LINCOLN — My checklist was satisfied for Millard North’s opening night against an overmatched opponent. As many will be the next couple of years.
Improvement? Vast. Night and day.
Defense? It was played with energy, length and quickness. Seventeen turnovers and a 17-0 advantage in points off turnovers are evidence.
The alpha man, the take-charge guy? Hunter Sallis.
With NU coach Fred Hoiberg eyeing Sallis (6-4) and Jasen Green (6-7) — both holding offers from him — and Stanford in the house for new signee Max Murrell (6-9) and getting the bonus plan watching the other two, the preseason No. 1 Mustangs took apart Lincoln High 84-40 Thursday night.
Sallis had 26 points on 10 of 17 shooting, new starter Saint Thomas (6-5) had 19 points with three 3s, Noah Erickson (6-6) had 12 points and Green had 11.
So did opening night pass muster with Millard North coach Tim Cannon?
“I always just want to get better,” he said. “I saw, when we wanted to play, a lot of possessions and getting up and down the court. I know you can’t do that with everybody all the time, but that’s how we’re trying to play.
“What I really liked was we had 14 assists on 17 baskets in the first half. I loved our bench yelling and screaming from the opening gun, accepting the fact that I don’t start but I can do something over here.”
The start was a little slow. Two minutes in, Cannon needed a timeout in a 4-4 game as Lincoln High was the team with more energy. Sallis said the message was to take the home crowd out of it while staying calm and just playing.
“We have a really big target on our backs, so really every game you got to come out strong,’’ Sallis said. “Our big focus this year is really just playing every game the same way.”
This team can come at you in waves. Sallis saw 22 minutes, the most of the eight-man rotation. No one had less than 13. As improved as anyone is Thomas, who had his 19 points in 19 minutes. He was 7 of 8 as the Mustangs shot 59%, including 45% on 3-pointers.
“It was fun playing with our new team that we have,’’ the 6-foot-5 junior said. “We ran a lot, played good defense, talked.”
The Mustangs came close to their single-game record of 89 points, set against Omaha Central in 1991, and the clock ran continuously for the fourth quarter after Millard North led 73-32. The 44-point win has to be close to being a first for the program, and it may not be the last this season or next.
Lincoln High’s bright spot was its one returning starter. Jaxson Barber had 22 points.
Next up for Millard North is a 2:45 p.m. home game Saturday against No. 8 Papillion-La Vista South, which beat Grand Island 75-50. The Titans used a 29-point third quarter to pull away as Jared Mattley’s 16 points led four double-figure scorers.
Lincoln Pius X 58, Omaha Creighton Prep 56
Sam Hoiberg’s layin — left-handed — with 3.5 seconds left lifted Pius X to its first win over the Junior Jays since 1966 in a noncontinuous series. Prep had won three times in the previous two seasons.
Hoiberg and his twin, Charlie, were playing for Pius for the first time since their dad became Husker basketball coach.
“I knew it’s a really storied program, with a state championship last year, and I just want to come in and help any way could, serve any role I had to,’’ said Sam, who had 15 points. Charlie didn’t score. They are juniors.
Spencer Schomers, who beat Pius X last year on a last-second shot, had a shot on the run rim out at the buzzer this time.
Hoiberg had gotten the ball for the Thunderbolts’ last shot, but had it blocked by Prep’s Justin Sitti. He grabbed the rebound and flipped it in. He said it was his first game-winner since he hit a 3 in fifth grade.
Kolbe Rada led Pius with 23 points. AJ Rollins paced Prep with 19.
Millard North (1-0).......26 22 25 11—84
At Lincoln High (0-1)......9 8 15 8—40
MN: Hunter Sallis 26, Saint Thomas 19, Noah Erickson 12, Jasen Green 11, Max Murrell 8, Tyler Sandoval 5, Jadin Johnson 3.
LH: Jaxson Barber 22, JaReese Lott-Buzby 6, Antonio Murrillo 6, Simon Perkins 2, Jaxon Eddie 2, Brynn Bradley 2.
Papillion-La Vista South (1-0)......18 12 29 16—75
Grand Island (0-1).......................12 13 12 13—50
PS: Jared Mattley 16, Tyler Culp 3, Josiah Beckenhauer 6, Devyn Jones 3, Daniel Brocaille 13, Ian Medeck 3, Graham Cassoutt 11, Daniar Dempsey 12, Tyler Lee 8.
GI: Them Koang 26, Isaac Traudt 16, Jay Gustafson 7, Broc Douglass 1.
Omaha Creighton Prep (0-1)....10 18 15 13—56
At Lincoln Pius X (1-0).............15 12 18 13—58
CP: Justin Sitti 7, Brendan Buckley 2, Spencer Schomers 13, AJ Rollins 19, Mai’Jhe Wiley 10, Alex Bullock 2, Will Manhart 3.
LPX: Kolbe Rada 23, Sam Hoiberg 15, Luke Taubenheim 5, Sam Hastreiter 10, Jake Greisen 2, Tayden Gentrup 1, Blake Daberkow 2.