Connor Lusso was far from a one-man show Friday night, but the Millard West senior was still the main act.
Lusso scored 24 points and got double-digit scoring from three teammates in support as the Top 10 No. 6 Wildcats beat fifth-ranked Omaha North 75-68.
“Everyone in the city knows we’re going to (Lusso),” Millard West coach Bill Morrison said. “What we’re always looking for is the role players contributing as well.”
A fast start by Lusso and company — he made seven of his first eight attempts and the team was 8 of 9 from the floor through 4˝ minutes — staked Millard West to a lead it would hold wire to wire. Lusso had 12 points in the opening quarter.
North would hang around, though, despite missing one of its top offensive weapons for the better part of two quarters.
Senior forward Aireon Porter was whistled for his third foul with five minutes remaining in the first half, then was tagged with his fourth midway through the third quarter.
Millard West would push its lead to as many as 15 to close the third with Porter on the bench, scoring the last 10 points of the quarter.
It appeared the Wildcats would leave with an easy win, still leading by 11 with just over two minutes to play. But North scrapped its way to within six with the ball a minute later before North coach Ryan Mlnarik was hit with a technical foul.
The Wildcats made five of six free throws the rest of the way to secure the win.
The Wildcats have won four of their last five games. Of their five losses, four are to teams ranked in the top four in the state and the other is to a team also in the ratings.
“It’s a big win for us,” Lusso said. “We’re always trying to get wins against those teams ahead of us.”
Spencer Sharp added 16 points for Millard West. Teammates Josh Lallman and Joey Koca added 15 and 12, respectively. The three and Lusso were a combined 22 of 29 from the floor as Millard West shot 65.8 percent from the floor.
“We thought post defense was going to be the key tonight, and it was,” Mlnarik said. “They do such a good job of pinning you down in the lane off of transition. That’s how they get a lot of those easy buckets.”
Porter still managed to lead the Vikings with 20 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter. The anticipated battle with Lusso, though, was one-sided until the final quarter.
“He’s just a high-intensity player,” Mlnarik said of Lusso. “He’s got the mid-range shot, he can put it on the floor. You’ve got to continuously stay low.”
The teams combined to shoot 58 free throws in a game that featured 53 fouls.
Omaha North (9-5) 14181026—68
At Millard West (11-5) 22142118—75
ON: Justin Patton 3-6 2-2 8, Marquise Lewis 0-2 0-0 0, Kameron Bradford 4-8 4-7 15, Zach Martin 3-7 3-7 9, Taidor Bichiok 1-2 0-0, Davion Reed 1-4 0-1 2, Bryan Littlejon 3-7 0-0 7, Aireon Porter 8-14 4-4 20, Howard Glass 1-4 3-4 5 Totals 24-54 16-25 68.
MW: Joe Koca 3-4 4-4 12, Nick Hargis 1-2 0-0 2, Adam Staasheim 0-0 1-2 1, Josh Lallman 3-3 9-14 15, Tyler Kallman 0-1 1-2 1, Connor Lusso 11-6 2-3 24, Spencer Sharp 5-6 6-6 16, Ben Kositzke 2-6 0-2 4 Totals 25-38 23-33 75.
3-point goals: ON 4-16 (Lewis 0-1, Bradford 3-4, Martin 0-3, Bichiok 0-1, Reed 0-2, Littlejon 1-3, Porter 0-2); MW 2-3 (Koca 2-2, Hargis 0-1). Rebounds: ON 25 (Brandon McGary 5); MW 25 (Lusso 6). Turnovers: ON 12, MW 18. Total fouls: ON 28, MW 25. Technical fouls: Mlnarik (North bench). Fouled out: Hargis, Martin. Field goal percentage: ON .444, MW .658. Free throw percentage: ON .640, MW .697. Att: 850 (est.).
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