Bill Morrison calls them “four-minute games.”
They’re the ones decided late, or even in overtime, and those four-minute sessions are a staple of his Millard West team’s practices.
On Monday night, the Class A No. 5 Wildcats won the four-minute game, going 9 of 10 from the free-throw line in the last minute for a 69-64 overtime win over 10th-ranked Omaha Creighton Prep in the District A-5 championship game in front of a reporter-estimated 1,500 at Millard West.
The victory sends the Wildcats to the state tournament, for just the fourth time in program history and first time in a decade.
“This is a great group,” Morrison said of his squad, now 3-0 in overtime games this season. “It’s an easy group to coach. They come to work every day.”
And it’s a group that had its work cut out for it Monday night.
The same Prep team that beat Millard West by 18 just 10 days ago pushed the game to overtime with a pair of free throws by Chad Witecy with 30 seconds to play.
The Junior Jays had a chance at the end of regulation following a Millard West turnover, but Drew Homa’s jumper from the right corner rimmed out.
Millard West struck first in overtime on a bucket by Connor Lusso just 10 seconds in. Alexander Allbery answered on the ensuing possession for Prep before back-to-back Wildcat baskets by Spencer Sharp and Lusso.
Prep’s Kevin Dineen hit the second of two free throws with 1:43 to play to cut the deficit to 60-57.
The Wildcats ran off almost half of the remaining time before starting their parade to the free-throw line. Four players each hit a pair and Lusso capped it by hitting one of two with five seconds left.
“They lived at the line,” Prep coach Josh Luedtke said. “You can’t give a good team like that as many free throws as we gave them. Free throws and rebounding cost us tonight.”
Millard West was 19 of 29 from the line on the night. Sharp led all scorers with 22 points. The senior forward was 8 of 11 from the floor and made all six attempts from the line. He added a team-high eight rebounds.
That production was key as Lusso, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, was held in check for most of the night. Lusso finished with 13 points, but went without a point the entire second half. His bucket to start overtime was his first since beating the second-quarter buzzer.
“I’m sure their game plan was to take Connor out of the game,” Morrison said. “That’s what everyone’s plan is. When teams play off other guys, they can hurt you. Connor makes other guys better.”
Witecy led four Prep players in double figures with 16 points. Alexander and Jason Allbery added 15 each and Dineen chipped in 10 for the Junior Jays.
Creighton Prep (13-11) ................. 11 13 12 18 10—64
At Millard West (18-7) ................. 11 16 15 12 15—69
OCP: Michael Emodi 0-1 0-0 0, Kevin Dineen 4-10 1-2 10, Kirkland Kudlacz 1-3 0-0 2, Patrick Kirby 1-1 0-0 3, Drew Homa 1-10 0-0 3, Alexander Allbery 6-13 3-3 15, Jason Allbery 5-6 1-4 15, Chad Witecy 6-6 4-5 16 Totals 24-50 9-14 64.
MW: Joey Koca 0-2 3-4 3, Nicholas Hargis 4-6 2-4 12, Adam Staashelm 0-2 1-2 1, Josh Lallman 3-5 3-4 9, Tyler Kallman 1-1 0-0 2, Connor Lusso 6-14 1-3 13, Spencer Sharp 8-11 6-6 22, Ben Kositzke 2-4 3-6 7 Totals 24-45 19-29 69.
3-point goals: OCP 7-19 (Dineen 1-4, Kudlacz 1-1, Homa 1-8, A, Allbery 0-1, J. Allbery 4-5); MW 2-6 (Koca 0-1, Hargis 2-3, Stassheim 0-1, Lallman 0-1). Rebounds: OCP 24 (J. Allbery 6); MW 27 (Sharp 8). Turnovers: OCP 11, MW 8. Technical fouls: None. Fouled out: None. Field goal percentage: OCP .480, MW .533. Free throw percentage: OCP .643, MW .655. Att: 1500 (est).
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