Lincoln Southeast’s boys basketball team can lean on senior standout Michael Anderson as a go-to player in the clutch.
His game-winning three-pointer with eight seconds left in the Knights’ 65-64 season-opening win against Bellevue East last Thursday proved that point.
But the Knights also demonstrated in their 2-0 start last weekend that they don’t need the 6-foot-2 point guard to carry the scoring load like they did a year ago.
Anderson had a game-high 18 points to lead four Knights in double-figures in the opener as talented 6-3 sophomore Ajantae Hogan added 16, 6-4 senior post Cameron Fredenburg netted 11 and 6-2 sophomore McGinness Schneider chipped in 10.
Hogan led the Knights in their 58-47 win at Papillion-La Vista on Saturday with 20 points, but this time it was 6-4 junior Jayden Hunt who provided the scoring punch inside, scoring the first eight points of the game on his way to 14 for the contest. Anderson and Schneider, a starter as a freshman last year, had 10 and six points, respectively, but the duo also combined for 10 rebounds and eight assists.
“We have other guys who can score this year,” said Anderson, who has basketball scholarship offers from Doane and Hastings. “If McGuinness or I aren’t hot, we can get other guys involved in the game and that’s what we did Saturday.
“This season I need to be the team player, encouraging the younger guys and telling them to keep their heads up when plays don’t go their way,” Anderson added.
With returning junior starter Isaac Gifford out for the season with a knee injury suffered during football, Hogan has emerged to help fill that void as a main scoring threat early in the season.
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Anderson calls Hogan’s athleticism “unbelievable.” Southeast coach Jonah Bradley says “there are no words to describe” Hogan’s quickness and explosive jumping ability on the court. “All you can do sometimes is sit back and enjoy it,” the coach said.
Hogan is developing into a complete basketball player, Bradley said. He was 13-of-16 at the free-throw line Saturday, and he’s shooting 60 percent from the field and 76 percent at the free-throw line.
“AJ is shooting the ball better and he’s been working hard on his pull-up game,” said Bradley, whose Knights went 4-20 in his first year as head coach last season. “I’m excited to see his game come full circle the next couple years.”
It’s a young team surrounding the seniors Anderson and Fredenburg. Also in the regular rotation are 6-2 juniors Max Renn and Isaac Appleget as well as 6-4 junior Gage Johnson, who started as a sophomore but was sidelined by injury on opening weekend.
Bradley was pleased with how his team took the lessons from Thursday’s opener and applied them to play better on Saturday at Papillion-La Vista.
“It was good to see our guys make the defensive adjustments after watching film from Thursday’s game,” the Southeast coach said. “We played better on-ball defense and we were quicker and active in our rotations to keep everything in front of us.”
Anderson and his teammates face a challenging weekend playing at Class B No. 3 Lincoln Pius X (1-1) on Friday before returning home to host A No. 1 Bellevue West (2-0) on Saturday. Anderson will match up against one of the top players in Class B in Pius X’s 6-2 senior guard Charlie Easley on Friday, then face the Bellevue West 1-2 punch at guard of sophomore Chucky Hepburn (who has a Nebraska scholarship offer) and senior Nico Felici less than 24 hours later.
“We’re definitely pleased to be 2-0, but we’re not satisfied,” Bradley said. “We didn’t work hard in the offseason to win two games. I’m excited to see our guys come out and compete this weekend against the teams at the highest level.”