Story of the Game
Both teams shot over 50% from the field and from 3 with single-digit turnovers in a showcase of tremendous offensive basketball.
Westside led for much of the first half, taking a six-point edge into halftime. The Dragons rallied in the third quarter to take the lead late in the period before junior Carson Healy and senior Kevin Stubblefield knocked down 3s to make it 56-53 Warriors heading into the fourth.
Westside extended the lead to six before a three-point play from Landon Pokorski and a 3-pointer from Alex Wilcoxson evened it up at 66-all midway through the period. Westside slowed things down a bit as Gretna switched back and forth between 3-2 and 2-3 zones, but the Warriors made plays late in the shot clock for a Rickey Loftin layup and 3s from Maddox Anderson and Tyson Odvody to make it an eight-point game with just over two minutes to play.
The Dragons weren’t done yet, answering with an 8-2 run including a pair of 3s from Wilcoxson — the second off the dribble with a hand in his face — to make it a two-point game. Westside used up all of the shot clock on the next possession and had to settle for a prayer at the buzzer that bounced hard off the rim and triggered a Gretna fast break. Pokorski got the ball to Wilcoxson who went for the lead with a deep 3, but it don’t go down.
Caleb Benning grabbed the rebound and split a pair of free throws to make it a three-point game and the Warriors defended Pokorski well, forcing him into a double-clutch heave at the buzzer that didn’t have a chance.
Gretna shot 52.8% from the field including 52.6% (10-of-19) from 3, but it wasn’t enough as the Warriors shot a blistering 59.6% including 60% (12-of-20) from deep.
“Really good high school basketball game, I thought,” Westside coach Jim Simons said. “Two teams that are obviously senior-reliant, senior-driven that seniors stepped up and made a lot of plays. Obviously our seniors made a bunch of big shots in big moments. Every time we started to get a little bit of separation, Pokorski I thought in the first half was really, really tough on us. We made a little adjustment at halftime and tried not to switch as much as we normally do and tried to keep Caleb on him, which I thought Caleb did as good a job on him as you can do in the second half … I thought it screwed up some of our other rotations and we lost Alex too many times and gave Alex some open 3s.
“And then we have to do a better jobs on the boards and in transition defense. On a positive note, we made a lot of big plays. When they made that run late in the third quarter, there were probably a lot of people thinking we were going to go away. For our guys, Carson hits a huge 3 after having kind of a rough stretch there and Kevin hits a tough 3 at the end of the quarter and then Maddox Anderson hit a two big 3s off the bench that were huge for us. We’ve said all along we may not have who people consider to be the best player but I really like our eight-man rotation. I think we’ve got eight guys who can really play and our depth can hopefully help us there. We’re getting four, five, six guys in double figures which is big.
“Just a hell of a high school basketball game. Two teams with a bunch of seniors, but like we told our guys, it’s December. It was fun, it was competitive and now you move on to what’s next.”
Stubblefield, a 6-foot-4 forward, led the Warriors with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting (2-of-2 from 3) and seven rebounds. Senior point guard CJ Mitchell scored 17 points on 6-of-9 from the field (3-of-3 from 3) and 3-of-4 from the foul line.
Loftin, a senior guard, scored eight of his 15 in the fourth quarter, shooting 5-of-9 overall including 2-of-3 from deep and 3-of-4 from the charity stripe. He added three assists and a block.
Benning, a Nebraska football defensive back commit, chipped in 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, five assists and four rebounds with his future head coach in Matt Rhule and position coach Evan Cooper in the crowd.
The Warriors, who returned three starters from last year, avenged a 59-43 loss at Gretna from a season ago that saw Westside shoot 36% from the field.
“We have a bunch of kids who have played a lot of varsity basketball … and there are not a lot of times that you have that luxury and there’s not a lot that they haven’t seen,” Simons said. “Gretna is always going to throw stuff out that you maybe haven’t seen or really make you think, but those four guys have played a ton of basketball. Obviously Rickey didn’t play last year, but I told them afterwards, I thought last year the game out at Gretna, Gretna’s juniors outplayed our juniors. I think that might have been one of the themes of the game, and they did and that’s why Gretna won the game pretty comfortably. I don’t know if I’d say ours outplayed theirs because Landon and Alex were awfully good, but our four were really, really good tonight.”
Pokorski put the Dragons on his back early while Wilcoxson took over late.
Wilcoxson scored 12 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter with three triples and a three-point play. He shot 8-of-17 (5-of-10 from 3) and 4-of-4 from the line overall. Pokorski wasn’t far behind, finishing with 24 points on 10-of-17 from the field (2-of-4 from 3) and 2-of-3 from the line with nine assists.
Senior Kade Cook notched a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds while fellow senior Alec Wilkins just missed his own with nine points and nine boards.