All the momentum was in favor of Lincoln Southwest going into the fourth quarter of its Tip Off Classic boys basketball championship game against Class A No. 1 Creighton Prep.
The experience factor, however, tipped toward the Junior Jays. Creighton Prep used a 10-0 run midway through the final period to take control and eventually claim a 51-44 win at Southwest over the upset-minded Silver Hawks.
“With four starters back from last year, this group has played a lot of basketball together, so I wasn’t as concerned as I might’ve been otherwise,” said Creighton Prep coach Josh Luedtke, whose Junior Jays (2-0) turned a 37-34 deficit into a 44-37 advantage during a four-minute span of the fourth quarter.
“We stayed composed and did what we do best,” the coach added. “We always have a target on our backs being Prep, but it’s now a thousand times bigger being preseason No. 1. We’re going to get everyone’s best shot and we need to expect battles like this every time out.”
A stingy Southwest man-to-man defense never allowed Prep to get into any offensive rhythm. The Jays shot 37 percent from the field (15-of-40) and just 3-of-20 from beyond the three-point arc.
The Silver Hawks (1-1) wiped out a nine-point second quarter to trail by just three, 27-24, at halftime. A three-pointer from the top of the key by JaQuaylon Mays with 2 seconds left in the third quarter gave the Hawks a 34-32 advantage going into the final eight minutes.
Mays, a 6-foot-1 senior point guard, and 5-10 senior Collin Cole scored 12 points each to pace the Silver Hawks.
Another three, this one by Jakob Ahlschwede, gave Southwest its final lead, 37-34, with 6:14 left in the game. The Hawks went scoreless for more than 4½ minutes after that as Prep made its decisive run.
A jump hook in the lane by 6-6 junior all-stater Akol Arop started the spurt before a driving layup and a pair of free throws by point guard Spencer Moes on back-to-back possessions put the Jays in front 40-37.
A basket inside by 6-7 senior Jayden Temme increased the lead to 42-37 at the 3:10 mark before two free throws by Grant Matthies made it 44-37 with 1:56 left.
Arop, who just received a scholarship offer from Nebraska-Omaha, recorded a double-double for Prep with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Moes and Temme finished with 10 points each.
It was Southwest’s second game against a highly ranked opponent to start the season. The Hawks (1-1) knocked off No. 4 Millard North 66-60 on the road Thursday to reach the finals.
“It wasn’t a fluke we won Thursday night, and we proved that today,” Southwest coach Alex Bahe said. “I really like this group. We play well together and we can put a lot of guys on the floor with athletic ability.
“We executed our defensive game plan for the second straight game, but we didn’t have our best offensive night,” Bahe added. “A lot of that had to do with what Creighton Prep was doing to us. We wanted a free-flowing game, but they turned it into a half-court game which favored their size and length.”
Southwest girls 54, Norfolk 39
The top-ranked Silver Hawks bounced back from their Thursday loss to Millard North behind 25 points from Hannah Kelle and 17 more by junior all-stater Jaden Ferguson to win the third-place game at Southwest.
Kelle, a 6-1 junior, scored nine points in the pivotal third quarter when Southwest expanded a 23-21 halftime lead to 42-33 heading into the final period. Kyla Moore’s 11 points paced Norfolk.