It was Big Monday in the meat locker of Omaha West side's gym, but Anthony Bratton and his teammates were red-hot shooters.
The Warriors made 8 of 10 shots in the first quarter, 11 of 14 in the third and 7 of 9 in the fourth while pulling away to a 74-53 win over Millard West.
Even with Westside making 3 of 11 tries in the second quarter, it shot 66 percent for the game. Bratton was 13 of 16 — 81 percent — and the 6-foot-6 junior put up a stat line of 27 points, 14 rebounds (tying his season high) and six assists that was his best composite of the season.
"Our strength plays a little bit to their weakness," Westside coach Brian Nemecek said. "I thought we exploited at least the inside play a little bit tonight, and Anthony is obviously a load in there. He did a nice job. He's a capable passer, and he was a huge difference-maker.
"I thought he and AJ Meeks had really big second halves."
Meeks, who got to halftime with four points in a tie game, erupted for 10 in the third and finished with 20.
Class A No. 6 and Top 10 No. 7 Millard West (11-7), playing for the third time in four nights, saw its shooters ice up in the fourth quarter in the cold gym — so cold that some spectators and one sportswriter kept their coats on.
Trailing 52-46 after three quarters, the Wildcats went scoreless on 10 of their first 11 possessions and scored seven points in the frame. It allowed Class A No. 8 Westside (12-7) to go on a 15-2 run for a 67-48 lead, and soon the subs were in the game for both teams.
"We got down a little bit, and we didn't play very smart," Wildcats coach Bill Morrison said. "We got down a little more, and (Westside) picked up its intensity. Not to take anything away from them, but we took some bad shots."
Junior guard Shae Wyatt led Millard West with 21 points, including 14 of its 27 after halftime. None of his teammates hit more than one basket in the second half.
Bratton had a season high for assists, with nearly every one going for a 3-pointer.
Bratton said Westside practices having him double-teamed in the post to work on his passing skills. So Millard West's double teams weren't very effective.
Westside won the second half, Bratton said, after its coaches challenged the Warriors at the break to keep Millard West off the boards and lock down on defense. The Wildcats snagged five rebounds to Westside's 20 in the final 16 minutes.
Nemecek said Westside's defense has been inconsistent at times during the season.
"For some reason teams come into our gym and shoot well, but we really focused from a practice perspective on getting better defensively," he said.
"I thought we followed the game plan pretty well with their shooters. They have some dangerous guys out there who can make 3s from all over the places."
Just not Monday night in the meat locker.
USA Today ranks South 25th
Omaha South checked in at No. 25, its first time in the USA Today Super 25 national boys basketball ratings, after starting the season 20-0.
This might be a first for USA Today's rankings — South is included in two sets of regional rankings. The Packers are seventh in the Midwest and third in the Frontier region of the southwest and mountain states, which isn't supposed to include Nebraska teams,
The Packers' 9:15 p.m. opponent in Saturday's Heartland Hoops Classic in Grand Island, Aurora (Colorado) Overland, is sixth in the Frontier region.