Five double-digit scorers led the way as the Nebraska City boys’ basketball team picked up a win in what might have been its best performance of the season on Saturday night.
Nebraska City shot the ball well, particularly in the first half, on the way to a 72-60 win over the Plattsmouth Blue Devils at the district tournament at Lincoln Southeast High School.
Scoring diversity was on display early in the game as Jared Nemec hit a pair of two-point buckets and a three-pointer for seven, while Derek Riege had six points on two buckets and two free throws. Brennen Bales had a three-pointer and Jace Becker had a two-point bucket.
Plattsmouth worked hard to stay in the game and finished with a five-point spurt that cut Nebraska City’s lead to two points.
Coach Scott Wissing made sure to address that Blue Devil run during a huddle prior to the second quarter.
He challenged the pride of the team not to back down defensively and to make Plattsmouth earn their points.
Nebraska City answered the coach’s challenge with a 23-10 second quarter.
Sam Williams, who had not scored in the first quarter, hit for eight points including a pair of three-pointers, the second of which made the score 34-24.
The quarter closed on a three-point shot by Bales and a two-point bucket by Becker and Nebraska City led 41-26 at intermission.
A Williams’ two-pointer, a Bales’ three-pointer and back-to-back buckets by Becker made the count 50-29.
Plattsmouth surged with a 12-point rally that made it 50-41. Nemec stopped that bleeding with a bucket  and the score was 52-43 in favor of the Pioneers at the end of three periods.
An 8-2 run in the fourth quarter got the Devils to within four at 55-51.
Nebraska City kept showing its fighting spirit in the face of the rallies.
Williams went to the line for two shots.
He made one and missed the second but Nemec ran down the rebound. Plattsmouth tried to get the ball back, but Nebraska City won a jump ball. Then Jace Becker got an offensive rebound.
The Pioneers ended up with a free throw chance, adding a point to the lead, but the fight was definitely wearing on the Blue Devils.
Clutch plays by Williams proved to be the difference making blows. He hit 2-for-2 on a 1-and-1 free throw chance. He scored a lay up on the Pioneers’ next possession. After a stop, Williams was fouled and added a free throw. Nebraska City led 64-56.
Eight more Pioneer points, six of them coming at the free throw line completed the scoring.
Looking at the scoring leaders, Williams ended up with 21. But Nebraska City also got double digits from Nemec, 15; Bales, 14; Becker, 12; and Riege, 10.
Tucker Anderson led Plattsmouth. He had two three-point shots, a pair of two-point shots and was 9-of-10 at the line for 19 total points.
Looking back at the first half, Coach Wissing said what the Pioneers accomplished scoring wise was the best he has seen.
“That might have been our best shooting half since I have been coaching here,” he said. “We are playing well at the right time of the season.”
The victory on Saturday gave Nebraska City the right to play a very dangerous and talented Gretna team that would a challenge for any squad.
Although he acknowledged the challenge of playing the Dragons, Wissing said his team relishes the chance to tempt basketball fates.
The game is not predicatable, and, under the right circumstances, Nebraska City could pull off an upset.
What are those circumstances?
Wissing said the Pioneers must value the ball and keep turnovers to the bare minimum. When the Pioneers have the ball, they have to find ways to get shots up and thus match the volume of shots that Gretna records.
From there, it comes down to makes and misses.
“We’ve got to be able to put the ball in the hole,” he said.
Other keys would be to avoid foul trouble. Plattsmouth was in the double bonus for a good portion of the second half on Saturday.
That can’t happen against Gretna. Coach Wissing said his team can’t reach defensively and they can’t gamble in the hopes of getting steals. They have to keep Gretna’s offensive players in front of them.
Scoring diversity on the Pioneer side would sure be helpful too. Nebraska City definitely got that against Plattsmouth and the Pioneers got a great performance from Williams.
“I thought Sam was our glue tonight. He held us together,” said Wissing.
If the team can carry over their play from Saturday to Monday, the chances for a victory will certainly rise.