Bunnies pick up road win over Vikings

Omaha Benson's Maurice Buckley goes coast-to-coast for a third quarter score in front of North's Brian Littlejohn.

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Staring up at a 10-point deficit in a game just more than two minutes old, Donnie Johnson had a simple message for his Omaha Benson squad.

“Just play,” Johnson said.

The Top 10 No. 5 Bunnies did just that, fighting back from the early hole and picking up a big 63-60 road win over sixth-ranked Omaha North Friday night in front of a reporter-estimated 1,100.

Benson has now won six of its last seven games after starting the season 5-4. The latest victory, however, didn’t come without a battle.

North came out firing, blowing out to a double-digit lead before most had even settled in, including the Bunnies.

“This is a family game,” Johnson said. “You’ve got mom, dad, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, friends … all of them are in the stands. I think we were overemotional.”

Johnson’s group came back with a 25-8 run and carried the momentum to halftime with a 36-29 lead.

But North used a late third-quarter spurt of its own to take a lead into the fourth, the exclamation point coming on a Zach Martin dunk at the buzzer for the Vikings’ first lead since early in the second.

After three ties and three lead changes through six minutes of the fourth, Benson did what it took in the final minute to leave with a win.

The Bunnies got a free throw from Mar’Shun Stewart, forced a North turnover, went up by three on a bucket by Danny Barfield, got a steal by Stewart and then put things away with two Maurice Buckley free throws with 6.5 seconds to play.

“With a good team like North, you’ve got to grind it out,” Johnson said. “Toughness, when things aren’t going your way. We’re getting better at that.”

Khyri Thomas led Benson with 19 points. Teammate Deion Wells-Ross added 14 points and seven rebounds for the Bunnies.

North’s Aireon Porter had game highs of 19 points and 15 rebounds. The senior forward had a strong outing despite battling foul trouble.

“When he had to sit, it kind of changed things a bit for us,” North coach Ryan Mlnarik said. “It made us play different defensively.”

North’s ultimate undoing, though, was at the foul line. The Vikings were 4 of 9 from the stripe in the final quarter, missing the front end of a one-and-one early in the fourth, a pair with a one-point lead midway through the frame, and one in the final 30 seconds that would have trimmed Benson’s lead to one.

The Vikings have now dropped three in a row.

“There it was,” Mlnarik said of free throws being the difference. “When you have two top (six) teams, it comes down to doing those things.”

Omaha Benson (11-5) ................. 13 23 11 16—63

At Omaha North (9-7) ................. 19 10 19 12—60

OB: Khyri Thomas 6-9 4-5 17, Byron Snoddy 1-3 0-0 3, Danny Barfield 1-3 0-0 2, Mar'Shun Stewart 1-4 1-4 4, Tyree Peter 3-5 0-0 7, Maurice Buckley 1-3 5-6 7, William Curtis 0-1 0-0 0, Deion Wells-Ross 6-9 1-1 14, Thik Bol 4-5 1-1 9 Totals 23-42 12-17 63.

ON: Justin Patton 4-11 0-0 8, Marquise Lewis 0-0 1-3 1, Kameron Bradford 3-7 0-2 7, Zach Martin 5-9 3-6 14, Taidor Bichiok 1-2 0-0 2, Davion Reed 2-7 2-4 7, Aireon Porter 6-17 7-8 19, Howard Glass 1-4 0-0 2 Totals 22-57 13-23 60.

3-point goals: OB 5-11 (Thomas 1-2, Snoddy 1-1, Barfield 0-2, Stewart 1-1, Buckley 0-1, Curtis 0-1, Peter 1-1, Wells-Ross 1-2); ON 3-10 (Bradford 1-4, Martin 1-3, Reed 1-2, Porter 0-1). Rebounds: OB 19 (Wells-Ross 7); ON 38 (Porter 15). Turnovers: OB 16, ON 15. Total fouls: OB 20, ON 18. Technical fouls: None. Fouled out: Thomas, Bradford. Field goal percentage: OB .548, ON .386. Free throw percentage: OB .706, ON .565. Att: 1,100 (est.).

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