LINCOLN — Top-ranked Omaha Benson survived another close call Saturday night, this one coming against fourth-ranked Lincoln Northeast.
Junior forward Kianna Ibis had 15 points and 15 rebounds to help the Bunnies post a 40-37 road win. Benson, ranked No. 1 for the first time in 22 years, slipped past 10th-ranked Millard North 51-47 on Friday night.
“This was a real grind game,” Bunnies coach Jon Perone said. “We've had some close ones lately but we've been able to hold on.”
Benson (14-2) won its seventh in a row while the Rockets (14-3) saw their seven-game winning streak snapped.
Northeast coach Steve Bartek said a major factor in the game wasn't so much Ibis' offense as her defense. She held 6-foot-3 Rockets senior center Toni Tupper to just one point, and that came in the closing seconds.
“Her defense was the difference,” the coach said. “That might be the first time Toni has been held without a field goal since she's been here.”
Ibis, who is second in Class A scoring at 21 points per game, had trouble shaking loose from the diamond-and-one defense Bartek ran in an attempt to slow her down. She sank 5 of 11 shots from the field and all five of her free throw attempts.
“My teammates were able to get open against that defense they ran,” Ibis said. “Montrese (Weller) hit some big shots for us and I'm really glad she stepped up.”
Weller, who finished with 13 points, sank a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter as the Bunnies rallied from an early seven-point deficit. The Rockets went on an 11-0 run in the third quarter to reclaim the lead, but Weller banked in a 3-pointer as the period ended to put Benson back on top.
“That was a big shot,” Perone said. “I don't care that she banked it, so long as it went in.”
A 3-pointer by Arbrieal Benson early in the fourth quarter put the Bunnies ahead to stay. The Rockets made things interesting late in the game, though, and missed two chances to tie the game or move ahead.
With Benson holding a 38-36 lead with a minute left, Tantashea Giger couldn't hit a 3-pointer. After a Bunnies turnover, the Rockets had another opportunity but a steal by Ibis gave the ball back to Benson with 30 seconds left.
Ibis was fouled with 16 seconds remaining and sank a pair of free throws, putting Benson up 40-36. Tupper made one of two free throws with 4.6 seconds left to draw the Rockets within three, but the Bunnies managed to hang on for the victory.
“If you would have told me before the game that we'd hold them to 40, I'd have taken that,” Bartek said. “But we struggled offensively, and Ibis was a big reason for that.”
Northeast shot 33 percent from the field but was hurt by a 2-for-14 performance from 3-point range. Benson shot 30 percent from the field and made 5 of 17 shots from behind the arc.
“To play two tough games in two nights isn't easy,” Perone said. “In the past we've lost games like this, but we found a way to get it done tonight.”
The Rockets will host ninth-ranked Lincoln Southwest on Thursday night while the Bunnies return to action Friday night at Omaha South.
Omaha Benson (14-2) .................................................. 5 20 5 10—40
At Lincoln Northeast (14-3) .......................................... 11 6 11 9—37
OB: Tashiana Coffiel-Nelson 0-1 0-0 0, Teonn'a Brye 0-2 0-0 0, Kanesha Plater 0-2 0-1 0, Moneeka Robinson 1-6 1-2 3, Arbrieal Benson 3-9 1-2 9, Kianna Ibis 5-11 5-5 15, Montrese Weller 5-12 0-0 13, Zabrina Kentch 0-3 0-0 0.
LNE: Nigeria Jones 5-9 0-0 10, Tierra Beard 2-5 0-0 6, Shaneequah Watkins 2-6 1-2 5, Jamie Holscher 1-5 0-0 2, Tantashea Giger 1-9 3-4 5, Morgan Ewing 3-7 2-2 8, Toni Tupper 0-1 1-2 1.
3-point goals: OB 5-15 (Coffiel-Nelson 0-1, Brye 0-2, Benson 2-5, Ibis 0-2, Weller 3-7); LNE 2-14 (Jones 0-1, Beard 2-5, Watkins 0-1, Holscher 0-3, Giger 0-4). Rebounds: OB 39 (Ibis 15); LNE 27 (Tupper 8). Total fouls: OB 14; LNE 13. Fouled out: Coffiel-Nelson. Turnovers: OB 15; LNE 14. Field-goal percentage: OB .304; LNE .333. Free-throw percentage: OB .700; LNE .700.