Overtime thriller in the jungle

Wildcats nearly take down the best in the state


Photo by Logan Foote

Senior Dalys Beanum tries to make a play against Central.

Miguel Paredes Reyes, Assistant Sports Director

On Friday, February 7th, the Millard West Varsity Boys Basketball team squared off against the rival Millard North Mustangs in a supposedly one-sided match up with the Wildcats as the underdogs.

The Mustangs came into the game with a Class A best 16-2 record while riding a 5 game winning streak led by 4-star recruit, 6’5” junior Hunter Sallis. Sallis is ranked as the number one player in the state according to ESPN averaging 22.9 points per game and with a total of 420 points this season. The rest of the Mustangs line up is nothing short of amazing, with 6’6 junior Saint Joseph averaging 15.2 points per game, 6’9” senior Max Murell averaging 9.4 points per game, 6’6” sophomore Jasen Green averaging 11.3 points per game, and 6’4” junior Jadin Johnson averaging 4.8 points per game. The team as a whole averages 72.2 ppg with a 54% average field goal percentage.

On the Wildcat side, they came into the game with a 7-8 record with a one-game win streak, their last game won against Lincoln East High School 48-46. The starting five also looking fairly start-studded with 6’2” junior Ryan Larsen averaging 8.6 points per game, 6’6” senior Zach Olson averaging 7.5 ppg, 6’0” junior Dominic Humm averaging 9.1 ppg, 6’0” senior Dalys Beanum averaging 8.1 ppg, and 6’5” junior Evan Meyersick averaging 11.0 ppg. The team as a whole averages 59.6 ppg and is ranked 94th in the state.

“I thought we didn’t have a chance,” senior Cody Bennett said. “I thought we would lose by 30 because of the amount of talent the Millard North roster has.”

Even though statistically the Wildcats were vastly outmatched by their bitter rivals, the team played their best basketball and managed to stay in the game all 32 minutes. Early on in the first quarter, the Wildcats dug themselves into a hole with the Mustangs going on a 9-0 run and leading 11-2 with 4 minutes to go. Meyersick would then show up nailing a free throw then on the next possession finding junior Jacob Jones with a no-look pass who makes it and cuts the deficit by six. North would then respond with back to back scoring possessions off a steal making the game 15-5. Both teams would then trade scoring possessions before Millard West scored five unanswered points that closed out the first quarter, Wildcats 12 – Mustangs 17.

The second quarter starts off with a wildcat layup that led to an Olson tipped pass out of bounds that would lead to a Meyersick foul that sends Green to the line for one shot and makes it. After multiple scoring possessions, Olson hits the clutch three-pointer and makes it a one-score game at 19-22. The game would get even more intense as a Larsen three-pointer ties up the game at 24. The Mustangs would retake the lead but after a Sallis steal that led to a flashy dunk gets him a technical foul and that would retie the game after both free throws were made at 26-26 with 1:57 left in the first half. The halftime score would end up being Wildcats 28 – Mustangs 31.

Entering the second half the Mustangs started off with possession and got off to a good start but the Wildcats took time to get back into momentum with the score starting off 28-33. Back to back threes by Larsen and Beanum got them back into this game only down by one. The Mustangs responded with a strong run and sat with a comfortable seven-point lead. The Wildcats regroup and rally back with help from three-pointer from Jones and only down by two at the end of the 3rd quarter: Wildcats 41 – Mustangs 43.

The Mustangs started off with possession in the 4th and final quarter of regulation. Millard West scores first with Humm finding wide-open Beanum under the basket for an easy layup to tie the game once again. The Mustangs responded with a two-pointer of their own, then a Larsen foul sends Sallis to the line for two shots and makes both of them. Mustangs retook the lead by four points with 6:57 left in regulation. The Wildcats came back with a 7-0 run, with another Larsen three-pointer to give the Wildcats the lead for the first time in this game with 3:30 left. Then a Murell two-pointer got North back within one, however, a Thomas foul sends Olson to the line for two shots and makes both and West sits with a 52-49 lead with one minute to go. A Sallis long two puts them back within a point but it seems like all hopes are dashed when on defense a Murrell foul sends Humm to the line for two. Humm makes the first shot but as the second shot bounces off the left side of the rim the crowd watches in awe as Sallis grabs the rebound and gets a fast break down the right side and goes up for the game-tying shot and puts it in. End of regulation: Wildcats 53 – Mustangs 53.

Four additional minutes are added to the game to decide a winner and the Mustangs started out with quick momentum scoring five unanswered points. The Wildcats look nothing like they have looked all night and try to salvage the game. After many intentional fouls to try and give themselves a chance to come back they come up two points short. The Mustangs take the win in an overtime thriller. Final score: Wildcats 64 – Mustangs 66.

“They are the number one team in the state and we stuck with them,” Beanum said. “They made some good shots and executed some things well. I guess you could say we should’ve won, but I think it really shows we took a good step forward that game.”

After this loss, the team then played Omaha Central and only lost by three points. Those five combined points against some of the toughest teams in the state are what the Wildcats are using to fuel their comeback into dominance at districts.

“I think we just need to work some stuff out because we were right there,” Humm said. “These are just some small things that we need to figure out and we’ll be right up there with the best of them. I think we’ll make some noise at districts because people aren’t expecting us to do much and we want to prove them wrong.”

The Wildcats hope to end their season on a good note with an away game against Bellevue West on Friday, February 21st.