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Thoughts on a Busy Day in Nebraska High School District Play

March 01, 2020

Saturday was a busy day of high school hoops with district semifinals and finals taking place all over the state. I bounced around from Omaha to Wahoo to Papillion to take in three of the games and offered my thoughts on how two teams punched their tickets to state and a third earned a chance to do the same.

B-7 District Final: Omaha Roncalli 81, Beatrice 62

Omaha Roncalli is playing at a ridiculously high level on offense right now. I watched both their sub-district final win at Bennington and their district final win over Beatrice at home, and in those two games the Crimson Pride shot just under 63% from the field.

Roncalli converted a ridiculous 79.5% of its looks inside the arc (31-of-39) and shot 46.2% from deep as well in the two games. Take out the first half against the Badgers and the numbers are even more ridiculous. Roncalli went through some midseason struggles but the Crimson Pride is peaking at the right time.

Roncalli jumped out to a 20-13 lead after the first quarter, but Beatrice rallied to within three at halftime then tied it up at 32-all with a 3 by sophomore Elliot Jurgens to open the second half. Roncalli pulled ahead at the free-throw line, but Beatrice tied it again.

Then Roncalli delivered the knockout blow with a 13-0 run and cruised through the rest of the game to punch its ticket to the state tournament.

Saturday afternoon was Roncalli’s last home game of the season and, for the seniors, of their careers. So Roncalli’s stellar senior backcourt made it a memorable afternoon.

Point guard Jack Dotzler hit all six of his shots in the first quarter including four 3s, one of which was a halfcourt shot at the buzzer. He scored 16 of Roncalli’s 20 points in the period and finished with 27 on 8-of-12 from the field, 4-of-7 from 3 and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line with six rebounds, three assists and a steal.

When Dotzler slowed down in the second quarter, Taiden Red took over. The senior sharpshooter scored all 21 of his points in the last three quarters, shooting 7-of-11 overall including 4-of-7 from 3. He hit all three of his free throws too.

As a team, Roncalli shot 17-of-21 from 2 (81%), 11-of-21 from 3 (52.4%) and 20-of-25 (80%) from the foul line. Beatrice had no chance of matching that kind of efficiency.

That being said, four Orangemen did score in double figures led by junior Kaden Glynn who finished with 22 points on 8-of-15 from the field, 3-of-8 from 3 and 3-of-4 from the foul line, six rebounds and four assists.

B-4 District Final: Wahoo 70, Platteview 55

Wahoo jumped out to a 10-0 start thanks to four early turnovers and three missed 3s by the Trojans and never relinquished the lead. Platteview cut the deficit down to one or two possessions several times throughout the game but never found a way to get over the hump.

The Warriors are known for their 1-3-1 defense, and they do it better than anyone else. With senior Thomas Waido, a 6-foot-4 wing, at the top of the zone, Wahoo wreaks havoc on opposing offenses and makes life tough. The Warriors fly all over the court, trap in the corners and shoot the passing lanes to turn defense into offense.

Platteview could not figure it out. The Trojans were efficient inside the arc as they shot 70%, but it was only on 10 attempts. Platteview fired up 34 3-pointers and only made nine of them. The Trojans also had 20 turnovers, 13 of which were Wahoo steals. Each of the seven players who made up Wahoo’s rotation recorded at least one steal. The Warriors also crushed the Trojans on the glass, grabbing more offensive rebounds (14) than Platteview had defensive rebounds (11).

Junior Trevor Kasischke got the Warriors going early with seven first-quarter points and he hit some big shots in the second half too, finishing with a game-high 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting including 3-of-5 from 3. He also had seven boards, three steals and two assists. Waido stuffed the stat sheet as well with 14 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal while senior guards Trey Scheef and Gerardo Madrid scored 14 and 11, respectively.

Freshman Connor Millikan, junior Tyler Riley and senior Paxton Swanson scored 14 points apiece. Riley shot 4-of-7 from 3 (making the rest of the team a combined 5-of-27) but led the team in turnovers. Millikan has been one of the most productive freshmen in the state, but he looked his age on Saturday against the Wahoo zone. Swanson scored 10 of his points in the third quarter as he did a good job of sealing inside and his teammates kept finding him. The South Dakota football commit shot 3-for-3 from the field and 8-for-9 at the line.

Good luck to teams trying to figure out that 1-3-1 zone down at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Speaking of, all eight higher seeds won their district finals. In addition to Roncalli and Wahoo, Omaha Skutt, Hastings, Scottsbluff, Elkhorn Mt. Michael, Norris and Alliance are all headed down to Lincoln.

A-5 District Semifinal: Lincoln Northeast 54, Papillion-La Vista South 52

Junior Pierce Bazil put the Rockets on his back as Lincoln Northeast became the only team to knock off a No. 1 seed on Saturday. 

Bazil scored 23 points in the second half, 12 in the fourth quarter (of Northeast’s 13) and the last nine of the game as Lincoln Northeast turned a seven-point deficit late into a two-point win. Bazil hit five 3s, four tough 2s and made all six of his free throws. Bazil hit a mid-range jumper and a 3 on back-to-back possessions then made a pair of free throws to tie the game up with just under two minutes to play.

After a minute-and-a-half of scoreless basketball, Papio South got the ball back and started running the clock down, looking to hold for the last shot. The titans tried sending doubles at the ball-handlers, though, and the aggression led to a foul on Bazil with 17.3 to play. He hit both to give the Rockets the lead.

Bazil was the only Rocket in double figures as Carson Busch and Connor Renard had nine points apiece.

Junior forward Danair Dempsey led Papio South with 23 points, showing off a versatile skill set. He scored in the post, off the bounce, at the free-throw line and even stepped out and knocked down a 3.

Senior point guard Jared Mattley became the school’s all-time scoring leader during the game — which he accomplished in three seasons after spending his freshman year at Gretna — and finished with 19 points, but he suffered an apparent ankle injury with 5:05 to play and the Titans leading 48-40. As the play continued, Bazil knocked down a 3 to make it a five-point game before the officials stopped the game so the trainers could attend to Mattley.

Dempsey scored inside on the next possession and sophomore Daniel Brocaille got a breakaway layup off a Rocket turnover to make it 52-45, but the Titans didn’t score again after that.

Lincoln Northeast advanced to the A-5 district final and will face Elkhorn with a trip to state on the line.

The only other upset in Class A on Saturday was Gretna over Lincoln North Star, ending Donovan Williams’ high school career. The Dragons, who slow games down and ugly them up with a few different zone defenses, beat the Navigators 46-42.

The Class A district finals will take place on Monday and Tuesday.

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