A defensive effort that allowed Millard North to create a balanced offensive game plan powered the Mustangs Friday to a 68-60 Metro Conference boys basketball victory.
In a recent loss to Omaha Creighton Prep, the Mustangs weren’t able to get much done in the lane and around the basket. That changed quickly against the Warriors, much to the delight of the capacity crowd of 2,100 at Millard North.
Millard North officials were told by Omaha police officers handling security duties that an estimated 200 people had to wait outside the school’s entrance once all of the seats had been filled.
Among those who were able to get seats before the doors were closed were coaches from Louisville and Connecticut. They were on hand to see Hunter Sallis, Millard North’s junior who is one of the nation’s top-rated players in the Class of 2021.
Sallis didn’t disappoint as he was one of the main cogs who helped No. 2 Millard North’s high-powered offense hold off a late charge by No. 6 Westside with four dunks and a tip-in during the final three minutes.
A pair of show-stopping dunks by Sallis and two more dunks by Max Murrell on long passes from Saint Thomas that broke Westside’s full-court press kept the Warriors from getting closer than four points.
Sallis and Jasen Green led Millard North with 18 points apiece, and Thomas chipped in 14 as Millard North shot 60.4% (29 of 48) from the field. The Mustangs outscored Westside 52-28 in the paint.
“We know people are preparing to use zone defenses against us,” Millard North coach Tim Cannon said. “We’re trying to get more people in low who are big people where we can get the ball over the zone to them.”
Westside coach Jim Simons said the Mustangs’ height and reach advantages are difficult to overcome because those looks can’t be duplicated in practice.
“We don’t even have guys tall enough to hold brooms up to match that,” said Simons, whose team also lost in overtime to Bellevue West on Tuesday. “Their length bothered us. It’s a huge factor, and it really makes a difference around the rim.”
While the Mustangs shot 53.8% in the first half, their second half performance was even better.
Millard North made 15 of its 22 second-half shots (68.2%), but the Mustangs needed all of those to keep the Warriors at bay. Westside outscored Millard North 39-34 in the final 16 minutes.
The game turned in Millard North’s favor late in the second quarter. The Mustangs led 15-14 at the end of the first quarter, and the lead changed hands five times in the first two minutes of the second quarter.
After taking a 20-19 lead on a layup by Reggie Thomas, Westside scored just one point the remainder of the quarter. Millard North went on a 15-1 run to flip momentum and take a 34-21 lead at intermission.
UNO signee Jadin Booth got on track after being limited to four points in the first half. The senior scored nine points in both the third and fourth quarters to lead all players with 22 points.
Cannon said some of Millard North’s rebounding advantage disappeared for a bit early in the fourth quarter as the Warriors forced four turnovers and began driving to the basket and drawing fouls.
“When they missed, we didn’t rebound,” Cannon said. “They got eight or 10 points there off of second shots. We weren’t very efficient in the half-court for awhile.”
Omaha Westside (8-4)......14 7 22 17—60
At Millard North (12-2)......15 19 19 15—68
OW: Jadin Booth 22, PJ Ngambi 13, Chandler Meeks 17, Reggie Thomas 5, Carl Brown 3.
MN: Saint Thomas 14, Jadin Johnson 6, Hunter Sallis 18, Jasen Green 18, Max Murrell 10, Noah Erickson 2.