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Thunderbirds crown Knights in GNS finale

Thunderbirds crown Knights in GNS finale

Bellevue West coach Doug Woodard is already seeing a difference in the 2013-14 version of his boys basketball team from the 2012-13 version.

West overcame a fourth quarter deficit to nip Lincoln Southeast 69-63 in the finals of the Great Nebraska Shootout Saturday afternoon at West.

“A year ago, this is a game we probably don’t win,” Woodard said. “We handled the adversity when things didn’t go well.”

West held a 41-32 halftime edge before Southeast’s zone defense limited the Thunderbirds to nine points in the third quarter, allowing the Knights to take a 51-49 lead.

The Thunderbirds opened the final frame with a 9-2 run to take the lead for good and salted the game away by hitting 12 of 14 free throws down the stretch.

“We didn’t get shots to fall in the third quarter, but we didn’t lose focus and showed maturity against a very good team,” Woodard said.

West’s balanced attack put four players in double figures, led by Malik Hluchoweckyj with 16. CJ Johnson and Christian Hatterle followed with 15 apiece while Austin Moore added 11. Johnson had a team-high eight rebounds with Hatterle grabbing seven boards.

It has been a rare four-year state tourney drought for the Thunderbirds, but with four starters back, that dry spell could end.

“Last year was a tough year with injuries,” he said. “If we can develop a little depth, we’ve got a chance to be pretty good.”

West reached the finals by dominating Kearney 67-38 in Friday’s semifinals in Kearney.

The Thunderbirds shot 57 percent (29 of 51) from the field in the win and had 10 different players score.

Hluchoweckyj had 16 in the win, followed by Johnson with 13 and Hatterle at 10. Hatterle finished with a double-double as he grabbed a dozen rebounds.

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