The first time the Lincoln High boys basketball team played Elkhorn South this season, the Links gave up 100 points in a 15-point loss.
They held the Storm to just over half that Friday night in the first round of the A-5 district basketball tournament at Earl Johnson Gym. Lincoln High combined that defensive effort with just enough key plays down the stretch to pick up a 57-53 victory to advance to Tuesday night’s final.
Second-ranked Omaha Central will host Papillion-La Vista in the other first-round game Monday. If Central wins, Tuesday’s final will be on the Eagles’ home floor. If Papillion-La Vista pulls the upset, the Links will be at home for the 6 p.m. contest.
“Elkhorn South is a high-octane offensive team, and we knew we had to hold them in the 50s to have a good shot at winning,” said Lincoln High coach Dan Noble, whose team improved to 14-9. “I’m very proud of how we defended. Jace Piatkowski is a tough matchup and we ran multiple guys like Jaxson (Barber), Zay (Parks), Yashua (Bradley) and Reat (Chuol) at him to try to wear him out.
"We did a good job guarding on the perimeter and Boomer (Jock) was there underneath to clean up if we made a mistake.”
Piatkowski, a 6-foot-3 senior who is the son of former Husker great Eric Piatkowski, finished with a game-high 19 points, a much lower total than the 36 he went off for in the first meeting between the teams.
The Links countered with a pair of 6-1 seniors in Jaden Horton and Keyshawn Jenkins as well as the 6-6 senior Jock inside. Horton scored eight of his team-high 18 points in the final period, attacking the basket and either finishing or getting fouled.
Jenkins finished with 14 and drained the Links’ only three-pointer to break a 51-51 tie with 1:09 left and put Lincoln High ahead to stay. Jock had 17 points and six rebounds, but also three blocked shots to be the Links’ enforcer inside.
Jock had a tip-in with 3:00 left to give Lincoln High a one-point advantage.
“We didn’t want to settle for three-point shots in the fourth quarter,” Jock said. “We wanted to go inside-out, attack the basket whenever we could and try to get them in foul trouble.”
Two others ended up in double figures for the Storm. Junior Zach LaFave, a 6-5 junior, scored seven of his 16 points in a 20-point second quarter, which left the Storm (9-14) with a 30-26 lead at halftime. Preston Mruphy Jr., a 6-foot sophomore guard with scholarship offers from UNLV and Buffalo, had six of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.
A-1 at Norfolk: Norfolk dominated Lincoln Southeast 63-42 Friday night at Norfolk High School. Michael Anderson led the Knights with 12 points and Ajantae Hogan chipped in 10.
A-2 at Gretna: Lincoln Northeast knocked off Gretna 61-52 behind Pierce Bazil's 18 points. Jake Bard chipped in 15 for the Rockets as well.
"Our guys have just pulled together this year," Rocket coach Monte Ritchie said. "We get coming together and kept believing."
The Rockets (6-17) will face Papillion-La Vista (13-11) South at 7 p.m. Monday.
A-6 at Millard North: Millard North's Hunter Sallis scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds en route to a 54-39 win over Lincoln Southwest. Max Murrell chipped in 10 points and six rebounds for the Mustangs. The Silver Hawks were led by Mayuom Buom's 13 points. Millard North (16-7) will travel to Omaha Westside (18-5) for the final on Tuesday. Southwest finishes the season 7-16.