LINCOLN — After losing leading scorer Khyri Thomas with a foot injury through at least the end of January, Omaha Benson coach Donnie Johnson challenged his veteran team to adopt a next-man-up philosophy.
In Saturday's Top 10 matchup at Lincoln High, there was no shortage of Bunnies stepping up to accept.
No. 3 Omaha Benson turned up its defense in the second and third quarters and had four players score in double figures to beat No. 9 Lincoln High 70-58.
After trailing 16-14 at the end of the first quarter, Benson (10-1) held the Links to 3 of 21 from the floor in the second and third quarters to build a 20-point lead.
“Get down and guard and play some defense. That was the key,” Johnson said. “Let's limit their easy shots and keep them off the free-throw line. They were getting to the line and knocking down free throws. So let's limit the fouls and get down and guard the way we guard.”
Benson's guards were able to pressure the ball and get in passing lanes with 6-foot-9 senior Thik Bol patrolling the inside. The Bunnies' center scored a team-high 14 points and finished with six blocked shots.
Bol's length made life especially difficult for Lincoln High senior Jaden Jilg-Brown, who finished with five points after scoring 18 in the Links' Friday night win over Lincoln East.
“He's being aggressive,” Johnson said of Bol. “The last couple games he wasn't being aggressive getting stops. Last night and today he really got after it trying to get those blocked shots and rebounding the basketball.”
Mar'shun Stewart, who moved into the starting lineup after Thomas injured his foot in the Metro holiday tournament, added 11 of his 12 points in the second half, including six points in a 15-2 run to give Benson a 40-25 lead midway through the third quarter.
“Somebody else has to step in,” Johnson said. “That's the good thing with a veteran team, somebody just steps in and fills that void.”
Lincoln High (7-4) trailed by as many as 20 points but made things interesting with a 16-5 burst to start the fourth quarter.
The Links pulled to within 54-47 on a pair of free throws by Garrett Griffin with 3:43 remaining, but Benson's Tyree Peter stopped the run with a three-point play, and Danny Barfield added two free throws on the Bunnies' next possession to make it 59-47.
The Links wouldn't cut the lead to single digits again.
“We got outworked in the third quarter, which is very painful to say, but they out-competed us,” Lincoln High coach Dan Noble said. “That's one of our goals any game we play, we want to out-compete our opponent.”
Peter and Tyrone Clayton each had 11 points for Benson, which will host Millard West next Friday.
Jason Towery and KeShawn Wilson both scored 17 points to lead Lincoln High.
Omaha Benson (10-1) .......................................... 14 14 21 21—70
At Lincoln High (7-4) ............................................. 16 5 10 27—58
OB: Thik Bol 14, Mar'shun Stewart 12, Tyrone Clayton 11, Tyree Peter 11, Maurice Buckley 8, Danny Barfield 7, Rodale Erwin-Hall 6, Brandon Reed 1.
LH: KeShawn Wilson 17, Jason Towery 17, Jamie Davis 8, Jaden Jilg-Brown 5, Guan Wuol 4, Garrett Griffin 4, Frank Cuddy 3.