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SkyHawks win, but both teams see benefits from matchup

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Neither coach was completely satisfied with the way his team handled Saturday’s hotly contested clash between Omaha Skutt and Sioux City Heelan.

By game’s end, however, both were raving about the toughness their teams displayed.

Heelan rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit to force overtime, but senior Alec Zajicek’s go-ahead three-point play with 40.9 seconds remaining in the extra session gave the SkyHawks a 65-63 victory.

“We needed to be in a situation like this where we’re tested late in the game,” Skutt coach Kyle Jurgens said. “Obviously there were some adverse situations that happened. I was proud of our guys. I thought we showed some good mental toughness in making plays late.”

Top 10 No. 8 and Class B No. 1 Skutt improved to 11-0 while Heelan dropped to 7-3.

Both teams struggled to keep their composure. With 3:38 left in regulation, Heelan’s DeAndre Burnside and Skutt’s Matt Harrison were ejected for fighting. Burnside, a 6-foot senior, entered with a 24.4 scoring average and led Heelan with 17 points.

With 1:30 left in the first quarter, Harrison and Burnside hit the floor hard battling for possession, and Harrison took exception. Skutt’s Nick Bouda came off the bench onto the floor and was whistled for a technical. The 2015-16 NFHS rulebook states he also should have been ejected, but wasn’t.

“These guys care about each other a lot,” Jurgens said. “They have each others’ backs. They’ve got to handle it a certain way when it happens, but they see things happen to their teammates and it affects them, because this group collectively cares for each other.”

The on-court play was riveting. Christian Banker’s 3 gave Skutt a 59-57 lead with 2:35 left in regulation. Jack Boever’s free throws tied it with 1:16 left. Skutt held for the last shot, but Michael White lost possession on a drive and Elijah Hazekamp’s three-quarter-court shot was just off, sending the teams to OT.

Zajicek buried a 3 nine seconds into the extra frame. Ryan Moore’s nifty feed led to a Hazekamp layup, giving the Crusaders a 63-62 lead with 1:30 remaining. That set the stage for Zajicek’s tough runner from the left side in which he was fouled, and gave the SkyHawks a 65-63 edge.

Both teams missed the front ends of 1-and-1s in the final 30.2 seconds, giving Heelan one final chance to tie or win. But Moore’s floater from about 6 feet clanged off the rim.

“I don’t really care if people say, ‘You’re great shooters or great drivers,’” Jurgens said. “The biggest compliment we can get is that we’re tough. We want to be the toughest team out on the floor, physically and mentally, and we got tested in both tonight.”

Jake Billerbeck led Skutt with 15 and Zajicek, who played five games last year after breaking his ankle, added 14.

“We’ve got to stay composed,” Zajicek said. “We did a good job at the end.”

Said Jurgens: “His confidence, I would say in the last three weeks, has just skyrocketed. It was nice to see that he wanted the ball in his hands in those situations.”

Hazekamp added 16 points and nine rebounds for Heelan, which had beaten Orange City Unity Christian 76-43 Friday.

“I guarantee we’re tougher right now than we were three hours ago,” Heelan first-year coach Andy Foster said. “And we’re a closer team. This is a teachable moment, for myself and for the players. We can’t let this kind of thing rattle us. It’s going to be a physical game, and if it’s going to be a physical game, we cannot retaliate.

“We’re growing. I said in the locker room, ‘I’ve never said the words, that was a good loss. But that was a good loss.’”

Sioux City Heelan (7-3) ...........................................  9 18 19 13 4—63

At Omaha Skutt (11-0) ........................................... 22 13 15  9 6—65

H: Jack Boever 2-4 2-2 7, Ryan Moore 3-7 1-3 8, DeAndre Burnside 6-15 4-4 17, Kyrese Peck 4-8 2-2 13, Elijah Hazekamp 7-15 2-3 16, Branden Hohenstein 0-1 0-0 0, Tommy Schiltz 0-0 0-0 0, Bryce Reynolds 0-1 0-0 0, Kasey Heaton 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 23-52 11-14 63.

S: Alec Zajicek 4-13 3-5 14, Matt Harrison 3-6 0-0 7, Michael White 1-2 0-0 2, Jake Billerbeck 6-13 3-5 15, Nick Bouda 4-10 1-1 9, Austin Ash 0-2 0-0 0, Conrad Shiu 3-7 1-3 7, Christian Banker 4-11 0-1 11. Totals: 25-64 8-15 65.

3-point goals: H 6-15 (Peck 3-5, Moore 1-2, Boever 1-2, Burnside 1-2, Hazekamp 0-4), S 7-19 (Banker 3-6, Zajicek 3-7, Harrison 1-4, Ash 0-1, Shiu 0-1). Total fouls: H 14, S 16. Fouled out: Bouda. Technical fouls: Bouda, Harrison, Burnside. Rebounds: H 31 (Hazekamp 9), S 37 (Billerbeck 11). Assists: H 8 (Burnside 3), S 10 (White 6). Steals: H 4 (Moore 2, Hazekamp 2), S 6 (Zajicek 2). Turnovers: H 10, S 6.

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