Grand Island Senior High lived to fight another day in the Class A, District 1 Tournament as it defeated Bellevue East 64-43 in the first round Friday at Senior High.
The Islanders found themselves facing a physical Bellevue East squad that repeatedly challenged them inside, but a lack of a meaningful outside threat allowed Grand Island to gum up the lane, and the Chieftains shot just over 50 percent from the line.
By contrast the Islanders got 21 points from 3-point range, while Alec Redwine went five-of-six in the paint. The Islanders (4-20) piled up an unofficial 18 assists, forcing the Bellevue East defenders to play catchup as they chased the ball around the perimeter.
"We got a lot of mileage out of our point touches and the inside out threes," Islander coach Jeremiah Slough said. "We’re usually pretty efficient with that. I thought that through the first three quarters we did some good things offensively.
"We fell apart a little bit in the fourth quarter, though. We were trying to maintain a lead, and we have to learn to tell what’s a reasonable shot at that point in the game. We took some shots from outside that we didn’t need to."
The Islanders jumped to a fast 9-2 lead as Will Nordhues took a pass from Casey Burnham for a fast bucket, followed by free throws from Brayden Wald and a jumper from LeBeck Warren. Moments later Nordhues connected on the first of his four three-pointers. Austin Slie countered with a basket for the chieftains, only to see Wald hit a jumper in the lane, then grab a steal and take it all the way in for a 13-4 lead.
The Islanders finished the first quarter as Nordhues took a nice pass from Redwine inside. Seconds later, Redwine scored to give the Islanders a brief double digit lead. Bellevue East (0-23) managed to trade baskets over the next several possessions, but Grand Island hit a hot streak, finishing the half with a 9-2 run.
To the satisfaction of the Islander fans, they were able to maintain the pressure on both ends of the floor throughout the second half. The Chieftains were never able to establish offensive consistency, as Grand Island continued to make the lane a difficult place to visit without surrendering a huge number of fouls.
Bellevue East coach Chad Mustard agreed that his team’s lack of productivity from outside made it more difficult for the team’s inside attack to be successful.
"We knew they were going to be putting up shots," he said. "We just didn’t do much from outside. I thought we did a pretty good job of getting the ball in close, but we just couldn’t get the ball to drop for us. It’s been a long season in terms of not finishing at the rim. We’re trying to teach the kids to go in strong and not wait for the foul. When we did get to the line tonight we didn’t convert.
"I love my kids to death, but we have to get better as a team. We did well at spurts in the second half, but we have to go into the next seven months ready to work and get ready for next year."
The Islanders now advance into Saturday’s district semifinal to face no. 1 seed Omaha South. Asked what his team needs to focus on entering the game, Slough answered immediately.
"Belief," he said. "If we go into this game without belief we’ll get run out of the gym. But if we go in convinced that anything can happen, I’ll take my chances."
Bellevue East ........................ 8 8 11 16 — 43
Grand Island ......................... 17 15 15 17 — 64
BELLEVUE EAST (0-23): Slie 1-5 2-2 4, Knotts 2-5 1-1 5, Cobbs 3-5 5-8 11, Lenear 4-8 3-8 11, Hauer 0-2 0-2 0, Bethow 1-5 0-0 3, James 1-3 1-2 3, Mengel 0-1 0-0 0, Gantt 0-1 0-0 0, Cunningham 2-5 0-0 4, Timins 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 15-41 12-23 43.
GRAND ISLAND (4-20): Warren 5-6 2-2 15, Burnham 0-1 0-0 0, Schanaman 1-4 0-1 2, Alvarez 1-3 3-4 5, Wald 4-7 2-5 10, Bardales 0-0 1-2 1, Siliman 0-1 0-0 0, Nordhues 8-17 0-0 20, Vahle 0-2 0-0 0, Redwine 5-6 0-0 10. Totals 24-47 9-16 64.
3-point shots — BE 1-5 (Slie 0-2, Bethow 1-3), GI 7-17 (Warren 3-3, Burnham 0-1, Schanaman 0-3, Nordhues 4-9, Vahle 0-1). Rebounds — BE 18 (Cunningham 4), GI 35 (Wald 10, Redwine 7). Assists — BE 7 (Lenear 3), GI 18 (Burham 6, Schanaman 4). Turnovers — BE 10, GI 16. Personal Fouls — BE 22, GI 19. Fouled Out — GI, Root. Technical Fouls — None.