Grand Island Senior High made things a little tougher on itself than they needed to be on Friday.
But despite some first-half shooting problems inside and free-throw shooting struggles, the Islanders put things together at key points to get past winless Lincoln North Star 38-25.
Grand Island (5-15) sank its first two shots of the game to spark a 10-0 run. But after that the Islanders only made two of their next 23 shots, including a streak of 12:11 without a field goal that was snapped by Leigh Uhing’s steal and layup at the buzzer to end the first half.
Grand Island still was able to lead 14-7 going into the break despite the all-around shooting woes, which included a 3-for-11 performance from the free-throw line.
“I thought it was kind of a rough first half,” G.I. coach Kelli Jeffries said. “Offensively we got shots but we didn’t get anything to fall for us. But we kind of hung in there. We let our defense kind of get us going.
“Fortunately we were able to stop them, but we just weren’t putting the ball in the basket, particularly from the free-throw line. It’s just a killer when you walk up and miss free throw after free throw. That’s something we’ve got to get cleared up. We can’t beat a good team if we can’t knock down free throws.”
The Gators (0-20), who started four freshmen and a sophomore, pulled within 16-14 on a pair of Sarah Allick free throws with 4:51 left in the third quarter.
But Sydney Armstrong came off the bench and hit a pair of free throws and a basket to help the Islanders start to pull away again.
“I thought in that second half. Sydney Armstrong, Ashton Riedy and Leigh Uhing all came in and gave us a big spark off the bench,” Jeffries said. “I thought that was a key there.”
McKenzie Fyfe, who scored a game-high nine points, hit 3-pointers to end the third and start the fourth. That got the lead back to double digits at 26-16.
“They were leaving her open and she knocked some down,” Jeffries said. “We just were not able to finish inside. Of course the kids say they get fouled, but that’s the way it is. We’ve got to be able to finish inside.
“I thought their big kids were tough – big and physical. It’s kind of a battle inside for both teams.”
After struggling from the line in the first half, the Islanders sank all six of their shots on 1-and-1s in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
“As a coach, if you’re hitting them when it counts and when you have to, that’s a good sign,” Jeffries said. “But you sure make life harder when you’re not hitting them early in the game.
“I think that lead would have been 12, 15 points earlier in the game if we’d made our free throws.”
The Islanders have now won two out of three games as they try to gain some momentum heading into the postseason.
“We’ve always been a good defensive team, and kids have bought into that and play great defense,” Jeffries said. “I thought the last couple games we’ve got off to better starts, like the 10-0. We haven’t ever done that this year.
“You get ahead at the end of the first quarter and then things are coming a little easier, a little more relaxed than when you’re always playing from behind. I think that’s been a big key the last couple of games.”
Lincoln NS (0-20) ................. 4 3 9 9—25
Grand Island (5-15) ................ 10 4 9 15—38
L: Bruegman 1-7 0-1 3, Griess 1-4 0-2 3, Bolles 0-1 0-0 0, A. Archie 2-7 0-0 4, Allick 0-6 2-2 2, Horan 2-5 0-0 5, Lloyd 0-0 0-2 0, Miller 0-2 0-0 0, S. Archie 4-5 0-0 8, Agbo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-37 2-7 25.
GI: Sullivan 1-7 3-4 6, Fyfe 2-6 3-6 9, Norvell 2-7 1-2 5, Gangwish 2-8 0-3 4, Lindell 2-10 0-2 4, Splattstoesser 1-3 0-0 2, Armstrong 1-1 2-2 4, Riedy 0-1 0-0 0, Uhing 1-3 2-2 4. Totals 12-46 11-21 38.
3-point field goals—LNS 3-14 (Horan 1-3, Bruegman 1-4, Griess 1-4, Bolles 0-1, Miller 0-1, S. Archie 0-1), GI 3-7 (Sullivan 1-2, Splattstoesser 0-1, Fyfe 2-3, Riedy 0-1). Fouled out—S. Archie, Allick. Rebounds—LNS 34 (A. Archie 11), GI 36 (Sullivan 6). Assists—LNS 4 (Bruegman 2), GI 5 (Sullivan 2). Turnovers—LNS 23, GI 14. Total fouls—LNS 18, GI 11. Technicals—none.