Hameed Odunewu didn't score a first-quarter point, but the Mooseheart guard jump-started his team in its 81-41 rout of Serena in its playoff opener.
"I figured I had to set the tone right away," said the 6-foot-4 junior, who plays out front in the Red Ramblers' 1-3-1 zone defense.
He did in a big way, coming up with three of his eventual 10 steals in the opening period as top-seeded Mooseheart took a 24-9 lead and never looked back. The 23-5 Red Ramblers advance to Friday's regional final against Newark, which topped Somonauk 50-42 in Wednesday's second semifinal.
"I thought there were a couple things we did really well from the start and one was play great defense, especially Hameed," said coach Ron Ahrens. "We also got the ball to people n our offense. I think we played really well in the first half."
Later, Odunewu was flipping passes off the backboard for slam dunks by 6-foot-9 Makur Puou and 6-7 Mangisto Deng.
"I don't mind them doing that but they need to make them," said Ahrens. "We've missed a couple doing that this year."
The fourth-seeded Huskers struggled to take care of the ball, turning it over eight times in the opening frame and nine more in the second quarter. Mooseheart, which got 25 points from Deng and 23 from Puou, led 51-19 at the break.
"I don't think we played very well in the second half, specifically the starting five in the third quarter (when Serena matched Mooseheart's output 16-16)," said Ahrens.
"We can't be having third quarters like that against teams like Newark or Somonauk or we'll have problems. It kind of concerns me."
Trevor Wehner, a 6-3 junior, came off the bench and led the Huskers with 14 points going against Mooseheart's towering frontline that also features 7-1 Akim Nyang.