Grand Island Senior High held off a last-minute charge by Lincoln East to win its first game of the year, 43-38.
The Islanders (1-5) once again combined tough defense and an edge in rebounding, but found a way to get points, including just enough success at the line in the late going, to get the win. A pair of free throws by Sarah Splattstoesser gave Grand Island a 38-30 lead with one minute 26 seconds remaining in the game, but the Spartans put together a final surge that nearly stole away the win.
After failing to hit from 3-point range earlier in the game, East connected twice in a 23 second span to cut the lead to 40-38 with 22 seconds remaining in the game. Libby Norvell hit one more free throw for the Islanders, then after a missed three and a Spartan foul, Kirsten Sullivan stepped to the line and sealed the win by hitting both shots with two seconds left.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy against East,” Islander coach Kelli Jeffries said. “I thought we played great defense all night long, and we made it hard for them to get open looks. Offensively we had a couple of dry spells, but we didn’t have three or four minute runs like that. East was doing a lot of switching defensively, but we hit some timely shots and we did enough at the line late. This was just a good overall team win.”
Lincoln East stayed in the game in the first half in spite of making only three field goals. Instead the Spartans got their points from the line, hitting 13 of 16 free throws as the Islander defense paid a price for their tough, challenging defense. After the second quarter started with the score tied at 9-9, East (2-4) went ahead briefly as Malika Wilson got the steal and basket to open the period. Sullivan hit a three for Grand Island, followed moments later by a tough basket inside from Kayla Lindell, as the Islanders regained the lead. Lindell added two more buckets in the next few minutes, and it appeared that Grand Island was on the verge of a significant breakaway. However, the Spartans generated enough offense to to stay within five at halftime.
The teams played even basketball through the third period, and traded buckets twice to open the fourth. Sullivan, who led the Islanders with 13, scored on a putback, but Nicole Raatz answered with a baseline jumper for East. Norvell went inside for a tough running jumper in the lane to once again push the lead to eight only to see East answer with a fast break basket from Shelby Blankenbaker. With three and a half minutes to go, the Islanders slowed things way down. The Islanders went 0-of-3 out of two trips to the line, but the Spartans turned the ball over after one and Sullivan got the rebound for Grand Island after a missed one and one. East fouled again with one minute 26 seconds to go, and Splattstoesser’s free throws appeared to give Grand Island enough of a cushion to ride out the final seconds.
Instead, East got a pair at the line from Wilson, who then got the steal and headed upcourt to drain a three. Norvell was fouled and hit both shots, but Brooke Carmack countered with another trey to narrow the lead to 40-38. Wilson had one chance to tie the game with her last shot, but it came up short and Sullivan’s rebound and free throws gave the Islanders their first win.
“We just never got in rhythm offensively,” East coach Dennis Prichard said. “Grand Island plays solid, physical defense, and they took away our man offense. Getting to the line kept us in the game in the first half, but we got killed on offensive rebounds. The problem was we got quite a few fouls early, and that took the aggression out of the girls defensively.”
Jeffries gave her team credit for sticking together through a tough opening stretch of the season.
“It was a long time coming,” she said. “The girls have been playing hard, but we needed this to get them some confidence. This is how we’re going to win games this year — defense, holding on to the ball and hitting our free throws. Everybody stepped us for us tonight.”
Lincoln East (2-4) .............. 9 10 7 12 — 38
Grand Island (1-5) ............. 9 15 8 11 — 43
L: Svoboda 0-3 0-0 0, I. Wilson 1-7 0-0 2, Moates 1-1 0-0 2, M. Wilson 3-13 2-3 9, Iaquinta 1-2 3-5 5, Blankenbaker 1-2 5-6 7, Carmack 1-1 0- 3, Novak 0-0 2-2 2, Raatz 2-5 4-4 8. Totals 10-34 16-20 38.
G: Sullivan 2-4 8-14 13, Splattstoesser 0-3 2-2 2, Fyfe 1-4 0-1 2, Norvell 3-8 4-6 11, Armstrong 1-1 0-0 2, Riedy 0-1 0-0 0, Gangwish 1-2 0-0 2, Uhing 0-5 0-0 0, Lindell 4-7 3-8 11. Totals 12-35 17-31 43.
3-point shots — LE 2-12 (Svoboda 0-1, I. Wilson 0-2, M. Wilson 1-8, Carmack 1-1), GI 2-14 (Sullivan 1-2, Splattstoesser 0-1, Fyfe 0-3, Norvel 1-4, Riedy 0-1, Uhing 0-3). Rebounds — LE 23 (Blankenbaker 5), GI 30 (Gangwish 8, Sullivan 6). Assists — LE 5 (I. Wilson 2, Barry 2), GI 6 (Fyfe 3). Turnovers — LE 15, GI 15. Personal Fouls — LE 23, GI 17. Fouled Out — GI, Gangwish. Technical Fouls — None.