A month ago, Gretna might not have been able to win a topfive matchup on a night when its top scorer was feeling ill.
So Tuesday's 57-50 win at Omaha Skutt testifies to how Class B's No. 1 team has grown since the Dragons lost power forward Isaiah Workman to a freak ankle injury in early January.
"Guys have accepted new roles to fill, and that's a credit to them," Gretna coach Brad Feeken said, "because it's not always easy when you lose a major part of your team."
The new-look Dragons, he said, are faster. Their guards are playing really well. Tyler Sullivan and sophomore Joey Johnson are contributing when they get in the game. Emmitt Knight can spark them with defense.
Jared Samuelson, who's averaging 17 points a game, had 11 of his 12 points in the first half. He was scoreless, missing three 3-point tries, before going 1 of 2 at the line to end the scoring.
Feeken said the 6-2 senior "was under the weather."
Trey Brown, a 6-6 junior, took over in the second half as he scored 13 of his team-high 15 points and finished with a gamehigh 10 rebounds.
Ty Duin, Gretna's steady-handed point guard, had 12 points, and Zach Imig scored all six of his points in the final quarter. Johnson added 10.
Brown hadn't played well the past couple of games, Feeken said, "but really stepped up tonight and kind of came into his own." Duin is among those whose role has changed.
Gretna (20-1), which is ranked fourth in the all-class Top 10, forced Skutt to play catch-up all night as it avenged its only loss from the season's opening weekend.
After the No. 5 SkyHawks opened the game with a putback, they missed their final eight shots of the quarter while enduring a string of six turnovers in a row. Gretna came out in a 3-2 zone with some tweaks that Feeken said were made by assistant coach Bill Heard.
"We put ourselves into too big a hole early," said Skutt coach Kyle Jurgens, whose team fell to 18-3. "We had to take care of the ball, and when you do that to start the game against that good of a team, you're playing catchup from there. And they're hard to play catch-up against."
Skutt counted 16 second-chance points for Gretna.
"When we got it to a number where we were getting close and needed a stop, we just couldn't get a rebound, and then you're giving a really good team another chance, and usually it doesn't turn out very good for you, either," Jurgens said.
Alec Zajicek tried to be the shovel to dig Skutt out of the hole. The 6-3 senior forward made four 3s while scoring a game-high 24 points on 9-of11 shooting. Jurgens said he couldn't remember any SkyHawk this season scoring more than 18 in a game.
"Hope this gets a little confidence going for him," Jurgens said.
Skutt played its second game without 6-6 senior Jake Billerbeck, who's out with mono. Nick Bouda, their other starting post player, scored seven of his 11 points in the third quarter.
Gretna led by 10 at halftime and didn't let the SkyHawks get closer than six until Zajicek hit a 3 and then had a backcourt steal and score to trail only 5450 with 34 seconds left.
Imig made two free throws for a six-point lead, and Samuelson made one after Zajicek had an off-balance 3 rim out.
Skutt girls edge Dragons
Skutt got 22 points from Anna Bellinghiere, including 17 in the first half, and Tara Cannon made two key free throws after a steal for a two-possession lead late in the Class B No. 10 SkyHawks' 66-63 win over No. 6 Gretna.
"With about four minutes left, we were saying on the bench even if we lost, this was a great game," Skutt coach Marty Plum said. "Both teams shot well, both moved the ball around well."
Gretna (15-6) got to 64-63 on a 3 by Lauren Leapley, then Bellinghiere made two free throws with 10 seconds left. Gretna missed two free throws and Skutt one before Maddie Meadows, who led Gretna with 20 points, was wide of the rim on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Bellinghiere "was due for a big game," Plum said.
The win ended a two-game losing streak for Skutt, which hosts Top 10 No. 1 South Sioux City on Friday.