After playing top-ranked Bellevue West close the previous evening, Millard North got the job done Friday night against second-ranked Bellevue East.
The fifth-ranked Mustangs, who lost by five against the No. 1 Thunderbirds, led the entire way against the Chieftains and posted a 51-43 road win. The victory gives Millard North (16-5) an important late-season boost in the wild-card standings that determine which teams will host in district play.
The Mustangs began Friday night ranked eighth in those standings, but must climb to seventh to be a district host. The district pairings will be released Tuesday by the Nebraska School Activities Association.
“We hope to slide into that seventh spot,” Millard North coach Scott Persigehl said. “I think the kids have earned the chance to host a district, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”
Persigehl’s squad played tough defense against Bellevue East (17-3). The Chieftains were held without a field goal from late in the first quarter until guard Peyton Hagen banked in a 3-pointer with 1:30 left in the third quarter.
“I thought our half-court defense was really solid tonight,” Persigehl said. “We played fundamental basketball and didn’t give them a lot of easy shots.”
The Mustangs led 14-11 after the first quarter and took control of the game over the next two quarters. Bellevue East was 0 for 8 from the field in the second period and 1 for 10 in the third, a dismal 5.6 percent over that span.
“They’re an aggressive, physical team,” Chieftains coach Scott Jensen said. “They played great defense and deserved to win.”
Millard North led by 14 in the third quarter before the Chieftains, who had 20 points entering the final period, started to battle back. They scored 23 in the fourth quarter and drew within six with 1:35 left when Rylie Cascio Jensen sank a long 3-pointer.
But the Mustangs were able to finish off the win by sinking their free throws. They sank 12 in the fourth quarter, including their final 10 points of the game, to secure the victory.
Persigehl said he wasn’t certain what to expect after Thursday night’s 61-56 road loss against Bellevue West.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had back-to-back games,” he said. “I was hoping we weren’t going to have a hangover from that game last night, and we didn’t.”
Taylor Bahensky led the Mustangs with 16 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. Mary Dineen added 15 while 6-foot-2 center Allie Swanson pulled down 11 rebounds.
Freshman guard Cascio Jensen, daughter of head coach Scott Jensen, led Bellevue East with 13 points. Amaun Frazier added 10.
The Chieftains were once again playing without former All-Nebraska senior guard Jayla Hobza, who has missed the past seven games because of personal off-the-court issues. She was not on the Bellevue East bench, though Jensen said she remains a member of the team.
“It’s a day by day thing,” he said. “I don’t know if she’ll be back.”
The Chieftains will play at crosstown rival Bellevue West on Tuesday night. Millard North, which has played six straight road games, will host third-ranked Millard West next Friday night.
Millard North (16-5) ................. 14 9 8 20—51
At Bellevue East (17-3) ................. 11 4 5 23—43
MN: Ali Drey 0-1 0-3 0, Holly Hild 1-2 3-4 5, Mary Dineen 4-7 5-6 15, Kenae Merritt 2-3 5-9 9, Taylor Bahensky 4-10 8-10 16, Jordan Tynes 0-2 0-0 0, Jess Rands 0-2 0-0 0, Allie Swanson 2-5 2-3 6.
BE: Peyton Hagen 3-9 0-2 7, Jessica Vernon 0-1 0-0 0, Roshawn Hollie 1-1 0-1 2, Haley Ourada 1-1 0-0 3, Taylor Silva 2-11 2-3 6, Rylie Cascio Jensen 4-8 4-4 13, Amaun Frazier 2-12 6-9 10, Sidni Trotter 1-4 0-0 2, Shelby Quinn 0-1 0-0 0, Taylor Young 0-1 0-0 0.
3-point goals: MN 2-5 (Dineen 2-4, Merritt 0-1); BE 3-13 (Peyton Hagen 1-5, Ourada 1-1, Silva 0-1, Cascio Jensen 1-3, Frazier 0-1, Quinn 0-1, Young 0-1). Rebounds: MN 33 (Swanson 11); BE 34 (Silva 8). Total fouls: MN 19; BE 25. Fouled out: Silva, Cascio Jensen. Turnovers: MN 20; BE 21. Field-goal percentage: MN .406; BE .285. Free-throw percentage: MN .657; BE .631.
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