Three-Pointer for the Win

Dragons’ Timely Shooting Leads to Win over Elkhorn South

Hold it: Focused on the fundamentals, Blake Rose (21) holds his follow through. The three pointer went down and helped the Dragons retake the lead as the fourth quarter was coming to a close. Rose finished the game shooting 40% from behind the arc.

The 7-4 Gretna Dragons were pitted against their rival, the Elkhorn South Storm, in an important conference game on Jan. 22. The road environment was a test the Dragons had yet to see, as it was the first game they played where students were allowed to attend. The added energy from the visiting crowd played a large part early in the game.
“The student section changed the feel of the game for sure,” freshman Alex Wilcoxson said. “The gym was three times louder than usual, and you have the people you see every day at school there. It’s like you do not want to mess up in front of them.”
Feeding off the energy from the fans, Gretna’s defense locked down the Elkhorn South shooters to begin the first quarter. After 9:31, the Storm had fallen behind 12-5, largely due to the suffocating interior play from both guards in passing lanes and forwards clogging the area around the rim. However, the Storm began to chip away as the first quarter concluded, and it was not until two straight threes that the Dragons pushed their lead to a more comfortable margin, leading 18-9 at the end of the first-quarter. A second-quarter plagued with poor shooting efficiency kept either team from taking momentum into half, although the Dragons did have the edge with a 22-16 lead as both teams headed to the locker room.
“In every game this year we have jumped out to big leads at the start,” senior Blake Rose said. “That’s a combination of other teams underestimating us, us being locked in and ready to go, and our coaching staff putting together a good game plan that the other team has to eventually adjust to. A first half lead is big for us as a team. One particular way we are so dominant is our defense, teams usually don’t face a defense like ours so when they do they have to find answers.”
Having controlled the game from the opening tip, coaches, players and fans were startled to see what may have been the worst quarter of Dragons basketball all season. A six-point halftime lead for the Dragons was slowly whittled away by the Storm, until a pair of threes rained down in the final 1:30 of the third quarter to push the Storm past the Dragons 27-22. Gretna’s methodical and careless possessions put them in a tough situation, as they were outscored 11-0 in the third quarter. Regrouped and refreshed following the break between quarters, the Dragons left it all on the floor in the fourth quarter. Freshman Landon Pokorski was instrumental in the fiery comeback for the Dragons. A momentum-swinging, three-point field goal to begin the fourth quarter from Pokorski gave Gretna all they needed: hope. Down 32-30, Rose intercepted a pass before being fouled, in what would prove to be the most impactful turnover of the game. The Dragons had the ball with 2:07 left in the quarter, but consistent and ineffective ball movement kept the team from getting a shot off until just 0:45 was left on the clock. The shot, a clutch three-pointer from Wilcoxson that gave the Dragons the lead for the first time since late in the third quarter.
“There were a lot of things going through my head,” Wilcoxson said. “But I had to stay focused on the game because there was still 45 seconds left. We still had to play defense. After I hit that shot I got goosebumps, like it wasn’t real, but again, we all had to stay focused and finish the game out.”
A stop on the defensive end would follow, and freshman Alec Wilkins would be fouled. Despite the pressure of the game on his shoulders, the freshman knocked down both from the charity stripe, and extended the lead to three points, 35-32. Having fouls to give, the Dragons intentionally fouled three times to drain the clock from 0:12 to 0:4.8, utilizing a strategy that is starting to become popularized among basketball teams. This forced the Storm into a desperation three that clanked off the back iron. Gretna looked helpless at times in the game but was able to close out at a high level. The strong fourth quarter propelled the Dragons to a much-needed road victory 35-32 over the Storm. The next game will be on the road for the Dragons, facing Benson on February 5.