Brendan Preisman, CP Sports Network

In a crazy year, the top of Class A boys’ basketball has been nothing but consistent, with all the teams in the top 7 retaining their spots for multiple weeks now.  The 3rd-ranked team in that bunch is Creighton Prep, who currently sits at 12-1 and has now scored over 50 points in their last 9 games while holding their opponents at or under 55 points in 6 of those games.  A loss to Bellevue West is the lone blemish on the Junior Jays’ record, but it means they still have to prove themselves against the best of the best in Class A, which will happen over the next few games.

The Prep defense continues to put on great performance after great performance, holding their opponent (Fremont, in this case) to under 40% shooting for the 3rd straight game.  These defensive performances have come at the perfect time, with the offense struggling to score with efficiency-shooting 35% from the field won’t even beat a team like Westside, let alone Bellevue West or Millard North.  The good news is that Prep was able to go 16-26 from the free throw line, and forcing 12 turnovers was enough to cruise to a 56-41 win at Fremont.  

AJ Rollins had one of his finest games of the season against the Tigers, scoring 16 points (including going 6/8 from the free throw line) and grabbing 8 rebounds.  Brendan Buckley was the only other Junior Jay to score in double figures with 11 points, though they did come on an uncharacteristically poor 4/11 shooting night.  Conor Buckley also played well, scoring 6 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, both of which were season highs.  The one issue with the defense was allowing Micah Moore of Fremont (one of the team’s offensive leaders) to score 17 points on 54% shooting, which doesn’t bode well for Prep once they go up against other teams’ leading scorers like Saint Thomas or Frankie Fidler.  

Against Bellevue East, the Junior Jays extended their winning streak to 4, a streak that coincides with the streak of holding opponents under 40% shooting.  Bellevue East struggled offensively all game, with only one player in double figures, and didn’t score over 10 points in a quarter until the game was well in hand in the fourth quarter.  The shooting for Prep finally turned for the better, with the team shooting 50% from the field and 56% from 3 point range.  Every Prep player took a shot, the defense forced 17 turnovers (including 13 steals) and Prep cruised to a 72-37 win.  

Prep’s leading scorer against the Chieftains was Mai’Jhe Wiley, who poured in a season-high 17 points on 70% shooting, including 60% from beyond the arc.  Rollins continued his hot streak with a 14-14 double double, and Brendan Buckley shot just 3 shots, but he made them all for 9 points.  Junior Jackson Dasher also added a career high in points with 7, and garnered 3 steals as well.  The offensive explosion-this is the first time the Junior Jays scored over 70 points since December 22-bodes well for Prep going forward, into the toughest part of their schedule.  

The marquee event of the next few weeks for Prep will be their game this Friday against the Westside Warriors.  Westside is 9-3 currently, with one of those losses coming to Prep during the Metro Holiday Tournament.  During Prep’s 61-57 win, the Junior Jays had 4 players in double figures and shot 51% from the field, while the Warriors gave up a 20-6 first quarter lead, committed 19 fouls, and could only shoot 40%.  The man who nearly carried Westside that game was their star sophomore, Tate Odvody, who scored a game-high 24 points.  Odvody is averaging about 16 points and 6 rebounds per game this year on 58% shooting, but he’s not the only Warrior to watch out for.  Juniors Reggie Thomas, Chandler Meeks, and Payson Gillespie are also averaging in double figures, and all three shoot 39% or better from deep.  When this Westside team wins, they win, having won every game by at least 14 points.  However, in their other two losses, they were held below 50 points, so how can Prep go unbeaten in the season series?  The secret might just be a tactic that Prep has used all year: a stifling defense leading to fast break opportunities and a balanced half-court offense have been kryptonite for Westside this year.  Maybe Prep can take advantage of that.  

Starting this Friday against #8 Westside, Prep will be facing 5 top-15 teams over their next 6 games, including the lone team that has beaten the Junior Jays so far this season, Bellevue West.  Prep has had a little bit of trouble with talented scorers all year, and they’ll be going up against a total of 7 players currently averaging over 15 points per game, including Frankie Fidler, who scored 30 against them in the Metro Holiday Tournament semifinal.  However, 5 of these games are at home and a semblance of the Birdcage will return, so that could lessen the mental effect of going up against so many talented teams.   The real question becomes how well Prep can defend those talented scorers, because if they can limit the impact of guys like Fidler, Chucky Hepburn, or Tate Odvody, then they can really make a claim as a title team.  


Upcoming Schedule: Prep plays against Omaha Westside on January 22 and against Papillion South on January 26.