Grand Island took advantage of outside flash and hard work inside Saturday as the Islanders defeated Lincoln Southwest 63-52.
Grand Island (1-1) got a dynamic outside shooting performance from junior Pierce Almond, who hit on eight-of-15 3-point tries for a 27-point performance. Almond dazzled the matinee crowd as he hit five in a row in the five minutes leading up to halftime to give the Islanders a 37-23 advantage at halftime.
However, as coach Jeff Hofeldt would agree, holding onto the lead was a matter of some tough second-half play in the paint.
“I thought we did a great job controlling the lane, especially in the first half,” Hofeldt said. “We didn’t give them a lot of easy baskets, and we did a great job rebounding. I was really proud of what we did defensively against an athletic team. We played great team defense, and the guys did a great job providing help when we needed it.”
Asked about the Islanders inside play, Southwest coach Duane Baack agreed that what Grand Island did inside ultimately decided the game.
“Without a doubt, what they did in the lane was the difference,” he said. “We gave up too many offensive boards, and gave them a lot of second looks. Almond doesn’t need a lot of open looks either, and we gave him a few too many.”
Grand Island needed a few trips up and down the court before things started to coalesce. Trevor Wojtalewicz scored on a putback, followed by a wing jumper from Almond and a three from Joe Huston to take the lead late in the first quarter.
The Islanders scored a couple of quick baskets to open the second quarter, as Wojtalewicz fed the ball to Machoul Chuol Chol, then grabbed a steal and went the distance for a 15-9 lead. Southwest responded with a three from Griffin Thomas, who led all scorers with 29. Moments later, Thomas grabbed a rebound after an Islander miss and headed upcourt for the layup. Grand Island quickly found itself on the wrong end of a 16-15 score.
That’s when Almond began his barrage. The first came off a pass from Ben Witkowski, then after a Silverhawk miss, Almond drained number two.
Southwest hurt itself by failing to score on two quick trips to the line, then Almond put down three more long-range shots as the Islander lead swelled to 27-16. Thomas scored for Southwest, but the Islanders got a trey from Tanner Shuck before Almond connected on his sixth of the quarter, and the Islanders went into half with a comfortable 14-point margin.
To its credit, Southwest was able to keep pace with Grand Island as the second half unfolded. Almond hit another three to keep the margin at 14, but the Silverhawks ended the third with a seven point run to set up a final period that could have gone either way.
Hofeldt saw his team clamp down defensively, and after giving up an early bucket to Thomas, the Islanders held Southwest scoreless until just over a minute remaining in the game.
Hofeldt gave his team credit for executing its game plan and doing so with maximum effort.
“We played loose today,” he smiled. “We really got up and down the court on both ends. In terms of the transition game, we really pushed the tempo and that ended up being huge for us. Defensively, we were able to get into our diamond press early, and we didn’t give up a lot of easy buckets.”
Southwest ...................... 9 14 20 9 — 52
Grand Island ................... 11 26 13 13 — 63
LINCOLN SOUTHWEST (1-1): Prai 3-8 0-0 7, Peterson 3-10 0-0 6, Els 1-3 0-0 2, Fatemi 0-5 0-0 0, Freese 0-1 0-0 0, Kaltenberger 0-5 0-0 0, Thomas 11-16 5-10 29, Hall 1-2 2-2 4, Duff 0-3 1-2 1, Works 1-2 1-1 3. Totals 20-55 9-15 52.
GRAND ISLAND (1-1): Almond 9-18 1-2 27, Shuck 2-8 1-2 6, Witkowski 2-7 0-1 5, Morrow 1-3 0-1 2, Chol 3-9 0-2 6, Wojtalewicz 4-10 -0- 8, Biel 2-8 1-2 5, Huston 1-2 0-0 3, Uhing 0-2 1-2 1. Totals 24-67 4-12 63.
3-point shots — LSW 3-18 (Prai 1-5, Peterson 0-3, Fatemi 0-3, Freese 0-1 Thomas 2-5, Works 0-1), GI 11-32 (Almond 8-15, Shuck 1-7, Witkowski 1-3, Wojtalewicz 0-3, Biel 0-1, Huston -12, Uhing 0-1). Rebounds — LSW 38 (Peterson 9, Fatemi 6, Duff 6), GI 42 (Witkowski 8, Wojtalewicz 7, Uhing 6). Assists — LSW 9 (Fatemi 3), GI 17 (Witkowski 5, Morrow 4, Shuck 4). Turnovers — LSW 15, GI 11. Personal Fouls — LSW 16, GI 13. Fouled Out — None.
Grand Island overcame a late deficit to defeat Marian in overtime, 59-57.
Trailing 47-40 with just over two minutes to go in regulation, Grand Island got a late charge from its outside shooting, as Libby Norvell and Leigh Uhing hit back to back threes to cut the lead to one with 40 seconds to go.
On a day when both teams struggled at the line, the Islanders sent Marian to the stripe four times and the visitors managed only three points. Lindsey Norvell’s layup with 14 seconds to go again cut the lead to one, and after Marian missed a pair, the Islanders regained the ball with eight seconds.
Sarah Splattstoesser was fouled and hit one shot to tie the game and force overtime.
It wasn’t going to be easy, though, as the Islanders had their own issues at the line. Grand Island went only 20-of-41 on the day, and saw six trips to the stripe in the extra period yield only five points.
That meant that Grand Island was never able to build more than a four point lead. Gabbie Jonas hit a late three, but the Islanders found just enough success late at the line to hold off the final Marian challenge.
“We have a bunch of girls that are fighters,” Islander coach Alex Michel said. “I can’t say enough about their toughness. We talked about passion and persistence, and today we just never gave up. We had a lot of adversity out there today, but the girls just kept working.”
Crusader coach Lisa Schmidt agreed that earlier in the game, her team had a chance to really seize control, but its failure to do so ultimately gave Grand Island the opportunity to extend the game.
“I think both teams battled today,” she said. “There was a lot of effort, a lot of persistence on both sides. We had a lead for much of the game, but they kept chipping away at us. We just needed for a few more shots to drop our away, but that’s not what happened.”
Michel noted that the key to his team’s win was its defensive play and its ability to keep Marian guard Cassie Jones out of the lane. Jones, the sparkplug of the Marian attack, was held to six points and one assist, and the Crusaders were unable to find a scoring alternative that provided the consistency it needed.
“I thought they did a very good job keeping us out of the lane,” Schmidt said. “We needed to do a better job of taking care of the ball and giving Cassie some help. We were focused on shutting down (Sarah) Splattstoesser, and we limited her today, but they got some other kids to step up.”
Sydney Armstrong provided the offensive muscle for Grand Island, finishing with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Uhing tacked on 15.
“For our girls to only be with a new coach and a new system for three weeks, they executed phenomenally,” Michel said. “We definitely need to get better at finishing around the rim and take better care of the ball, but those are things that will get better. I couldn’t be prouder of the girls right now.”
Marian ................................ 15 13 9 13 7 — 57
Grand Island ...................... 11 9 10 20 9 — 59
OMAHA MARIAN (0-2): Jones 2-8 2-4 6, Long 1-2 1-2 3, Jonas 4-13 5-7 15, A. Gensichen 1-3 0-0 2, Banark 3-7 4-6 10, R. Gensichen 1-2 0-0 2, Carlisle 2-3 2-4 6, Bachman 2-3 0-1 4, Tessmer 2-4 1-2 5, Dunham 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 19-49 15-26 57.
GRAND ISLAND (1-1): Splattstoesser 1-1 4-6 7, Harvey 0-6 2-8 2, Libby Norvell 3-10 4-6 11, Richardson 0-3 1-2 1, Armstrong 7-13 4-11 18, Jacobsen 0-1 0-0 0, Uhing 5-11 4-6 15, Lindsey Norvell 2-2 1-2 5. Totals 18-53 20-41 59
Three-point shots — Marian 4-20 (Long 1-2, Jonas 2-10, Banark 0-2, Carlisle 0-1, Tessmer 0-2, Dunham 1-3), GI 3-7 (Splattstoesser 1-2, Libby Norvell 1-3, Uhing 1-2). Rebounds — Marian 38 (Jonas 8, Carlisle 7), GI 39 (Armstrong 7, Uhing 6). Assists — Marian 11 (Bachman 3), GI 8 (Harvey 3). Turnovers — Marian 25, GI 23. Personal Fouls — Marian 30, GI 22. Fouled Out — Marian: Jones, Banark, Bachman; GI, Libby Norvell.