Facing its third ranked opponent in four games, Papillion-La Vista looked like it might be suffering a letdown early Friday night.
The Monarchs — after scoring only five points in the first quarter — trailed by 11 on three occasions in the second quarter, turned it over 10 times in the first eight minutes and were stagnant against Millard West's zone.
A 78-second flurry to end the half changed all of that.
Top 10 No. 3 Papio scored eight points in the final 1:18 of the half — including a 40-footer at the buzzer — to swing the momentum, then paced the second half the way it wanted in its 51-47 victory over No. 7 Millard West.
“We obviously didn't get off to a great start,” Papillion-La Vista coach Jason Ryan said. “We knew coming in it'd be a challenge. Millard West, they have lot of experience, good length. They're tough.”
The Wildcats were using both assets in building their final double-digit lead at 23-12 on a Connor Lusso bucket, part of his 15 first-half points. From there, the Monarchs began to chip away. They would score 12 of the final 15 points of the quarter, a spurt capped by Matt Safranek's deep 3 on a set play in the final seconds.
It was reminiscent of the play Bryce Drew of Valparaiso pulled off at the buzzer in a 1998 NCAA tournament game. A long inbounds pass past halfcourt went to a teammate, who then found Safranek near the sideline. His shot hit nothing but net from deep at the buzzer to cut the Millard West lead to two.
“That's a play we put in (Friday) morning at our walkthrough,” Ryan said. “It paid off.”
Papio scored eight of the first nine in the second half to grab control and cap the 20-4 run.
Still, Millard West was game. Back-to-back buckets by Spencer Sharp, a three-point play by Lusso and a basket by Josh Lallman put the Wildcats back up. But again Papillion-La Vista finished a quarter strong.
The Monarchs scored the last six for a lead heading into the fourth and never trailed again.
“I said before that I thought that having the lead in the fourth quarter was going to be very big,” Millard West coach Bill Morrison said. “Their pressure got to us a little bit, and we took some quick shots.”
In addition, the Wildcats had 12 turnovers in the second half and 22 for the game. Over a 10-minute stretch to end the third and begin the fourth, they made just one field goal.
“Our defense in the second half really battled,” Ryan said.
Millard West's Lusso had a game-high 25 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor and added nine rebounds. The 6-foot-6 senior was 9 of 13 from the line, but missed a couple of key attempts in the fourth quarter, including the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity.
Nate Maloley and Brett Dougherty had 20 and 19 points, respectively, to lead the Monarchs. Maloley had 12 of his points in the second half and hit three 3-pointers. After missing his first three from the field, Dougherty went 7 of 10 the rest of the way.
Ryan's team enters next week's Metro Holiday Tournament unbeaten through seven games. Only one team — fourth-ranked Omaha Benson — scored more than 47 points on the Monarchs.
“They're really an unbelievable group,” Ryan said. “They're excited about 7-0.”
Papillion-La Vista (7-0).......5 19 14 13—51
At Millard West (5-2).........11 15 10 11—47
PLV: Spencer Lewis 1-5 2-4 4, Keenan Neelon 1-2 0-0 2, Bryce Sheard 0-2 0-0 0, Matt Safranek 2-3 0-0 6, Nate Maloley 5-9 7-8 20, Tyler Dougherty 0-3 0-0 0, Brett Dougherty 7-13 5-8 19 Totals 16-37 14-20 51.
MW: Joey Koca 0-2 0-0 0, Nick Hargis 0-3 1-2 1, Josh Lallman 4-12 1-2 9, Tyler Kallman 0-2 0-0 0, Connor Lusso 8-10 9-13 25, Spencer Sharp 4-8 2-2 10, Ben Kositzke 1-1 0-0 2 Totals 17-38 13-19 47.
3-point goals: PLV 5-13 (Lewis 0-3, Safranek 2-2, Maloley 3-8); MW 0-3 (Hargis 0-1, Lallman 0-1, Kallman 0-1). Rebounds: PLV 21 (B. Dougherty); MW 27 (Lusso 9). Turnovers: PLV 17, MW 22. Field goal percentage: PLV .432, MW .447. Free throw percentage: PLV .700, MW .684. Technical fouls: None. Att. 900 (est).
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