LINCOLN — The first time Lincoln Southeast and Lincoln Southwest met this season, in December, the Knights needed a last-second 3-pointer to pull out a 48-45 win.
But Tuesday night, Southeast’s hot start did away with any similar drama in the District A-7 final.
The Knights hit their first eight shots, built a 24-point halftime lead, and cruised past No. 7 Southwest 75-60 in front of a packed house of 2,600 at Southwest’s gym. The win sends Southeast (16-8) to the Class A state tournament for the 20th time in school history and ends Southwest’s season at 16-9.
Na-Jee Jackson scored a game-high 22 points for Southeast and was one of seven Knights to score in the first quarter, where Southeast knocked down 10 of its 11 field-goal attempts.
“We knew the only way were going to beat Southwest was to play as a team, so that’s what we tried to do,” Jackson said.
“Coach gave us a great game plan. He said to just go out and move, swing the ball around to find the open person, and that’s what it did.”
Southeast led 17-9 before missing its first shot, and it still scored on that possession as Zak Wormley grabbed the offensive rebound leading to Jake Potthoff’s lay-in.
The Knights led 21-11 after one period, but put the game away with a 16-2 blitz in the second quarter when Southwest missed all 12 of its field goal attempts. Southeast hit 4 of 5 3-pointers in the quarter to lead 37-13 at halftime.
Southeast coach Jeff Smith said as impressive as the Knights’ first-half performance was on offense, his team’s job defensively on Silver Hawks’ leading scorer Reid Williams was just as important. Williams was one of three Silver Hawks to finish with 11 points, but he went scoreless in the first half while missing all seven of his shots.
“Luke Gifford did a great job on Williams,” Smith said. “We just didn’t want him to get going.
“Luke gave up a lot of his offensive game to guard him.”
BJ Day added 13 points, and Jake Nannen scored 11 for Southeast, which shot 61 percent from the floor (28 of 46). Gifford and Clayton Peterson also each added nine.
Southwest found its offense in the second half, scoring 47 points after halftime, but never cut the lead to less than 15 points. Easton Edmond and Brayden Young each scored 11 to tie Williams for the Silver Hawks’ team lead, and Gunnar Peterson had 10.
Southwest coach Duane Baack said his club seemed to come out of the locker room nervous to start the game and couldn’t rally from the slow start.
“It was pretty physical there at the beginning, and we didn’t adjust to it,” Baack said. “Our kids fought in the second half. The ball wasn’t bouncing our way very often, and part of that is you create your own luck and our kids were playing scared.”
Southeast has won five straight heading into the state tournament, where the Knights will likely be seeded sixth with a first-round game against No. 3 Papillion-La Vista, and Jackson said Tuesday’s win puts the Knights in the right frame of mind heading to the Devaney Center.
“I think this was the best game we’ve played all season, going into state, and this is what we needed,” Jackson said. “This will spark us going into the state tournament. Only thing we were trying to do is come out here, hope for the best, and make it to Devaney.”
Lincoln Southeast (16-8)...............21 16 16 22—75
Lincoln Southwest (16-9)..............11 2 18 29—60
LSE: Na-Jee Jackson 22, BJ Day 13, Jake Nannen 11, Luke Gifford 9, Clayton Peterson 9, Aaron Walker 5, Jordan Ackerman 4, Jake Potthoff 2.
LSW: Brayden Young 11, Easton Edmond 11, Reid Williams 11, Gunnar Peterson 10, Jordan Brown 8, Jesse Lee 6, Jonathan Freese 2, Tyler Hoppes 1.
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