Omaha South turned up the defensive pressure in the second quarter and the Packers cruised after that.
South broke the game open with a 13-2 run in the second quarter and breezed to a 61-38 victory over Lincoln Northeast on Friday in a Class A semifinal game at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The second-ranked Packers (23-2) advanced to Saturday's 6:30 p.m. title game against No. 3 Creighton Prep. South was runner-up in 2012 and last won a state title in 1990.
"These guys hit different gears in the game, and they were in fifth gear in the second quarter," said South coach Bruce Chubick. "It's go, go, go, and then all of a sudden, big spurts and big runs.
"Northeast is a good basketball team. I would never have guessed we would beat them like that."
Leading 10-9 after a quarter, Karlon McSpadden and Makoor Arop opened the second period with back-to-back threes. After Ryan Garver drove for a Northeast basket, South scored seven unanswered points on a three by McSpadden and steals and layups by Caleal Walker and Monte McGary for a 23-11 lead.
"I thought Caleal Walker played really well. I was pleased with his effort. Great defense," Chubick said. "I keep talking about defense, don't I? You don't always know if the shots are going to go down. But you know if you're going to play defense. That at least gives you a chance."
The defense contributed to Northeast's 20 turnovers and also made shooting difficult. The Rockets hit just 29 percent from the field (13-for-44) and 45 percent at the line (9-for-20). South countered with 51 percent shooting and was 81 percent at the line, although the Packers did have 16 turnovers.
"Their hands are quick, their feet are quick and they closed every passing lane in a hurry," said Northeast coach David Mercer. "We drove and we got where we wanted to be early, but things got shut off pretty quickly.
"We couldn't capitalize on their turnovers. We would get a turnover but then we would turn it over or take a shot we probably shouldn't be taking. We never got over the hump of making them pay for their turnovers."
McSpadden and Noah Fant led the Packers with 15 points apiece, Walker had 13 and McGary added 10. Leading scorer Anthony Naimie was held to just four points.
"I think Anthony struggled. He may step up tomorrow and get 16 (points) and 16 (rebounds)," Chubick said. "It seems like every time one or two guys struggled, two or three other guys pick it up. The whole second half of the season, it's been pretty much that way."
The South victory avenged a 65-60 loss to the Rockets in early January, shortly after South lost to Papillion-La Vista South.
"When Aguek went down the first game and we lost those two games, probably not a whole lot of people honestly that would have thought we would be where we're at," Chubick said, referring to sophomore Husker recruit Aguek Arop, who suffered a season-ending injury. "We kept telling them you could be the last ones standing if you keep improving. We've made big strides and the chemistry is good right now."