Grand Island saw its chances against Fremont disappear in a flurry of first-half misses near the basket as the Tigers held on for a 49-39 victory. The Islanders (0-3) suffered through two agonizing Fremont runs in the first half while missing at least five closeup shots. The Tigers ran off nine straight to take an 11-7 lead early in the second quarter, then finished the final four minutes of the first half with a 10-0 blitz to take a double digit lead into halftime.
“The bottom line for us is that we have to shoot with confidence inside,” Grand Island coach Jeff Hofeldt said. “I think we have to get over the size differential, because that’s not going to change. We had nine offensive rebounds tonight, which is a definite improvement, but we can’t go inside and already think that our shots are going to get blocked. We have to get more physical.”
Fremont (2-1) started six-foot seven Mitchell Hahn and six-foot five Zane Zentic, and still had three players six-four or better on the bench, so for the undersized Islanders, every opportunity inside was critical, and Grand Island simply failed to take advantage of its opportunities.
“Obviously we had the size advantage inside,” Fremont coach Mark Williams said. “I think we were able to alter some of their shots with our size, but you still don’t like to see them get that close. We’re missing another six-seven kid with a bum ankle, so when we get him back we’re going to be strong inside.”
The Islanders got on the board in style as Ben Witkowski got a steal on Fremont’s first possession and flipped a backhand pass to Eli Hunter for a quick basket. Moments later the combination clicked again as Hunter got the feed at the free throw line and hit the jumper, and after a basket inside from Hahn, Witkowski popped a three as the Islander offense seemed to be working well against the bigger Tigers. Instead, Grand Island missed its last eight shots of the first quarter, and gave up three turnovers. Pierce Almond finally broke the drought early in the second with a three, followed by another from Witkowski, but a Fremont timeout midway through the period shut down the Islander attack. Instead, it was the Tigers who rolled in the final minutes, as Hahn scored inside and then picked up an assist on a three from Jared Knoepfel. Zentic, who led Fremont with 15 points, posted up low for a basket before Hahn got the ball outside and drove in to score and give the Tigers an 11-point halftime lead.
Fremont kept up the pressure in the third quarter with an 11-4 burst. Lane Uhing opened the half with a putback bucket for Grand Island, but Zentic scored on consecutive possessions, as did guard Wes Spalding, who hit twice from outside to push the lead to 37-19. Uhing hit a three, and Hunter hit a late jumper to cut things back to 16 entering the final quarter.
The Islanders, in particular Almond, finally found their groove offensively in the final quarter. Almond scored 13, including a trio of threes, as Grand Island continued to battle.
“Fremont is obviously an inside out team,” Hofeldt said. “We have to have our outside shots fall to compete. We let them get some runs on us, especially in the first half, and that can’t happen. We’re still a very young team - we have 96 minutes at the varsity level right now. We really want our kids to keep their heads up and keep playing, because good things will happen.”
Almond topped the Islanders with 18 points, while Hahn added 13 and nine rebounds for Fremont.
Fremont ................ 8 18 14 9—49
Grand Island .............. 7 8 9 15—39
F: Williams 1-4 0-0 3, Spalding 2-4 0-0 5, Knoepfel 1-3 0, Wiyual 2-4 0-0 4, Wiegert 0-3 1-2 1, Yount 0-2 0-0 0, Cobb 0-3 1-2 1, Zentic 6-9 3-7 15, Hahn 6-9 1-2 13, Rector 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 20-44 6-13 49.
GI: Almond 7-18 0-0 18, Shuck 1-1 0-1 2, Witkowski 3-6 0-0 8, J. Morrow 0-3 0-0 0, Hunter 3-7 0-0 6, Uhin 2-8 0-2 5, B. Morrow 0-0 0-2 0, Biel 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 16-46 0-4 39.
3-pointers — Fremont 3-17 (Williams 1-4, Spalding 1-3, Knoepfel 1-2, Wiegert 0-3, Yount 0-1, Cobb 0-1, Zentic 0-1, Hahn 0-2), Grand Island 7-20 (Almond 4-12, Witkowski 2-3, Hunter 0-1, Uhing 1-4). Rebounds — Fremont 32 (Hahn 9, Zentic 8), Grand Island 26 (Uhing 6). Assists — Fremont 10 (Hahn 4), Grand Island 9 (Hunter 5, Witkowski 4). Turnovers — Fremont 7, Grand Island 10. Personal Fouls — Fremont 14, Grand Island 13. Fouled out — none. Technical Fouls — none.