Nathan Jatczak made a 3-pointer with one minute remaining in the fourth quarter Saturday as the Papillion-La Vista South Titans held on to win 58-55 over Lincoln North Star.
The Titans led 41-21 midway through the third quarter, building their lead on nine 3-pointers in the first half, but the Navigators, led by the 1-2 punch of Logan Cale and Triston Simpson, marched back into the game and took a 53-52 lead with 2:33 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Simpson finished with 24 points and was 7-of-7 from the free throw line while Cale scored 26 and was 6-for-8 from behind the arc.
Leading 52-51 with under three minutes to go, Papio South turned the ball over and Simpson made two free throws to give the Navigators their first lead of the game.
After a Jimmy Nekola basket gave the lead back to the Titans, the Navigators re-took the lead on two more free throws, putting the Titans down 55-54.
Jatczak hit what proved to be the decisive 3-pointer, but there was lots of drama afterwards. On the ensuing possession, Zach Bussard, who finished with a team-high 16 points and six rebounds, blocked a shot in the lane to force a jump ball, which gave the Titans the ball with 44.9 seconds remaining. Bussard missed the second attempt of a 1-and-1 to give North Star the ball with a three-point deficit. The Navigators missed the field goal attempt and Nekola grabbed the rebound.
Nekola was immediately fouled and missed the front end of his 1-and-1 to give North Star one last chance to tie the game, but its 3-point attempt at the buzzer missed.
Ryan Daugherty scored 14 points while Quintin Van Ackeren scored nine.
As a team, the Titans shot 52 percent (13-for-25) from beyond the arc with nine of those makes coming in the first half. Daugherty scored nine points in the first half on three 3s.
The Titans scored the game’s first eight points and went into the locker room ahead 33-18.
While the Titans only committed eight turnovers in the game, coach Joel Hueser said North Star got the Titans to commit key turnovers in the third and fourth quarters by speeding up the pace of the game.
“When times like that arise we need to be able to recognize it and make sure we slow our game down and be very intentional with our spacing and with our post touches for Zach (Bussard),” Hueser said. “When we get the ball inside and go inside-outside, that’s where we’re the best at shooting the 3.”
The win improved the Titans’ record to 5-11 after starting the season 1-8, and Hueser said pulling out a win despite blowing a big lead showed the team’s toughness.
“This team needs to continue to tap into its resilience,” Hueser said. “It’s been a hard, hard grind the first half of the season, and now we’re looking at a stretch of games where we’re very comparable to our opponent.”
On Friday night, the Titans endured their toughest test of the season against Class A No. 1 Omaha South.
The Titans lost 58-34 and Van Ackeren led the team with 11 points.