Bryan broke a five-game losing streak Saturday with a 63-47 win over Bellevue East at Bryan High School.
The Bears used a 15-2 run over the final four minutes of the second quarter to build a 10-point lead at halftime.
With the Chieftains leading 22-19, Bryan’s Javen Udofia, who led all scorers with 20 points in the game, was fouled on a made layup and sank the ensuing free throw to tie the game with 3:59 to go.
Over the next five possessions, the Bears made four 3-pointers to close out the half with a 34-24 lead. William Worthington, who finished with 14 points, started the shooting onslaught. Udofia made the second trey and Keylyn Moses made the last two, which sandwiched a Tyler Nekola basket.
“We’re getting a lot better offensively with the way that we’re moving the ball and playing together,” Bryan coach Terrence O’Donnell said. “It’s kind of a new identity the last couple weeks.”
Even though the team was playing well offensively, O’Donnell said it was the Bears’ effort on defense that keyed the big push.
“We still are not a team that is going to go out, roll it out and out-score people,” O’Donnell said.
“We’ve got to defend. We’ve got athletes, and if we’re willing to finish those defensive possessions by rebounding and getting the ball out, then we can compete and that’s what you saw the second quarter when we got it back.”
Eric Lenear led Bellevue East with 17 points in the game, eight of which came in the first half. Majok Bethow added 13 points while Connor Sailors chipped in with 11.
The Bears continued to build their lead early in the third quarter, going on a 10-2 run to start the second half to claim a 44-26 advantage.
“We went in at half down 10, and it’s not the first time we’ve done that,” Chieftain coach Chad Mustard said. “And it was reasonable to think that we could come back, but then we give them four points early again on turnovers on our part, and it kind of takes the wind out.”
Mustard said the Chieftains failed to match up on defense and didn’t stick to the offensive game plan during the Bears’ runs during the middle of the game.
Since the Chieftains found themselves in a hole, Mustard said they were forced to shoot more 3-pointers than they normally would. Bellevue East finished 4-for-21 from beyond the arc, but Mustard said he wants to shoot 15 3s at most per game.
It’s an important win for the Bears because the team is so young and is learning how to go from merely competing in games to closing them out with victories.
“Obviously, (I’m) excited about the future,” O’Donnell said. “But (I’m) excited about right now, those guys (are) coming together, playing with confidence and learning how to get over that hump as ninth and 10th graders.”
That youth is why O’Donnell won’t take any victory for granted, no matter how big the lead.
Even though the Bears led by as many as 14 multiple times during the second half, he said he wasn’t sure the Bears were going to win until the final minutes of the game.
“Until that buzzer goes, I’m probably not going to feel like we’ve got anything won until it’s over,” O’Donnell said.
Bellevue East and Byran each suffered losses Friday night. Bellevue East lost to Class A No. 1 Omaha South 73-24 on Friday while Bryan lost to Millard South 51-42.
Majok Bethow and Connor Sailors led the Chieftains with six points each.
Moses paced the Bears with 12 points while Worthington added 11.
Trevion Crawford led the Bears with seven rebounds and three assists.