World-Herald correspondent Jacob Padilla is at the Iowa West Fieldhouse in Council Bluffs for Midwest Live Omaha this weekend. Among the local club teams participating in the tournament during the second live recruiting period of the spring are Thunder Elite, Team Nebraska Express, Nebraska Select, Hoffman’s Hoops Academy, Omaha Sports Academy Regional teams, Team Factory and Omaha EYCE.
Pool play began Saturday afternoon with the bracket portion starting Saturday night for the 15U division and on Sunday for the older divisions. Game recaps, analysis and more will be added throughout the day.
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>> KC Magic 17U 70, TNE 17U 65: TNE built up a 10-point lead in the second half but some turnovers and missed shots down the stretch cost it as KC Magic came back to win 70-65. Unsigned senior Esahia Nyiwe (Omaha Northwest) was the best player on the floor in the first half and finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. His high school teammate Isaiah Jones added 12 points including two three-point plays. TNE bounced back to beat Team Iowa Blue 75-65 in its second game.
>> HHA 17U 106, Iowa Cornsharks Select 17U 59: HHA shot the lights out and hit triple digits even without the final two minutes because of the 20-point lead mercy rule. Hoffman’s shot over 65 percent from the field for the game and six players reached double figures scoring led by Dillon Faubel (Treynor, Iowa) with 26 and Chance Sterling (Gretna) with 20. Hoffman's cooled off in the second game, however, dropping a 62-57 game in a physical match-up with KC Elite 2018.
>> Thunder Elite Platinum 16U 80, Iowa Mavericks Purple 16U 51: All 12 players scored for Thunder Elite as they blew out an overmatched Iowa Mavericks squad. Malcolm Whitlow (Lincoln Northeast) led the way with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals. Javen Udofia (Omaha Bryan) added 12 points, five boards, three assists and two steals. TJ Skradski (Omaha Skutt) pitched in 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting. In its second pool play game, Thunder Elite blew by Team Iowa Silver 104-43 to advance to the championship bracket.
>> OSA Zimmer 16U 52, Iowa Elite 16U 30: OSA Zimmer bounced back from a 20-point loss in its first game to dominate Iowa Elite to finish pool play 1-1. Millard North’s Jake Meade lived at the free-throw line in the first half, shooting 7-of-8 and scoring 15 of OSA’s 32 first-half points. Devin Thomas (Millard West) took over in the second half and finished with 10 points and seven rebounds for the game.
>> TNE 16U 76, Thunder Elite Gold 16U 47: TNE closed out pool play with a 2-0 record thanks to a near-30-point win over Thunder Elite’s second team. John Tonje (Omaha Central) got TNE off to a quick start with nine first-half points and Phillip Cude (Omaha Burke) took over in the second to finish with 20 points. Chris Hickman (Omaha Burke) was a difference-maker on defense with multiple steals and three blocks and set up his teammates for easy looks as well. He finished with 13 boards. Amauri Pesek-Hickson rejoined the team after starting the season with the Iowa Barnstormers.
» Hoffman’s Hoops Elite and TNE advanced to the 17U championship bracket with 1-1 records. HHA will take on Iowa Mavericks Orange at 8 a.m. on Sunday, while TNE will play against KC Elite 2018, also at 8 a.m.
» Thunder Elite Platinum 16U will play at 8 a.m. against Iowa Cornsharks Select in the 16U championship bracket. On the other side of the bracket, TNE 16U will take on Omaha EYCE 15U (playing up a grade level) at 8 am.
» In the 15U division, Team Factory won its three games by an average of 26.7 points to advance to the semifinals at 10:10 a.m. Tyson Gordon (Omaha Skutt) scored 15, 26 and 18 points in Team Factory’s three wins.
» Coaches from Doane and Concordia were present during the day watching Hoffman’s Hoops Academy’s Chance Sterling (Gretna) and Zach Rust (Elmwood-Murdock). They also took in Thunder Elite Platinum’s first win among other games.
» Esahia Nyiwe (Omaha Northwest) was impressive for TNE 17U with a combination of high-flying dunks, jump shots off the dribble and a handful of rebounds and blocks, all at 6-foot-9. Nyiwe will attend The Skills Factory next year, the same prep school that former Omaha Burke forward Wanjang Tut attended this year and with another year to build up more strength and polish up his skills, he should have plenty of options next season.
» Thunder Elite Platinum 16U looked very sharp again this week and look like the favorites to take the 16U title. They have tremendous athleticism on the perimeter as well as two talented posts, making them a nightmare for opposing teams. Thunder Elite could potentially matchup with another local team if the winner of TNE 16U and Omaha EYCE 15U manages to make it through the semifinals as well.
» Omaha EYCE 15U challenged itself by playing up a grade level yet still managed to make it to the championship bracket on point differential despite dropping a close one to end the day. EYCE features a few players with varsity experience in John Shanklin and Louis Fidler (Bellevue West), but it was eighth-grader Chucky Hepburn (playing against kids two years older than he is) who EYCE turned to down the stretch to make the plays in a tight game. Keep an eye on Hepburn over the next few years as he is likely to make an early impact for the Thunderbirds.
» Team Factory is loaded with freshmen that have varsity and junior varsity experience for good programs, and it showed on Saturday as they made short work of their competition. Team Factory should have a strong chance of taking the 15U title home to Omaha on Sunday.