Malik Harris' hook shot unsealed the lid on Omaha Central's basket, opening the way Saturday night for the No. 1 Eagles to make three 3-pointers in a row and regain control in a 49-42 win at No. 2 Omaha South.
After going scoreless the last five minutes of the third quarter as the Packers made up an 11-point deficit, Central worked the ball for the first 80 seconds of the final period before finding Harris in the lane.
“After a rough quarter, that was a big one, getting a two-point lead again,” Central coach Eric Behrens said.
South wasn't done yet. James Dumes gave the Packers their first lead of the second half with a 3, then answered a pair of free throws by Central's Tre'Shawn Thurman with a pass down the lane to freshman Aguek Arop for the Packers' final lead, 35-34, with 5:39 to play.
The last lead change was on the first of Central's trifecta of 3s, by Thurman with 5:18 left. After South missed a 3, Thurman nailed an NBA-length 3 with a hand in his face. Jarek Coles, after a South turnover, then got in the act with a 3.
“You knew someone had to hit a key shot,'' Thurman said. “My teammates knew who was hot to get the ball to them.”
The 9-0 surge over 2 1/2 minutes put Central ahead 43-35 with three minutes left. Austin McGaugh's basket, on an assist by Rashad McCoy, made it a 10-point game.
By the time South had cut the lead to five, it was out of timeouts with 14 seconds left.
Central was 5 of 5 in the final quarter, bolstering its shooting percentage to .531 for the game.
Thurman led the Eagles (16-1) to their 15th consecutive win with a game-high 16 points and a team-high five rebounds.
“You live for these kinds of games,'' Thurman said. “Obviously all of them you want to win, but these are the ones that you get up in the morning, brush your teeth, look in the mirror and smile because there's a big game ahead.”
South (13-4) was 5 of 11 on 3-pointers, but only 10 of 30 on its other shots.
“One of our assistants said we had 11 missed layups,'' South coach Bruce Chubick said. “If we make those ...
“Defense, for us, is where we want it to be. But our offense has to improve. We've been struggling with our shooting.”
South has scored 36, 48 and 42 points after averaging 58 in a 12-2 start to the season.
Central was on the verge of blowing the game open in the third period, leading 30-19. In a timeout, Chubick switched to a zone press.
“Usually with that, a zone gets teams passive instead of aggressive,” he said. “But it was the opposite for us.”
Central had four turnovers and four missed shots while sophomore Makoor Arop off the bench scored seven points and his freshman brother, Aguek, added four.
Aguek's putback with 30 seconds left forged a 30-30 tie.
“We couldn't find much offense there,'' Behrens said. “We didn't handle the ball well. They went to the zone press and we didn't attack it.”
Makoor Arop and Karlon McSpadden, a sophomore who was at Central last year, each had 10 points for South. Dumes, South's season scoring leader, scored nine points on only seven shots.
“This (game) doesn't mean a whole lot,'' Chubick said. “It's the one down the line, the one in March, you want to win.”
Both teams have the same two ranked opponents this coming weekend.
Central hosts No. 7 Omaha Westside on Friday night, when South hosts No. 3 Omaha Benson. On Saturday, the Eagles visit Benson for a 2:45 p.m. game and South goes to Westside for a 7:15 p.m. tipoff.
Omaha Central (16-1) ............................................ 13 11 6 19—49
At Omaha South (13-4) .......................................... 7 9 14 12—42
C: Malik Harris 4-5 0-0 8, Rashad McCoy 2-6 2-2 7, Jarek Coles 1-4 4-5 7, Austin McGaugh 2-3 1-4 5, Tre’Shawn Thurman 5-9 4-6 16, Zay Turnbo 2-3 0-0 4, Magay Agau 0-1 0-0 0, LaTrell Jameson 0-0 0-0 0, Reath Nyoach 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 17-32 11-17 49.
S: Orlando Blair 0-2 0-0 0, James Dumes 3-7 1-2 9, Karlon McSpadden 4-5 2-2 10, Aguek Arop 2-5 2-4 6, Kevin Harkins 0-4 0-0 0, Monte McGary 0-5 0-0 0, Makoor Arop 4-7 0-0 10, Caleal Walker 0-0 0-0 0, Anthony Naimie 2-6 2-2 7. Totals 15-41 7-10 42.
3-point goals: C 4-15 (McCoy 1-5, Coles 1-4, McGaugh 0-1, Thurman 2-4, Agau 0-1), S 5-11 (Dumes 2-4, M. Arop 2-4, Naimie 1-3). Total fouls: C 8, S 14. Fouled out: none. Technicals: none. Turnovers: C 15, S 15. Rebounds: C 22 (Thurman 5), S 24 (A. Arop 6). Field-goal percentage: C .531, S .366. Free-throw percentage: C .647, S .700. Officials: Hughes, Graver, Thomas. A: 1,500 (est.).