Josh Luedtke watched his team lead No. 9 Omaha Westside from start to finish Tuesday night.
The Omaha Creighton Prep coach just wishes his third-ranked Junior Jays hadn’t made things so interesting in the final minutes.
Westside whittled its deficit to four points in the final 30 seconds before Creighton Prep secured a 67-60 home win.
“I thought there were two different teams that played tonight,” Luedtke said of his own squad. “The team in the first half played with a lot of energy, with some excitement. And then in the second half, we got up 14 and it was like, ‘OK, this is going to be easy.’ We can’t do that. We got to play 32 minutes.
“I was not happy with the 32 minutes we got tonight. ... We got the W, but we did not play the way we need to play to get better.”
Prep’s good start was sparked by junior forward Akol Arop. He scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds — four on the offensive end — in the first quarter. He finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Arop’s dunk to end the first quarter made it 19-13, and then Jayden Temme and Thomas Faber combined for five 3-pointers in the second quarter as Prep stretched the lead to 40-28 by halftime.
But Westside never let the Junior Jays get away in the second half. The problem for the Warriors was they couldn’t do enough to get their deficit below seven points until the final minute.
“I thought we played really hard. Our focus and attention to detail and discipline on some things wasn’t where it needed to be to beat a team like they are,” Westside coach Jim Simons said. “But I don’t question how hard we played.”
Westside was within seven in the closing seconds of the third quarter before Jaylin Hunter scored on a layup. Then Arop stole a pass at midcourt and put down a one-handed dunk just before the buzzer to make it 53-42.
“I thought we just couldn’t quite get over that hump,” said Simons, whose team also hurt itself by going 2 of 7 at the foul line in the third quarter.
Prep had its biggest lead of the game at 60-46 with three minutes left when Westside made a final push.
The Warriors cut the margin to 64-58 with 41 seconds left when sophomore guard Jadin Booth hit three free throws after being fouled shooting a 3. Booth led Westside with 18 points.
After a missed free throw — Prep was 6 of 12 at the line in the final quarter — Booth scored in the paint with 28 seconds left to make it 64-60. The Warriors nearly got a steal with their press, but Prep maintained possession and hit 3 of 4 free throws after that.
Besides Arop’s 21 points, Temme added 12 points, including 11 in the first half. Chase Thompson chipped in 16 points and four rebounds for Westside.
Westside came into Prep on a roll after knocking off Omaha Burke and Grand Island over the weekend to improve to 6-6.
“We’re on the right path,” Simons said.
Meanwhile, Tuesday was the start of a challenging week for the Junior Jays. They play at 6-8 Millard North on Friday before going to No. 2 Omaha Central on Saturday. Central handed Creighton Prep its lone loss on Jan. 3 during the Metro Conference holiday tournament.
“We have to come to play every night,” Luedtke said. “(Tonight) was a good win on a Tuesday night, but it wasn’t our best effort.”
Omaha Westside (6-7)..............13 15 14 18—60
At Creighton Prep (12-1)...........19 21 13 14—67
OW: Jadin Booth 5-11 8-9 18, Aaron Mischo 2-4 0-2 5, Dylan Plautz 1-3 0-2 2, PJ Ngambi 7-12 0-1 14, Chase Thompson 6-11 2-4 16, Carl Brown 1-2 0-0 2, Damond Ross 0-0 1-2 1, Cal Weidemann 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 23-45 11-20 60.
CP: Akol Arop 10-12 1-3 21, Spencer Moes 1-2 3-6 5, Kyle Luedtke 2-9 4-4 8, Grant Matthies 1-4 0-0 2, Thomas Faber 3-4 0-0 9, Jayden Temme 4-8 1-2 12, Jaylin Hunter 3-5 4-8 10. Totals 24-44 13-23 67.
3-point goals: OW 3-17 (Thompson 2-6, Mischo 1-2, Brown 0-1, Ngambi 0-2, Plautz 0-2, Booth 0-4); CP 6-17 (Faber 3-4, Temme 3-7, Matthies 0-1, Hunter 0-1, Luedtke 0-4). Rebounds: OW 24 (Mischo, Ngambi 5); CP 27 (Arop 12). Turnovers: OW 11, CP 8. Total fouls: OW 17, CP 14. Fouled out: none. Att: 1,000 (est.)