LINCOLN — Millard North rode a strong third quarter Thursday night to its ninth straight victory.

The top-ranked Mustangs built a big lead and hung on for a 60-54 win over No. 9 Lincoln Northeast. Millard North led by three at halftime but opened a 16-point advantage in that third period to put away the host Rockets.

“That third quarter was the key,” Millard North coach Dave Diehl said. “We were getting stops and making shots, but what a battle.”

The game was tied 10-10 after the first quarter before Millard North grabbed a 30-27 halftime lead. The Mustangs came out strong in the second half, outscoring Northeast 13-4 to move ahead 43-31.

That’s when Asia Bryant sank a pair of 3-pointers to help boost the lead to 16. The junior guard had made just eight shots all season from behind the arc.

“They have five players who shoot more than 35 percent from 3-point range, and she’s not one of them,” Rockets coach Steve Bartek said. “We sagged off of her, and she made us pay the price.”

As it turned out, the Mustangs needed those points. Northeast went on a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter to close within 57-54 with 1:07 left after a three-point play by McKenna Minter.

The Rockets fouled Lauren West, who made both ends of a one-and-one. She then made a steal at the other end and converted one more late free throw to seal the victory.

“Give them credit,” Diehl said. “They’re a really scrappy team and they didn’t go away.”

Northeast made it close despite the absence of senior guard Alieyya Jones, who suffered a sprained ankle early in the second quarter.

“She’s our best defender,” Bartek said. “She spent a lot of time on the bench, so I’m ecstatic we were able to battle back.”

The Rockets held their own during a tough portion of their schedule, playing four games in seven days. Northeast won twice, defeating No. 10 Omaha Benson and No. 5 Fremont.

“I like where we’re at,” Bartek said. “To play the No. 1 team in the state that close is a positive.”

West and Nicole Avila-Ambrosi each scored 15 to pace the Mustangs. West also had 10 rebounds, while Jayna Green chipped in 10 points and nine rebounds.

Minter scored a game-high 20 points for the Rockets before fouling out in the final minute.

“She’s so good that she’s going to get 20,” Diehl said of Minter. “You just can’t let her get 40.”

Millard North returns to action Friday night against visiting Omaha Northwest.

Northeast is idle until Feb. 15 when it hosts Norfolk.

Millard North (16-3)....................10 20 21 9—60

At Lincoln Northeast (13-6).........10 17 12 15—54

MN: Lexi Kraft 9, Lauren West 15, Addy Stalzer 3, Nicole Avila-Ambrosi 15, Jayna Green 10, Asia Bryant 6, Kaylee Kessler 2.

LNE: A’Iyana Jones 6, McKenna Minter 20, Jenna Wendelin 3, Alieyya Jones 4, Joliet Rinaker 2, Azaiya Trainor 12, Kambree Rhodes 7.

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Mike covers high school sports, primarily volleyball in the fall, girls basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. He also reports on horse racing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @MPattersonOWH. Phone: 402-444-1350.

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