FORT MYERS, Fla. — It had been a long time since Omaha Central had lost.
And the hurt for the Eagles was stronger Wednesday when they took the nation’s No. 2 high school boys basketball team to the final possession before losing in the quarterfinals of the City of Palms Classic boys basketball tournament.
Central fell 52-49 to Long Beach (Calif.) Poly on Ke’Jhan Feagin’s 3-pointer in the final two seconds.
“They’re in tears. They’re heartbroken. They really fought and really wanted to win that game,” Central coach Eric Behrens said. “That’s how it should be. If it wasn’t important, it wouldn’t hurt. And so it hurts because they cared, and this was really important to them.
“I’m proud of the fact that they’re hurt by a loss.”
The Eagles saw their winning streak end at 41 games, tying Grand Island (1946 to 1948) for the longest in Class A.
They went toe-to-toe with the Jackrabbits, who have a pair of Pac-12 recruits, and led by seven after scoring the first basket of the third quarter.
Poly (7-0), which is ranked second by MaxPreps and eighth in two other national ratings, then outscored No. 13 Central 25-9 over the next 11 minutes for a 44-35 lead punctuated by a windup dunk by Oregon-bound Jordan Bell.
The 6-foot-8 senior approached a triple-double as he ended with 17 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
“I think he’s the best shot-blocker in the country,” Poly coach Sharrief Metoyer said. “He can impact a game at so many levels.”
Central didn’t stay on the canvas very long. Tra-Deon Hollins’ two free throws and KJ Scott’s basket came 12 seconds apart to trim the Poly lead to five.
After a Poly free throw on an intentional foul and a basket on the ensuing possession by Bell, Louisville recruit Akoy Agau made a 3 from the left wing to cut Central’s deficit to 47-42. The nearly full stands in the Bishop Verot High School gym began to stir.
Hollins scored with 2:56 left. Central got another turnover out of its press and Hollins had a good look on a 3. But it bounced off and triggered a Poly run-out that Bell finished to regain a five-point Jackrabbit lead.
It didn’t last long. Hollins stole the ball from Bell and beat him to the basket, and then Deandre Hollins-Johnson was fouled after Central forced another turnover. He made the second of two free throws with 1:52 left.
Poly went to its delay game to nurse its two-point lead, but came up empty with 1:07 left as USC-bound Roschon Prince missed a free throw.
The gym erupted when Hollins threw to a wide-open Agau under the basket for the tying dunk.
Metoyer said the Central comeback was reflective of the Eagles’ winning streak.
“They took pride in that streak, and their determination and pride showed in the last few minutes,” he said. “They could have thrown it in and we could have won a little easier, but they kept fighting and scrapping.”
Poly worked for the last shot, and Central thought it had the ball when it went out of bounds with four seconds left. The Jackrabbits kept possession and threw a backside pass to Feagin, who shot over Hollins’ outstretched arm and got a tidy swish.
“We thought they’d get it in the paint,” said 6-6 Central junior Tre’Shawn Thurman. “We still executed the defense properly, and they had to make a 22-foot fadeaway to win.”
Said Hollins: “He must have been saying his prayers or something. He got it real high, fading away. It was a great shot.”
Agau and Hollins each scored 13 points to lead the Eagles, who shot 29 percent in the first half and 43 percent in the second.
They lost the rebounding battle 32-25, with Thurman leading Central with nine boards. Central had only eight turnovers while forcing 14.
The Eagles have a scheduled off day, then play at 4:15 p.m. CST Friday against the loser of Thursday’s late game between tournament No. 1 seed Montverde (Fla.) Academy and Chicago Whitney Young.
Central needs a win to play in the fifth-place game on Saturday.
Long Beach Poly (7-0)................... 7 12 19 14—52
Omaha Central (5-1)......................10 14 10 15—49
LBP: Roschon Prince 4-12 0-0 8, Jordan Bell 7-12 0-3 14, Chris Sullivan 4-7 1-2 10, Ke'Jhan Feagin 3-5 0-0 8, Brandon Staton 0-6 0-0 0, Artis Parris 0-0 0-0 0, Kameron Murrell 1-3 0-0 3, Josh Jackson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 19-47 10-16 52.
OC: Akoy Agau 5-13 2-2 13, KJ Scott 3-12 1-2 7, Tra-Deon Hollins 4-13 4-6 13, Deandre Hollins-Johnson 0-1 1-2 1, Tre'Shawn Thurman 3-7 0-0 7, Nick Billingsley 3-6 1-1 7. Totals 18-52 10-15 49.
3-point goals: LBP 4-13 (Prince 0-2, Sullivan 1-2, Feagin 2-3, Staton 0-5, Murrell 1-1), OC 3-15 (Agau 1-4, Scott 0-3, Hollins 1-3, Hollins-Johnson 0-1, Thurman 1-2, Billingsley 0-2). Total fouls: LBP 16, OC 13. Fouled out: none. Technicals: none. Turnovers: LBP 14, OC 8. Rebounds: LBP 32, OC 25. Field-goal percentage: LBP .404, OC .346. Free-throw percentage: LBP .600, OC .667.
Contact the writer:
402-444-1041, firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter.com/stuOWH