Basketball Precap: Week 2


Brendan Preisman, CP Sports Network

The third-ranked Creighton Prep Junior Jays remain unbeaten on the season at 4-0, and, for the first time, were actually tested in the fourth quarter.  For the first time all season, Prep’s lead was in single digits entering the fourth quarter against 3-1 Millard West.  However, the starters were rested thanks to a blowout the previous day against Omaha Northwest, and Prep was able to survive a late surge from Millard West.  

The defense continues to be the best part of the year, still having not given up over 40 points.  This team has already shown that they can win blowouts, but perhaps more importantly, they’ve now shown that they can win the close games as well.  

Prep opened last weekend against winless Omaha Northwest, and any hope that the Huskies would snap their season-starting losing streak was extinguished quickly and decisively in the first 10 minutes.  The Junior Jays had a first quarter for the ages, outscoring Northwest 24-3.  It didn’t get much better for the Huskies, who shot 26% from the field and were lucky to crack 30 points (thanks to 10 in the final frame).  The shooting for Prep continues to be incredible (67% from the field, 47% from 3) and they once again asserted themselves as a title contender thanks to a 38-13 advantage on the boards, as well as forcing 14 turnovers and drawing 16 fouls.

All 13 got minutes once again for the Junior Jays, and all but one took a shot.  Luke Jungers did his usual thing, garnering a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Justin Sitti had his best game of the year with 12 points (on 5 of 6 shooting!), 2 assists, and 2 rebounds.  The bench also stepped up, with 6 reserves scoring at least 4 points, including juniors Casey O’Malley (6 points, 2 assists) and Martel Evans (7 points on 3 of 4 shooting).  The defense obviously continued its incredible work, not allowing a single Northwest player to score over 8 points, and the starters got plenty of rest heading into the Millard West game.  

However, the Junior Jays looked sluggish against the Wildcats, allowing 10 points in a non-garbage time quarter for only the second time all season.  The team wasn’t much better on offense, shooting 34% from the field and a ghastly 11% from beyond the arc.  Prep also lost the turnover battle for the first time all year, giving up 15 turnovers to Millard West’s 14.  However, someone forgot to tell the Junior Jays that teams who play that badly usually lose the game.  

While Prep’s defense struggled to contest shots (Millard West shot 50% from the field), the Junior Jays did win an underrated aspect of the game: free throws.  Millard West also shot 50% from the charity stripe (9 for 18), and in a game coming down to the wire you’ll take points wherever you can get them.  Prep also once again showed their dominance on the boards, winning the rebound battle 33 to 19.

There wasn’t much great offensively to talk about.  The starting guards (Sitti, Brendan Buckley, and Wiley) combined to shoot 4 for 24 (that’s just 17%), and zero of 12 from 3 point range.  

By this point, you’re probably wondering “How did Prep win this game?”  The answer is two words: Luke Jungers.  He was the only Prep player to shoot above 50% (5 of 8 from the field), one of just 2 to make a 3, and he also grabbed 6 rebounds to go with his team-leading 12 points.  Jungers also ended up making the final basket (fittingly, off of a Prep miss) with just 4 seconds left.  

I am not trying to criticize this basketball team or say that they are bad, but they played very poorly on Saturday.  However, I think that that says more about the team than if they had won by 15.  Games like the one against Millard West can come down to who wants it more, and the Junior Jays simply wanted it more.  The Buckley twins combined for 15 rebounds, and 6 different players came up with a steal.  This game showed that this team can play at maybe 60% of its full potential (and that might be generous) and still beat a very solid team.  Championship teams are made in the close games, and Prep got one step closer to Lincoln in the final minutes against Millard West.  

The Junior Jays now have 6 different players averaging 5 or points per game through 4 games.  This team reminds me a lot of the Miami Heat-one star player, 2 or 3 supporting guys who are really good at either shooting or rebounding, and a deep bench where anyone can hurt you.  Luke Jungers has taken a leap this year and has matured into his starting role quite well, averaging 12.5 points per game (1st on the team) and 6.3 rebounds (2nd to AJ Rollins).  Justin Sitti, Mai’Jhe Wiley, and Brendan Buckley make up a scary trio of guards, and they’re all averaging 8+ points a game to go along with 12 combined rebounds and 6 combined assists.

This team has no real weaknesses as far as I can see, and as we saw on Saturday, even an off performance could still lead to a win.  This team is scary, and if the rest of Class A doesn’t realize, they will soon.  


Upcoming schedule: Prep plays at home against Gretna on December 18  and at Lincoln Southwest on December 19.