Omaha Northwest, off to its best girls basketball start in several years, got a cold dose of reality Friday night from defending state champion Omaha Central.
The second-ranked Eagles pulled away in the second half and rolled to a 69-48 win over the host Huskies. Central moved its record to 5-2 while Northwest, which already has more wins than last season, also is 5-2.
Despite the 21-point victory, Eagles coach Tom Lee said he wasn't pleased by his team's performance.
“I thought we were pretty sloppy and out of sync most of the night,” he said.
Central hit its first two shots — 3-pointers by guards Paige Muhammad and Megan Gamble — and led most of the game. The Huskies stayed close early, trailing 18-14 after the first quarter and 30-25 at half before the Eagles eventually pulled away.
Northwest made an early surge in the second half, tying the game at 30 on a pair of baskets and a free throw by sophomore Simone Goods. But Central went on a 10-point run with the help of six points by senior Sylvia Smith-Gatson.
The Eagles led 46-36 after three quarters and widened that advantage in the fourth after the Huskies had inched within five points. An 11-0 run put the defending champs in command, and four late baskets by senior forward LaNa'e Washington-Carson helped Central secure its victory.
“I thought we came out a little tentative,” Huskies coach Kevin Vann said. “The girls have been talking about this game for two weeks, and maybe they were a little nervous.”
Central's full-court press bothered Northwest, which turned the ball over 27 times. Early foul trouble also didn't help: three starters had three fouls before halftime.
“Our best defenders picked up those fouls, and that hurt us,” Vann said. “And they're a team that capitalizes on mistakes.”
Smith-Gatson led the Eagles with 21 points. Gamble added 14 and a team-high seven rebounds while Muhammad finished with 10 points.
Goods, a transfer from Omaha Burke, had 16 points and 11 rebounds to pace the Huskies. Nadia Donovan chipped in 12 points while Deleyah Harris added 11.
Both teams will return to action in the Metro Holiday tournament at Omaha Benson. The 10th-seeded Huskies will play next Friday against Papillion-La Vista while the fourth-seeded Eagles will play next Saturday against Omaha South.
“I know it's only December, but we've got work to do,” Lee said. “This break will be good for us, and hopefully we'll come out strong in the tournament.”
Omaha Central (5-2)...............18 12 16 23—69
At Omaha Northwest (5-2)......14 11 11 12—48
OC: Megan Gamble 14, Paige Muhammad 10, Elexis Martinez 2, Abigail Niebrugge 8, LaNa'e Washington-Carson 9, Jackie Beaugard 2, Sylvia Smith-Gatson 21, Sydney McGruder 3.
ONW: Deleyah Harris 11, Raine Dunkin 6, Teonna Brye 2, Lavonzell Brown 1, Simone Goods 16, Nadia Donovan 12.
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