 12-for-12 at the foul line in the fourth quarter to stave off the comeback attempt.
Lexi Finkenbiner made some big plays in the fourth quarter with three offensive rebounds, a put-back, a pair of free throws and an assist. Juliana Jones had eight points in the fourth as well with six free throws and a coast-to-coast layup out of a timeout. Jones finished with 11 points, six rebounds and three assists.
“They’ve been doing that all year,” Myers said. “JJ and Lexi, those are two kids that no one ever talks about, but you look at the stat sheet and Lexi’s got eight steals, nine assists and 12 deflections and she’s diving on the floor and she’s guarding the best kid all the time. JJ, same thing: super solid, did a great job on the big kid. I just can’t say enough about those two.”
Lemon finished with 26 points and seven rebounds. Babbitt scored eight points in the fourth to finish with 25 on 8-of-11 from the field (3-of-6 from 3) and 6-of-6 from the foul line and four rebounds. The Patriots won the title despite playing without Omaha commit Cora Olsen, who was sideline by an ankle injury all week.
“Obviously we would love to have Cora, but the kids have been stepping up without her,” Meyers said. “That’s just a testament to them and a testament to the depth that we have and some of the talented kids we have on this team, and it’s great to see. So I can’t wait for Cora to get back; she’s only going to make us better.”
Wayne and Jones led the Eagles with 16 points apiece with Jones adding 13 rebounds and four assists to her stat line. Lopuyo finished with 13 points while Webb added 12.
No. 1 Millard South: 23-13-19-22 — 77
No. 2 Omaha Central: 16-12-17-23 — 68
MS: Khloe Lemon 26, Mya Babbitt 25, Juliana Jones 11, Megan Belt 9, Lexi Finkenbiner 4, Miranda Kelly 2
OC: Aniah Wayne 16, Inia Jones 16, Ital Lopuyo 13, Aaniya Webb 12, Paris Devers 6, Claire Williams 5
Boys: No. 3 Omaha Westside 76, No. 3 Bellevue West 68
The Warriors captured their first Metro title in 18 years thanks to defensive intensity and timely shooting, pulling away from Bellevue West in the second half to hand the Thunderbirds their first in-state loss of the season.
The Warriors put together a 16-0 run early in the third quarter to break a 30-all tie and that hole proved to be too deep for the Thunderbirds to climb out of. Westside knocked off both of the top two seeds who battled it out for the state championship last March en route to the title and a 10-1 start to the season.
“It’s great for the school,” Westside coach Jim Simons said. “Obviously, we’ve had a lot of success athletically this year and just to continue to build on that is something we’re proud of. It’s really just a great accomplishment for our kids. We talked after the Millard North game, we were really close last year against a lot of good teams, and we just couldn’t get over the hump. Everybody’s back, and the question was, could we get over the hump against the top-end teams and to do it against Millard North in a game that was a one-point game at half in the semis. I think today was a one- or two-point game at the half against Bellevue West, the two teams that have obviously been at the top the last couple of years is maybe more so than the thing for the school of 18 years is just for our kids to get to experience that is great for them.”
Westside’s defensive aggressiveness and physicality kept Bellevue West off balance from the opening tip and the Thunderbirds never really seemed to get into a rhythm. The Warriors forced 12 T-bird turnovers in the first half and got 10 points from junior Tate Odvody on the other end to take a 30-28 lead into halftime.
Junior point guard Josiah Dotzler scored at the rim to tie it up on the first possession of the second half, but senior Payson Gillespie knocked down a 3-pointer, then senior Logan Wilson hit another, then Gillespie converted a tough three-point play, then senior Reggie Thomas joined the party with a 3 of his own. Odvody capped off the run with two buckets at the rim to put the Warriors ahead 46-30.
“We were able to get the ball in transition and let the ball do the work,” Simons said. “They are so good defensively. They get their hands on a lot of balls, they get a ton of tips and deflections. For us, I mean the first half, it was kind of a slog, it was hard for us to get the thing moving. I thought we got a couple run outs in transition, we hit a couple of 3s; obviously that helped. But it was our ball pace. We think our biggest advantage is we’re going to have five guys on the floor who can shoot it, who can pass it, who can handle it. When we stop the ball, it allows the defense to reset. I thought we did a much better job during that run of getting out in transition, letting the ball do the work and getting good looks.”
South Dakota State signee William Kyle III stepped up after that with back-to-back buckets, sparking a 13-5 run to cut the deficit in half at 51-43. Westside took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, and the Thunderbirds cut it to seven early in the fourth, but senior Chandler Meeks scored in the paint to put the Warriors back up by nine with five minutes to play.
Bellevue West made one last push as Dotzler hit a 3, the Thunderbirds forced a Warrior shot clock violation and then Kyle hit a pair of free throws with 1:41 to play. But Thomas split a pair of foul shots and the Thunderbirds misfired on an open look from the corner. Westside went 5-of-6 from the free-throw line down the stretch to seal the victory.
Odvody finished with 20 points on 7-of-11 from the field and 6-of-6 from the line. The 6-foot-4 junior led the Warriors in scoring in all four games at the Metro Holiday Tournament, averaging 18.5 points on 61% shooting.
“Tate had a great tournament, obviously,” Simons said. “He is able to score in so many different ways for us. He’s a tremendous shooter from the perimeter, he’s strong enough to score in the inside, he’s a great cutter off the ball. He’s a really tough matchup for people. I said all year, he was hurt most of last year even when he was playing with a variety of different injuries. This was kind of the first time people have gotten to see him play fully healthy and he’s he’s a really, really talented scorer.”
Wilson knocked down some big shots and finished with 14 points on 4-of-8 from 3 and 2-of-2 from the line. Meeks added 13 points on 4-of-7 from the field (1-of-1 from 3) and 4-of-6 from the foul line, four rebounds and three assists. Westside shot 51% from the field including 8-of-16 from 3.
Dotzler finished with a game-high 24 points on 7-of-14 from the field and 9-of-11 from the line, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Kyle added 14 points on 5-of-9 from the field and 4-of-4 from the line with nine rebounds. Sophomore Jaden Jackson chipped in 10 points. Bellevue Wests hot 50% from the field but just 2-of-11 from deep and finished with 18 turnovers.
No. 1 Bellevue West: 16-12-20-20 — 68
No. 3 Omaha Westside: 16-14-28-18 — 76
BW: Josiah Dotzler 24, William Kyle III 14, Jaden Jackson 10, John Mitchell 9, TK Barnett 5, Jadyn Cascio Jensen 2, Robby Garcia 2
OW: Tate Odvody 20, Logan Wilson 14, Chandler Meeks 13, Reggie Thomas 9, Payson Gillespie 8, Kevin Stubblefield 6, Charlie Davis 3, Caleb Benning 2, CJ Mitchell 1
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.