It was time to check the pulse of Lincoln North Star.
The Navigators have one of the top seniors in the state in guard Kwat Abdelkarim and one of the most promising sophomores in 6-foot-8 Brennon Clemmons.
Yet North Star had mustered only 66 points combined in its past two games while falling to 3-4.
Following a 55-49 win Saturday at Elkhorn South, we can report that there is a pulse. And the week ahead for coach Tony Quattrocchi’s team includes three games that could change the outlook for them for the rest of the season.
“I think this can catapult us if we can get a string of wins, which is easier said than done in Class A," he said. “This should hopefully, maybe, be a turning point for us after the last two games, which were a little tough for us shooting the ball.”
Abdelkarim was close to scoring half of the Gators’ points as he finished with 27, boosting his season average to 20.8. Eleven came in the first quarter, when his only three made 3s of the game came in the final 2½ minutes.
Clemmons, hurt all of his freshman year, had six points on a tough day finishing around the basket and 10 rebounds. Josh Brown, another returning starter, had 10 points.
“We're still trying to develop the depth behind our top guys, so we're experimenting with a couple freshmen and a sophomore off the bench," Quattrocchi said.
Where did he believe the Gators would be after eight games? Given a schedule that turned out unfriendly, maybe 4-4 is about right. North Star has two losses to No. 5 Lincoln Pius X and one on the road at Lincoln Southeast. Its last game had been a loss at Gretna and, Quattrocchi said, “Gretna plays a style that if you don't shoot the ball, you're going to get beat.
“I wouldn't say we overachieved or underachieved. Maybe we were about where we maybe thought we were going to be, but we got home games coming up. Thank God we have seven home games left.”
Elkhorn South also was trying to get back to .500. The Storm (5-7) never led but were within a point late in the third quarter before Gator senior Jake Seip scored on a putback.
Senior center Reid Nelson had 13 points and seven rebounds and junior guard Chase Anderson 12 points.
“Elkhorn South is a very athletic team. They have a lot of length," Quattrocchi said. “We needed to get some confidence back. We attacked the rim, and that was our mentality. Don’t settle for 3s. Kwat obviously did a great job of that, especially the second half.”
North Star’s week ahead has home games Tuesday with Norfolk and Friday with Lincoln East before a Saturday road contest with No. 10 Grand Island and national top-50 junior Isaac Traudt. The Gators visit No. 1 Millard North on Jan. 30.
Lincoln North Star (4-4)........15 12 12 16—55
At Elkhorn South (5-7)..........10 9 17 13—49
LNS: Kwat Abdulkarim 27, Josh Brown 10, Brennon Clemmons 6, Jake Hilkemann 5, Kajaun Sidney 3, DJ McGarvie 2, Jake Seip 2.
ES: Reid Nelson 13, Chase Anderson 12, Derek Merwick 8, Brian Kardell 6, Nate Hoesing 2, Parker Spann 2, Ashton Allison 2, Evan Hill 2.