Published Friday, December 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm / Updated at 12:22 am
Eagles fall at City of Palms Classic

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Omaha Central's Florida stay is over.

The Eagles tried to extend it to Saturday but lost 60-57 to national No. 4 (MaxPreps) Chicago Whitney Young in a fifth-place semifinal Friday at the City of Palms Classic boys basketball tournament.

No. 13 Central (5-2) had a one-point lead three times in the fourth quarter and had two shots that would have tied the game during the final 34 seconds.

The Eagles went 1-2 in the tournament as the first team from Nebraska to be invited. Central's 41-game winning streak, which tied the Class A record, ended Wednesday with a 52-49 quarterfinals loss to No. 2 Long Beach (Calif.) Poly.

“We came to Florida and we played the No. 2 team and the No. 4 team and they were two heavyweight fights,” Central coach Eric Behrens said. “We went toe-to-toe. We lost them both, but both teams made big shots.

“Every time we were up one in this game with a minute-and-a-half left, they made shots.”

The back-and-forth began when Louisville recruit Akoy Agau scored with 2:30 left for a 52-51 Central lead. A basket by KJ Scott and two free throws by Agau also were lead-changers.

With his team trailing 56-55, Whitney Young's Miles Reynolds made his third 3 of the game — on a kickout pass by 6-foot-11, 270-pound junior center Jahlil Okafor — with 1:16 left. It gave the Dolphins (4-1) the lead for good at 58-56.

Tra-Deon Hollins made the second of two free throws with 45 seconds left to pull the Eagles within one, only for Okafor to score on a glide move to the basket with 34 seconds left.

Scott missed twice under the basket for Central, but got both rebounds. After a timeout, the Eagles went to Tre'Shawn Thurman for a 3 that missed.

Okafor, who had gotten the rebound, missed a one-and-one free throw to give Central a last chance.

With the Dolphins covering well on the 3-point arc, Hollins resorted to taking a fallback 25-footer in the final 2 seconds that missed.

“We came up short,” said Nick Billingsley, the UNO recruit whose 15 points led the Eagles. “It's kind of tough when you lose two games by three points (apiece), you think what you could do better.

“Could I have gotten a loose ball, could I have made a 3-pointer, could I have made that free throw I should have made?”

Agau had 14 points and eight rebounds while battling Okafor, who had game highs of 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting and 11 rebounds.

“These were two tough ballgames,” Agau said. “Things didn't fall our way the last couple of minutes tonight.

“I thought we competed hard and played hard.”

Central fought back after Whitney Young increased a three-point lead at halftime to nine. The Dolphins were ahead 44-36 and it felt like they were ready to put away the game.

“I felt that too,” Behrens said. “We had missed a couple shots and they got some run-outs. I felt, boy, if this gets over 10, this could be trouble.

“I think in there Tra-Deon had a huge block on the big dude's shot and we just kept battling, then we got some shots to fall. Hats off to our guys to keep fighting.”

Central outscored the Dolphins 7-2 to finish the third quarter, starting with a 3 from Hollins. The final four points were from Thurman, who had been 0 for 5 in the first half. The 6-6 junior scored all 13 of his points after halftime.

Thurman started the fourth quarter with a bucket, then Billingsley made a 3 on a Hollins assist for Central's only two-point lead, 48-46, of the second half.

“We got down, and we need to stop doing that, then we had a spurt of energy,” Agau said. “We started hitting some shots and everybody came together and started making plays for each other.”

Reynolds answered quickly with a 3-pointer for a 49-48 Dolphins lead, then two possessions later made two free throws for a 51-48 lead.

Central's last set of back-to-back scoring possessions, baskets by Scott and Agau for a 52-51 lead, launched the final set of lead changes.

“They run their sets very well,” Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said.

Central had a first half in which it shot marginally better (10 of 27, 37 percent) than the pair of 9-for-31 starts (29 percent) it had in its first two games in the Bishop Verot gym.

Agau kept Central close by making two 3-pointers in the first quarter and another in the second.

“We had a scouting report, but it didn't have him making those,” said Slaughter, whose team made it to its first tournament game only hours before tipoff Thursday.

Okafor had 13 points and all three of his dunks before halftime.

“We need to hold our heads up,” Billingsley said, “and come back to Omaha ready to dominate.”

Omaha Central (5-2)..........14 12 17 14—57
Chicago Whitney Young (4-1)....15 14 17 14—60

C: Akoy Agau 4-7 3-4 14, KJ Scott 2-10 1-2 5, Tra-Deon Hollins 4-7 1-2 10, Deandre Hollins-Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Tre'Shawn Thurman 4-14 5-6 13, Nick Billingsley 6-13 0-0 15, Malik Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Jon Allee 0-0 0-0 0, LaTrell Jameson 0-0 0-0 0, Austin McGaugh 0-0 0-0 0, Reath Nyoach 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-52 10-14 57.

Y: Miles Reynolds 5-6 2-2 15, L.J. Peak 0-8 2-4 2, Paul White 5-11 1-2 12, Ausar Madison 3-3 1-3 7, Jahlil Okafor 11-14 1-3 23, Joseph Toye 0-2 1-2 1, Robert Brettner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-44 8-13 60.

3-point goals: C 7-19 (Agau 3-3, Scott 0-3, Hollins 1-2, Thurman 0-6, Billingsley 3-5), Y 4-7 (Reynolds 3-3, Peak 0-2, White 0-1, Madison 1-1). Total fouls: C 12, Y 14. Fouled out: none. Technicals: none. Turnovers: C 17, Y 13. Rebounds: C 29 (Agau, Scott 8), Y 23 (Okafor 11). Field-goal percentage: C .385, Y .545. Free-throw percentage: C .714, Y .615.

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Contact the writer: Stu Pospisil    |   402-444-1041    |  

Stu Pospisil has been The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports since 1990 and for golf since 1988. He primarily covers football in the fall, basketball and wrestling in the winter and track and field in the spring.

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