LINCOLN — After a nine-point lead evaporated in what seemed like seconds in the fourth quarter, Lincoln Southeast knew it was no time to panic. It was time to get back to the Knights' strength — a bruising post game.
Senior forward BJ Day's inside basket with 1:13 to play gave No. 8 Southeast a lead it wouldn't relinquish as the Knights held off No. 10 Omaha Burke 57-56 Saturday night at their Prasch Activities Center.
Southeast (13-4) was seemingly cruising to its fourth straight win, leading 49-40 with less than four minutes remaining before Burke senior Dartan Henderson put on a show from behind the 3-point arc.
The Bulldogs made 3-pointers on four consecutive possessions, including the final 3 by Henderson. He had 12 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter. His last 3-pointer — from about 25 feet — put the Bulldogs up 52-51 with 2:14 to play.
“Dartan really stepped up,” Burke coach Ben Holling said. “We have four really good guards, and he's kind of the kid that gets left out in the cold. We can only start three guards, so it was good for him. I was proud of him. He deserves it.”
On Southeast's next possession, the Knights worked the ball to the 6-foot-4 Day on the block, who finished to put his team in front.
“We had to just stay calm, run our offense, and believe in ourselves,” said Day, who scored 18 points. “We knew we were going to come back and play hard after that stretch where they made all those 3s. We just needed to change up our defense and stay calm.”
Southeast's focus inside paid off from the free-throw line, where the Knights shot 16 for 22. Burke countered by making 8 of 21 3s, leading to Southeast coach Jeff Smith's halftime decision to switch to a triangle-and-two defense.
The zone combination held Burke to six points in the third quarter, but Smith said it likely led to Henderson's late shooting barage.
“We probably stayed in it one or two possessions too long,” he said
After Day's basket, Southeast switched back to man-to-man and forced misses on the next two possessions.
With Southeast leading 54-52, Day grabbed the rebound following a 3-point miss by Burke's Nick McCulloch, and the Knights went 3 for 4 from the foul line in the final seconds to seal the win.
Southeast needed every one of those makes as Burke's Jack Dresslar banked in an off-balance 3-pointer as time expired for the final margin.
Nebraska football recruit Luke Gifford scored a game-high 21 points for Southeast, making for a formidable post duo with Day. The pair combined for 18 rebounds.
“They completely out-toughed us inside,” Holling said.
Trey Carr, playing his second game after coming back from a four-game suspension, led Burke (9-7) with 16 points.
The win was the fourth in a row for Southeast, and the second of a tough weekend stretch that saw the Knights make the long road trip to North Platte Friday night.
Smith said it's only the second time in his career he can remember Southeast playing a day after the 450-mile round trip.
Last year, the Knights lost to Omaha Central 78-36 the day after the trek to North Platte, and Day said the team was admittedly a little tired after arriving back in Lincoln at 1:30 a.m. Saturday.
Omaha Burke (9-7) ....................................................... 11 16 6 23—56
At Lincoln Southeast (13-4) .......................................... 11 16 9 21—57
B: Carr 16, Henderson 13, Tut 9, Fant 6, Dresslar 5, Blankenfeld 4, Poppen 3.
LSE: Gifford 21, Day 18, Peterson 8, Beamon 5, Clare 3, Richards 2.