The Bellevue West Thunderbirds swept Lincoln Southeast in a girls and boys double-header featuring four ranked teams at the Thunderdome on Saturday night.
GBB: No. 9 Bellevue West 58, No. 7 Lincoln Southeast 50
Story of the Game
The teams traded runs throughout the first three quarters, but Bellevue West delivered the knockout blow late in the third quarter and into the fourth. The Thunderbirds ripped off a 17-2 run including five 3-pointers to turn a two-point edge into a 17-point lead, which was enough for the Thunderbirds to fend off a late Southeast rally.
“Early in the quarter I thought we got some good shots that didn’t fall,” Bellevue West coach Dane Bacon said. “We kind of let that deter our effort on the defensive end. I thought we got some buckets to go and kind of settled in. We kind of talked to about we can’t be predicated on the offensive end. You guys have to guard all the time and not just when shots are going in.”
The Thunderbirds held the Knights to 41.7% shooting and forced 17 turnovers.
“We talked to our kids about staying resilient,” Bacon said. “We had some rough stretches. We told him to start the season it was going to be difficult; our schedule’s pretty hard and early we didn’t handle adversity very well, and I think they are right now. We’re responding, we’re playing harder, we’re playing for one another and I think it’s showing in our wins right now.”
Before the game, Bellevue West recognized senior Naomi White for surpassing 1,000 career points earlier in the week, and she led the way against the Knights with 16 points and eight rebounds. The Grand Canyon commit went 4-for-4 from deep.
Senior Kenzie Melcher went 5-for-12 from deep for 15 points. Senior Ahnica Russell-Brown matched her with 15 points on 50% shooting and dished out six assists, most of which were for her teammates’ 3-pointers.
As a team, Bellevue West shot 13-of-25 from 3, offsetting a rough day inside the arc.
“Maybe we shouldn’t have shot layups and we should have just shot 3s tonight because that’s kind of the way it was going,” Bacon said. “I thought we missed a lot of bunnies, but we did shoot it well from 3 which helped us out.”
Southeast senior Nyaluak Dak was a handful for the Thunderbirds to deal with in the loss. The 6-foot-2 forward finished with 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting (3-of-6 from 3) and 17 rebounds, including four offensive.
BBB: No. 1 Bellevue West 72, No. 9 Lincoln Southeast 67
Story of the Game
The teams traded 3s early in the first, but Bellevue West surged ahead with a 13-0 run then stretched the lead out at 14 midway through the second quarter.
Southeast settled in from there and began chipping away at the deficit, however. Six different Knights scored in the third quarter as Southeast trimmed Bellevue West’s lead all the way down to two.
That’s when Bellevue West senior Jaden Jackson took over. The South Dakota State commit closed the third quarter on a personal 7-0 run capped by a steal and score plus a foul to put Bellevue West up 57-48 heading into the fourth.
“There towards the end of the third quarter, Jaden Jackson really kind of took over a little bit there, which is what he’s been doing a lot in practice, especially,” Bellevue West coach Steve Klein said. “That’s something commented to him about it the other day, I said, ‘This is what you have to do; when we get into a tough stretch, you have to get the ball and go take over a little bit and make plays for your team.’ And he did that, and it wasn’t just him shooting it. Driving it, dishing it and he was able to kind of get some shots to go there late in the third quarter.”
Stops were hard to come by in the fourth quarter as both teams made seven of their first eight shots from the field. However, Bellevue West left the door ajar with some struggles at the charity stripe (1-of-6 in the fourth) and Southeast made one last push. A steal and score from Mikey Ngoyi pulled Southeast within four with a minute to play, but the comeback ran out of steam and the Knights didn’t score again.
“Our first quarter was huge,” Klein said. “I thought we played really good defense in the first quarter, and we were hitting shots in the first quarter and that’s what got us separation. And then after that, we didn’t shoot the ball real well, for the rest of the game. We really didn’t. We made a lot of 2s which was huge, but for us to go 4-for-20 [from 3] is something we’ve talked about. Eventually, one of these games we’re not going to shoot well, and we have to have something to depend on. For the most part, we did a pretty good job on defense. That’s a really good team. Taye Moore is a very good player. Jake Hilkemann is a really good player, and Deng Giet and Mike Ngoyi are great complements for those guys. So those are four players that are really good and so to be able to come out with a win against that team I think is huge. I think Southeast played really, really well after the first quarter, and props to them. I thought our guys did too; they answered back for the most time.
“The only thing I’m kind of disappointed in is the last minute of the game and our free throws, and we’ve got to get better at that because we’re going to be in close games. We’re not going to beat teams by 20; these teams are too good. This is great for us to be in a close game towards the end of the year because this is the way it’s going to be.”
Jackson also received a basketball recognizing his 1,000th career point prior to the game and he went on to lead the Thunderbirds with 21 points on 8-of-10 from the field (2-of-3 from 3) and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line, four rebounds and two blocks. Senior Steven Poulicek added 13 points on 60% shooting, eight of which same in the fourth quarter. Junior Robby Garcia chipped in 10 points, five rebounds and three assists.
The Bellevue West bench was the difference, however. Seniors Isaiah McMorris and Jacob Arop scored 10 points apiece on a combined 9-of-12 shooting.
“Isaiah and Jacob played really well, both of them did,” Klein said. “Isaiah played really well tonight and he was engaged defensively and really did a good job on the ball, really getting his hands on stuff and being aggressive. And then that that corresponds to his offense for him, it really does.
“Jacob is just a handful inside. He’s kind of our unicorn, not a lot of people have something like that. And so we’ve got to keep taking advantage of that and he did a good job, especially in the first half have giving us some scores and some 2s around the hoop and did a good job with rebounding. So yeah, those two played a huge part coming off the bench for us.”
Senior Taye Moore led the Knights with 26 points on 10-of-17 from the filed, 4-of-10 from 3 and 2-of-2 from the line, making tough shot after tough shot. He scored all 11 of Southeast’s first quarter points to prevent the Knights from galling into an even deeper hole.
Ngoyi, a junior, got going in the second half as well and finished with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting (2-of-4 from 3) and 2-of-2 from the line with five rebounds.