The Norfolk High boys and girls basketball teams both pulled away from their Omaha Northwest opponents by saving their best for last.
The Panthers’ best would be 20-plus points scored, and the last would be the fourth quarter of their respective wins over the Huskies.
A 24-point fourth period allowed the Norfolk boys to pull away from Northwest for a 72-58 victory, while the Norfolk girls’ 21 points broke open a tie game that the Panthers won 54-38.
Northwest’s boys team entered the contest with a 1-17 record but held the lead six times during the game — scoring seven points late in the first period to forge a tie at 16, then using a 3-point shot at the buzzer to take a 38-36 lead at the half.
“The scouting report said they couldn’t shoot outside, but they were hitting some shots outside in that first half and put us in a little bit of trouble. Thank goodness we were making shots,” Norfolk boys coach Matt Shelsta said. “They’re absolutely a good team; their record doesn’t show it, but we know what they can do. They’re athletic, they’re good, they’re strong. We’ve got to be stronger and better on defense; we just gave up too many easy baskets.”
“It’s varsity basketball in Class A, and teams are good. They were athletic and can jump, and they were bigger than us,” he said. “You absolutely don’t get a night off.”
The Panthers produced an 8-2 run to finish the third quarter with a 48-47 advantage, but Northwest responded with the first six points of the fourth to lead 53-50 with 6 minutes left — and that’s when Norfolk took control of the game.
A 1-2-1-1 zone press increased the speed of the game to a pace that the Huskies were uncomfortable with.
“Our assistant coaches saw that — that was their call; they had a great thought on that,” Shelsta said. “We needed to get something going, just to spark us a little bit, and that was the answer for us. We got some turnovers and some forced shots and transition 3 attempts from them that we don’t think they’re as good at. Then, most importantly, we converted on the other end with free throws and 3s.”
As a result, Norfolk scored 13 straight points — featuring back-to-back 3s by Colton Price, followed by a 3 from Kallan Herman and a drive by Kamari Moore — to lead 61-53.
In the span of just over a minute, Herman, as the primary ball-handler for the Panthers against Northwest’s pressure, made four consecutive trips to the foul line and converted those opportunities into eight points and a 14-point lead to allow Norfolk to put the game out of the Huskies’ reach.
Herman, who recently surpassed the 1,000-point threshold in his varsity career, once again led the 6-13 Panthers in scoring with 32 points, but several other Norfolk seniors contributed points and hustle plays.
Price, for example, made three 3-point shots as part of his 13 points but also drew a charge to gain a possession during the Panthers’ third-quarter run. Isaac Heimes scored five points but spent significant time defending Northwest’s post players and created jump ball situations by diving on loose balls. Colby James added five points and played a solid all-round game, while Daydon Taylor came off the bench to score eight points.
“We’re getting into the last couple weeks of the season, and the seniors realize this is it, so they’ve got a bit of urgency,” Shelsta said. “They put in so much time and effort and work; we want to honor them with our play. When they spark us and are the catalyst, it’s huge for us.”
Herman began his varsity career by scoring seven points while at Wayne, then added 201 as a sophomore and 321 as a junior for the Panthers. He is now, according to Shelsta, in the “high 400s.”
“He can do it all; he’s a three-level scorer, and he’s got to be a ball-handler for us,” Shelsta said. “He’s got to be the glue for our team. He’s a workhorse for us — we don’t take him out of the game.”
“He’s getting bumped and shoved; he’s a big-time competitor,” he said. “We love having him on the team, not just for scoring but for his competitive nature. He absolutely hates to lose. Our kids see that from him and feed off of that.”
Herman, although he was honored before the game for the scoring milestone, said the points aren’t his primary priority.
“It’s great, but I just wanted to come out and play our basketball game; I didn’t try to dwell on it too much,” Herman said. “I know that some of my shots are hard to come by, so I’ve just got to keep working. If they break down on defense, I’ve got to be ready to capitalize.”
“When I was younger, I played point guard all the time, but when we moved here, I became a shooting guard,” he said. “At the beginning of this season, I was the shooting guard, but Kamari (Moore) got hurt, so I had to step up and play point guard. It’s kind of been good for us.”
In the girls game, the Huskies led 11-9 after the first quarter but watched as Norfolk went on a 12-0 run in the second — starting with a pair of Hailey Kleinschmit free throws followed by her steal at midcourt that turned into a layup. The run ended with a Kleinschmit pullup jumper in the lane before she added an assist to Karly Kalin on a cut to the basket.
The senior later added 10 points in the fourth quarter, helping her team break away from a tie at 33 at the end of the third and pull away for the win.
After Chelsea Strom opened the fourth with a 3, Kleinschmit scored on a transition layup and a drive into the lane, then made 6 of 6 free throws during a string of Norfolk trips to the charity stripe in the game’s final four minutes. The Panthers made 14 of 18 during that stretch to turn a 40-35 lead into the game’s final score of 54-38.
“Hailey has been really consistent all year long; she does such a good job when teams play zone,” Norfolk girls coach Jared Oswald said. “We can get the ball to her in the middle of the zone and she’s just really effective; she can shoot the mid-range shot but can also attack the basket and finish.”
Kleinschmit made 6 of 10 field goal attempts and all 12 of her free throw chances in totaling a career-high 25 points for the Panthers, now 9-10 on the season.
“Our 1-3-1 wasn’t as effective as I hoped it would be early, because they knocked down some shots, but we didn’t do a good job of finding their best shooter,” Oswald said. “But the big thing about our 1-3-1 has been that it’s led to run-outs and led to offense for us. I thought when we started trapping out of it, our girls did a better job of being aggressive and getting tips on passes.”
The Norfolk teams were to travel to Omaha South on Saturday.
Omaha Northwest 16 22 9 11 — 58
Norfolk 16 20 12 24 — 72
Omaha Northwest (1-18): Marreion Marks 3-7 2-2 9, Jayden Curtis-Sayers 11-17 3-9 26, Walton Busby 3-7 0-0 7, Dontae Reed 0-0 0-2 0, Landon Broer 2-10 1-1 6, Isaiah Forte-Williams 1-3 0-0 2, Mekhi Marks 3-6 2-2 8. Totals: 23-50 8-16 58.
Norfolk (6-13): Shon King 1-2 0-0 2, Kamari Moore 1-2 0-0 2, Isaac Heimes 2-5 0-0 5, Kallan Herman 9-19 12-12 32, Cale Wacker 0-1 0-0 0, Colton Price 5-8 0-0 13, Reed Stoltz 2-2 0-0 4, Colby James 1-3 2-2 5, Devon Bader 0-0 1-2 1, Daydon Taylor 2-4 2-2 8. Totals: 23-46 17-18 72.
Omaha Northwest 11 9 13 5 — 38
Norfolk 9 13 11 21 — 54
Omaha Northwest (5-12): Taniya Golden 7-14 1-2 17, JayVeonna Williams 1-3 0-0 2, Taylor Markussen 1-2 0-0 2, Ravyne Wallace 3-7 0-0 8, Cierra Marks 1-4 0-0 2, Brooklyn Busby 0-5 0-0 0, Alexandria Drummond 1-4 0-0 2, Michelle Reese 2-7 0-0 5. Totals: 16-46 1-2 38.
Norfolk (9-10): Nealy Brummond 0-6 3-5 3, Tessa Gall 1-2 0-2 2, Erin Schwanebeck 1-4 4-9 6, Karly Kalin 1-3 2-2 4, Chelsea Strom 1-6 3-4 6, Hailey Kleinschmit 6-10 12-12 25, Makenna Skiff 2-3 1-2 5, Agdaly Sanchez 1-4 1-2 3. Totals: 13-39 26-38 54.