In Omaha Skutt’s terminology, three straight defensive stops are called a kill.
There is no name for the 10 consecutive stops the top-ranked Skyhawks strung together over the final six minutes of the first half in Tuesday’s 67-48 Class B subdistrict victory over No. 8 Omaha Roncalli.
Call it what you wish. It was simply a game-changer.
The defensive stops fueled a 16-0 run that turned a six-point deficit into a 10-point lead as Skutt geared up for Saturday’s district final.
“We focus on defense when things aren’t going well,” said Skutt center TJ Skradski, who scored a game-high 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting. “It starts with our defense. That’s how we fuel our offense.”
Early on, there was no defense for the Crimson Pride, who seemed to be making every shot they took. When Alex Rodgers nailed his sixth field goal of the first half and Taiden Red nailed a 3 from the right corner with six minutes to go in the second quarter, Roncalli had a 29-23 lead and all the momentum.
Skutt coach Kyle Jurgens called perhaps the best timeout of the game at that point.
Roncalli was “making shots,” he said. “Nobody was panicked. Nobody was losing composure. They weren’t yelling at each other.”
The timeout coincided with the 10 straight defensive stops. Over the next six minutes, the Skyhawks (22-3) played as well as they have all season. Jackson Gordon stole an inbound pass around midcourt and drove for a layup that cut the lead to 29-28.
Austin Ash gave Skutt the lead for good on its next possession by hitting a pair of free throws. Tyson Gordon and Jacob Kudron followed stops with baskets that made it 34-29.
And then with a half-minute to play in the first half, Tyson Gordon ran the clock down and drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer that made it 37-29 at the break.
The final basket of the 16-0 run came on the first possession of the third quarter when Skradski took a pass inside from Jackson Gordon for an easy layup that made it 39-29 .
“We did a lot of nice things, but we did have that stretch where we didn’t make a basket,” Roncalli coach J.J. Stoffel said. “Letting them get a run with a six-point lead was tough. I think we’re a better team than that, but I’m not taking anything away from Skutt.”
The Crimson Pride (18-5) had no answer for Skradski, the 6-foot-6 post player. He hit on all six of his third-quarter shots, none of which were more than 2 feet from the basket.
The Skyhawks’ dribble penetration either led to an easy bounce pass inside to the big man or a pick-and-roll opportunity.
“I had pretty open looks,” Skradski said. “We knew they weren’t the best at defending ball screens. We kind of took advantage of that and got some open looks down low off of it.”
The Skyhawks grew the lead in the third quarter and then spent the fourth quarter spreading the floor and milking the clock. They took just six shots in the fourth period and were more content on long possessions that kept the ball away from Roncalli and eliminated any chance of the visitors getting back into the contest.
Omaha Roncalli (18-5)...........20 9 12 7—48
At Omaha Skutt (22-3)..........18 19 21 9—67
OR: Taiden Red 4-9 0-0 10, Justin Nierderle 1-1 1-1 3, Mitchell Hines 0-1 0-0 0, Jack Dotzler 3-11 2-2 8, Alex Rodgers 8-15 1-2 19, Shane Orr 0-2 0-0 0, Casey Keating 1-4 0-0 2, Dwayne Brown 1-1 0-0 2, Logan McGill 2-3 0-0 4, Nate Gorczyca 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 20-49 4-5 48.
OS: Andrew Merfeld 2-2 0-0 4, Grant Bertucci 1-2 2-2 5, Jackson Gordon 2-3 1-2 6, Tyson Gordon 5-7 2-2 14, Jacob Kudron 1-2 0-0 2, Austin Ash 3-6 3-3 10, Jacob Legleiter 0-1 0-0 0, Ryan McCormick 0-1 1-2 1, Zach Skar 1-1 0-0 2, Ryan Doble 1-0 0-0 3, TJ Skradski 10-12 0-0 20. Totals 26-39 9-11 67.
3-point shooting: Roncalli 4-16 (Red 2, Rodgers 2), Omaha Skutt 6-11 (T. Gordon 2, Bertucci, J. Gordon, Ash, Doble). Total Fouls: Roncalli 14, Omaha Skutt 11. Fouled out: none.