Omaha Benson got one of its top players back Friday night, but that didn't make any difference to Bellevue West.
The fifth-ranked Thunderbirds stayed focused and came away with a 56-46 boys basketball win over the third-ranked Bunnies.
Benson fell despite the return of senior guard Khyri Thomas, sidelined the past three weeks with a foot injury. He scored a game-high 18 points, but it wasn't enough as the Bunnies fell to 12-2.
“We had heard he was going to play,” Bellevue West coach Doug Woodard said. “And we wanted him to play. He's obviously one of the best players in the state.”
Both teams got off to slow starts, but the Thunderbirds managed to take an 11-8 lead after the first quarter. Benson bounced back to grab a 24-22 advantage just before halftime when Tyrone Clayton scored on a putback at the buzzer.
Bellevue West rallied in the third quarter behind the strong play of senior forward Christian Hatterle, who scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in the period. The Thunderbirds outscored Benson 17-6 in the quarter, which ended with a 3-pointer by Hatterle.
“He helped turn the game around,” Woodard said. “That was a big 3 he hit at the end of the quarter.”
The Bunnies closed within four early in the fourth quarter, but a 6-0 run — highlighted by a 3-pointer from Austin Moore — put Bellevue West's lead back at 10. Benson could get no closer than eight the rest of the way.
“We got it close, but then we couldn't get a stop when we needed it,” Bunnies coach Donnie Johnson said. “It seemed like they were getting every loose ball.”
Benson also was hurt by subpar shooting from long range — 3 for 24 from behind the arc.
“That will beat you every time,” Johnson said. “We were settling for too many shots like that.”
Moore finished with 11 for the Thunderbirds while Malik Hluchoweckyj and CJ Johnson each had nine. Bellevue West will play Saturday night at fourth-ranked Norfolk.
“This is a brutal weekend for us,” Woodard said. “We'll enjoy this one for a little bit, but then we'll have to forget it and be ready tomorrow night.”
Tyree Peter finished with 10 for Benson, which plays Saturday night at Grand Island.
Omaha Benson (12-2) ............................................. 8 16 6 16—46
At Bellevue West (12-2) .......................................... 11 11 17 17—56
OB: Khyri Thomas 18, Danny Barfield 2, Mar'shun Stewart 2, Maurice Buckley 8, Tyrone Clayton 4, Tyree Peter 10, Thik Bol 2.
BW: Brad Brazeal 3, Malik Hluchoweckyj 9, CJ Johnson 9, Brad Cluff 3, Brayden Knapp 2, Austin Moore 11, Kael Strawmier 4, Christian Hatterle 15.
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Video: Omaha Benson vs. Bellevue West