Omaha Bryan avoided the early knockout Thursday night in a 59-50 loss to preseason No. 4 Omaha Benson.
The Bears were going up against a much more experienced fighter in the opening-round game of the OPS Jamboree on their home court. They have no returning starters, while Benson has four.
The Bunnies built an 11-point lead by halftime and were ahead 42-26 midway through the third quarter to chase Bryan out of its 1-2-2 zone into man-to-man defense.
It hurt Benson and helped Bryan. The zone lulled Benson into standing around, Bunnies coach Donnie Johnson said, and it didn't react well to the Bears' switch.
“We've had limited practice time,” Johnson said. “We're seeing things and having to work on them in games.
“At the end, we got down and guarded. We got a couple big defensive stops.”
Evan Drake, a senior transfer from Papillion-La Vista who led the Bears with 14 points, had five in a 7-0 run that cut the Bunnies' lead to 42-33. Benson scored the last six points of the third quarter for a 50-36 lead, but Bryan got those points back to start the fourth and closed to 57-50 on a Kaliq Johnson free throw with 2:29 left.
Once Thik Bol, Benson's 6-foot-8 junior center, dunked on Benson's next possession, neither team scored in the final 2:22.
“We have only two guys who have played much on varsity, Drake and Ju-Wan Bufford,” Bryan coach Tim Cannon said. “We have to improve our passing.”
William Curtis led Benson with three 3-pointers and 13 points. Kyhri Thomas had two 3s and 12 points as Benson was 9 of 18 on 3s. In the first half, it scored 21 consecutive points on the three-ball.
Bryan, meanwhile, missed its first seven free throws before making 10 of its final 11.
The Bunnies' opponent in Saturday's 2:45 p.m. title game at Omaha South will be the preseason No. 2 Packers.
“I'm expecting to see a track meet,” coach Johnson said. “South wants to get up and down the floor.”
Omaha Benson (1-0)......................17 16 17 9—59
At Omaha Bryan (0-1).......................10 12 14 14—50
Ben: William Curtis 13, Khyri Thomas 12, Brandon Reed 7, Thik Bol 6, Mar'Shun Stewart 5, Danny Barfield 3, Tyree Peter 4, Deion Ross-Wells 4, Maurice Buckley 5.
Bry: Evan Drake 14, Kaliq Johnson 12, Darnell Hunter 9, Ojouk Thok 7, Tesloach Jiech 7, Goy DuLuony 4, Ju-Wan Bufford 3, J.J. Williams 4.
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