A fast pace and a pair of traditional three-point plays by the Nebraska City offense set an aggresive tone for the Pioneer boys’ basketball team in a 57-45 home win over the Raymond Central Mustangs on Thursday, Feb. 6.
Braden Thompson and Chase Brown both had three-point plays by hitting two-point shots while absorbing fouls and then hitting the subsquent free throw.
Nebraska City hit big shots from outside as well with Clay Stovall and Eli Southard drilling three-point baskets during the first quarter of action.
The Pioneers emerged from the first period with an eight point lead at 19-11 and maintained that sort of advantage until the half.
Stovall was a major factor in allowing Nebraska City to accomplish that feat. He opened the quarter with a two-point shot and then assisted Nyuon Thuokok with an excellent pass which resulted in two more points. Stovall hit two more buckets and added two free throws to account for eight of Nebraska City’s 12 in the period.
Nebraska City expanded a 31-21 halftime lead to 20 points by the 2:14 mark of the third quarter.
Brown hit a shot to get the quarter going. Thompson hit a shot and then assisted Thuokok on a two-point bucket that made it 37-21. Southard offset a Mustang three-point shot with one of his own and Thuokok and Stovall both scored off Mustang turnovers to raise the Pioneer lead to 44-24 and force Raymond Central to take a timeout.
Nebraska City led by 22 entering the fourth quarter at 48-26.
Raymond Central fought back in outscoring the Pioneers 19-9 in the final quarter, but it was not enough as the Pioneers hung on for a double-digit win.
After the contest, Nebraska City Coach Matt Thompson said he liked the Pioneers’ pace of play and their adeptness at handling Mustang pressure.
“We got up and down the floor. We got some buckets in transition,” said Coach Thompson. “I thought we did a really good job of handling their press early in the game.”
Whether against the press or in a half court set, Nebraska City was in attack mode on Thursday. That was the plan.
“We always talk to the kids and tell them to attack the close out,” Thompson said.
That means that when a defender is scrambling up to defend the ball, the Pioneer strategy is to attack that defender off the dribble. By attacking, the offense can disrupt its opponent.
“I thought we did a good job of creating defensive breakdowns,” Coach Thompson said.
Stovall finished as the Pioneers’ leading scorer on the game with 17 points.
“Clay played a good game,” Coach Thompson said. “He does a really good job of running the show for us. He has done that all year.”
Stovall said the athletic ability on the Pioneer team allows for an attacking mentality that thrives in up-tempo situations.
“We have a lot of fast guys this year,” Stovall said, adding that the players have a lot of experience together and, as a result, guys can aticipate where their teammates are going to be on the floor.
Aggression is great. A closer mentality is key as well.
Coming out of the half, up 10 already, Stovall said it was important for the Pioneers to push the lead.
“We wanted to stretch it right away, so we came out hot,” Stovall said. “A lot of people had good looks.”
The fourth quarter didn’t go quite as planned with Raymond Central rallying. Stovall said that his team hasn’t been in such a comfortable position many times this year and will need to hone its ability to close out in those situations, but he also added that he felt Thursday’s game was s turning point for the Pioneers and that they could carry momentum into the rest of their games.
All of the Pioneers’ leading scorers on Thursday hit for double digits. In addition to Stovall’s 17, Nebraska City got 10 each from Southard, Brown, Thuokok and Thompson.