An optimist might point to the high quality of defense played in Friday's boys basketball game between Lincoln Southeast and Lincoln Northeast at Ed Johnson Gym. A pessimist might complain about poor shooting.
But coach Jeff Smith knew one thing for sure -- his Class A top-ranked Knights chalked up their sixth straight win, 45-32, after leading 21-6 at halftime. Southeast improved to 17-2 heading into Saturday's regular-season finale at No. 3 Norfolk.
"I pretty excited about our defense, holding them to six points in the first half," Smith said. "I thought we could guard them defensively, but neither team shot the ball well. We hadn't played in 10 days, so we were a little worried about having our legs and getting our rhythm. But we did what we needed to do and scored when we needed to."
It was the second-lowest point total the Knights have allowed this season, and the second-fewest points scored by both the Rockets, who finished the regular season 5-15, and Southeast.
The Knights shot 33.9 percent from the field (18-of-53), including 8-of-32 for 25 percent on three-pointers. Northeast shot 32.5 percent from the field (13-of-40), including 2-of-12 on threes (16.6 percent).
"It was just one of those ugly offensive games, but both teams have a lot of speed and quickness on defense, and that had something to do with it, too," Smith said.
Southeast took control of the game early, jumping to a 10-0 lead. Northeast missed its first 11 attempts from the field, plus its first two free throws, and the Rockets didn't get on the board until a basket by senior Trevor Vanderford with 1 minute and 14 seconds left in the first quarter.
Vanderford's bucket started a 6-3 mini-run that closed the gap to 13-6 after a Jordan Schroer basket 53 seconds into the second quarter. But that was it for the Rockets on offense for the first half and they went to halftime shooting 15.7 percent from the field (3-of-19). They never got closer than 12 points in the second half.
"To beat a team like Southeast, you have to shoot a high percentage, but we really struggled in the first half," Northeast coach Steve Bartek said. "We had good looks and open shots, and defensively our zone bothered them some -- but we just couldn't score."
Derrious Vick and Jaydee Jurgensen scored 14 points apiece to lead the Knights, with 12 of Jurgensen's points coming in the second half after Smith said he experienced some illness at halftime. Eric Jackson had 10 rebounds and Jurgensen eight to help Southeast to a 35-31 advantage on the boards.
Jordan Schroer scored 14 points and Derek Hoedjer had a game-high 11 rebounds for Northeast.