GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — When Oak Hill and Sunrise Christian had been to the Heartland Hoops Classic, they played Goliath to the local underdogs, Omaha and Papillion kids with the same first two numbers in their zip codes.
For the elite twosome, returning to Grand Island to play each other came with skin in the game. National rankings and invitations to the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals were riding on Saturday’s showdown that drew an estimated 3,500 on a snowy evening.
Sunrise of Bel Aire, Kansas, is closer to being in the Dick’s field after beating its third top-five team in two weekends. The USA Today No. 5 Warriors outplayed No. 2 Oak Hill, previously undefeated this season, down the stretch for a 76-65 victory.
“I think we deserve to be in (Dick’s) regardless of what happened today, because of how good they are and how well we did last week,’’ Sunrise coach Luke Barnwell said. “We had a mentality of leaving no doubt, let’s make sure, let’s not put our lives in the hands of somebody else so I hope we kind of sent that message that we’re there and ready to go.”
Sunrise was 19th nationally before the Buffaloes ran over then-No. 5 Henderson (Nevada) Findlay Prep and No. 4 Newark (New Jersey) St. Benedict in the final two rounds of a Maryland tournament. Coach Luke Barnwell said he thought each was the biggest win in school history. Then came Saturday against the Virginia team.
“Who in the world would schedule that,’’ he said. “Steve Smith (Oak Hill coach) is obviously an icon and who someone like me looks up to for having done this for so long at such a high level. Man, what a win for our kids.”
With so much to play for, the teams were into it. No taking the Nebraska opponent lightly before realizing in the fourth quarter that it was in a dogfight. It was 30 high-intensity minutes (the last two minutes were a foulfest in Oak Hill’s vain attempt to wipe out a 17-point deficit).
OK, high intensity for the players, not those in the seats. Few took a side. Only the spectacular elicited any needle-moving reaction. Like the game was played under glass. Or in the Devaney Center during those “Lincoln Library” dreary days for the Husker men’s team.
Malik Hall, from suburban Chicago, led Sunrise (21-2) with 20 points. Khaleem Bennett and Isaiah Bujdoso, both from Ontario, California, had 13 and 12 respectively as Sunrise went deep into its bench because of fouls. It worked out, Barnwell said, that he had the fresher team in the final quarter.
Omaha Skutt 73, Aurora 68
Topping the undercard of instate matchups was Omaha Skutt taking the No. 1 ranking in Class B from Aurora with a 73-68 victory in the game preceding Oak Hill-Sunrise.
After withstanding everything the Aurora defense threw at it in the final 10 minutes, Skutt continued its late season roll. The SkyHawks (18-3) have a 10-game winning streak, the last eight against teams .500 or better.
“We’re still in the middle of a really tough stretch,’’ Skutt coach Kyle Jurgens said. “I honestly think our kids are used to it right now. We’re playing really good teams who have really good players. They kind of like the challenge of guarding good players.”
Aurora, also 18-3, has junior Baylor Scheierman pledged to South Dakota State and Henry Penner signed with UNK. They had 19 and 12 points, respectively, but combined for only six in the first half when Skutt gained a 31-22 lead.
“Other than the last five 3s, and those were really tough shots, we played through that and I was super, super proud,’’ Jurgens said.
Austin Ash made four 3-pointers in the first half and his 18 points led the SkyHawks. Jackson Gordon added 14 points for Skutt.
“They’re pretty athletic,’’ Aurora coach Tom Leininger said. “The first half the 3s drilled us and the second, we got out of position and gave them middle drive after middle drive. We probably gave them 10 layups in the second half.
“We did a good job defensively in the fullcourt but once we got to the halfcourt we did a really poor job.”
Omaha Skutt (18-3)...........16 15 15 28—73
Aurora (18-3)....................10 12 17 29—68
OS: Austin Ash 18, Jackson Gordon 14, TJ Skradski 11, Jake Kudron 10, Tyson Gordon 8, Ryan McCormick 4, Grant Bertucci 3.
A: Baylor Scheierman 19, Cade Reichardt 13, Henry Penner 12, Jayden Herzberg 9, Lukas Pohlmann 8, Jordan Stevenson 4, Nate Boerkircher 3.
Ponca 34, Gretna 33
Unable to get the game sped up early, Class C-2 No. 1 Ponca got mired in a low-scoring game that was tied in the closing seconds.
With Class B No. 7 Gretna working for the last shot, Ponca’s Logan Kingsbury got a steal and threw downcourt to Connor Day. Fouled going for a layup with 2 seconds left, Day made the first of two free throws for the 34-33 victory in the matchup between defending state champions.
The Indians (23-1) celebrated the win wildly.
“It was just like state would be,’’ Day said. “We played a really good team, Class B, so hopefully this will give us a good look at what state will be like.”
Day earlier had a key backcourt steal and finish to complete a six-point rally after Gretna (15-4) had taken a 26-20 lead in the third quarter.
Ponca (23-1)...........6 8 13 7—34
Gretna (15-4).........8 10 10 5—33
P: Logan Kingsbury 10, Connor Day 7, Max Masin 6, Carter Kingsbury 6, Dalton Tremayne 4, Gage McGill 1.
G: Chance Sterling 7, Tyler Sullivan 6, Joey Johnson 6, Noah Burghardt 5, Tre Mikkelsen 3, Hershel Vuksich 3, Ely Doble 3.
Yutan 57, South Loup 48
Yutan banked on its size advantage — seven of its 10 players are at least 6-foot-3 — to win its 20th consecutive game and end South Loup’s winning streak at 17 games.
“We knew Jack Rush is a really good athlete, but he’s really their only big,’’ Yutan coach Justin Petersen said. “Our mantra all year has been to live in the paint.”
Nebraska football walk-on Colton Feist, 6-3, had game highs of 18 points and 18 rebounds, and 6-7 senior Allan Leahy had 15 points for the Class C-2 No. 2 Chieftains (20-1).
“Allan’s turned the corner for us,’’ Petersen said. “Last year he was kind of weak with the ball. He’s come a long way since he was a freshman and he looked like a telephone pole.”
Kalen Dockweiler had 18 points and Cade Connell 13 for the No. 7 Bobcats (18-2). Yutan was only their fifth game against a C-2 team.
South Loup (18-2).....9 19 9 11—48
Yutan (20-1)..........17 12 12 16—57
SL: Kalen Dockweiler 17, Cade Connell 13, Jack Rush 8, Jace Connell 7, Blake Schwarz 3.
Y: Colton Feist 18, Allan Leahy 15, Mason Timm 9, Brett Heuertz 7, Brady Timm 4, Jalin Kube 2, Colby Tichota 2.
Grand Island CC 67, Winnebago 61
With two games against Hastings St. Cecilia and one against Class C-1 No. 1 Wahoo in a four-game losing streak that ended Saturday, GICC’s shooters were waiting for a game like this — 11 3-pointers, six by freshman Russ Martinez.
“The last few games we weren’t as open as we were today,’’ Crusaders coach Tino Martinez said. “We were getting good looks and our guys did a good job of knocking them down.”
Russ Martinez, a cousin of the coach, finished with 18 points. Their season scoring leader, senior Mayra Almayra, had a game-high 24.
Almayra led Class C-1 No. 5 GICC (16-6) in scoring as a sophomore, when he was its post player. Now a 6-2 senior, his game has broadened.
“He’s an inside-out guy and a tough matchup for people,’’ coach Martinez said. “He’s able to play on the perimeter mostly now and has been a monster on the boards. And he actually leads us in assists.”
Winnebago was without senior point guard D’Von LaPointe, who hurt an ankle in Wednesday’s conference final loss to Ponca. Lance Denney had 19 points for the Class C-1 No. 3 Indians (17-5).
Grand Island CC (16-6).......17 22 10 18—67
Winnebago (17-5).................19 8 7 27—61
GICC: Maya Almayra 24, Russ Martinez 18, Jack Goering 9, Dylan Rasmussen 6, Jacob Herbek 6, Jonah Bales 2, Eli Pirnie 2.
W: Lance Denney 19, Manape Cleveland 12, Ed Payer 8, Jarius Bass 7, Jeriah GreyOwl 5, Bruce Proctor 4, Maurice Scott 2, TJ Frenchman 2, William Wingett 2.
Hastings SC 65, O’Neill 51
Class C-2 No. 3 St. Cecilia won a family-and-friends game against the Class C-1 No. 2 Eagles. St. Cecilia coach Kevin Asher grew up in O’Neill, his best friend’s son is O’Neill senior Justin Appleby and a relative by marriage is the Eagles’ Tye Hilker. All reasons Asher wanted to play the Eagles (18-2).
“Hey, hometown, one crack,’’ he said. “It was tough emotionally to play that but when you’re a competitor, you play anybody.”
While Appleby scored a game-high 20 points, Trey Asher led the Bluehawks (18-3) by matching Grant Farmer with 16 points and also collected nine rebounds.
“Justin can will his team to win at times,’’ coach Asher said, “and so can Trey.”
Hastings SC (18-3)......8 18 20 19—65
O’Neill (18-2)..............8 10 11 22—51
HSC: Trey Asher 16, Grant Farmer 16, Trevor Leach 10, Blane Boyd 7, Myles Furman 7, Ashton Valentine 6, Joe Carey 3.
O: Justin Appleby 20, Alex Thramer 13, Wyatt Liewer 10, Dennis Herrera 4, Kolby Dean 2, Trevor Dempster 2.
Platteview 63, Crete 52
Nebraska signee Brady Heiman, held to two baskets in the first half for Platteview (20-2), had 16 points in the second half for a game-high 20.
Matt Kingston added 13 and Evan Kingston 12.
Crete (15-8) led 28-27 at halftime as Carson Deisley had 10 points. Platteview held him scoreless in the second half. Carter Kent had a team-high 15 and Ethan Mach 13.
Platteview (20-2)........19 8 16 20—63
Crete (15-8)...........16 12 12 12—52
P: Matt Kingston 13, Evan Kingston 12, Nate Thayer 9, Nathan Michaels 6, Brady Heiman 20.
C: Carter Kent 15, Carson Deisley 10, Jonah Weyand 9, Klay Uher 5, Ethan Mach 13.
York 61, Omaha South 41
South’s offense, which had picked up in the previous three games, didn’t make the trip less than 24 hours after a 62-59 loss to Top 10 No. 6 Omaha Bryan. Only a late flurry kept the Packers (6-14) from being Class B No. 4 York’s ninth opponent held under 40 points.
York (20-1) held South to 27 percent shooting. Brady Danielson had 17 points and 2019 Nebraska football pledge Garrett Snodgrass 13. Tyrece Griggs, a sophomore guard, had 13 of South’s 18 points in the first half and led the Packers with 15.
It was the Packers’ second blowout loss this season to a Class B team in a showcase event. Last month at the Nebraska Prep Classic in Ralston, they lost 58-38 to Platteview.
York (20-1)....................17 12 13 19—61
Om. South (6-14)............11 7 6 17—41
Y: Brady Danielson 19, Garrett Snodgrass 13, Tyler Cast 8, Jeb Lucas 8, Simon Otte 6, Reid Hoffmann 5, Nick Weskamp 2.
OS: Tyrece Griggs 15, Tyreek Crawford 8, Ta’Vion Anderson 5, Tevin Conley 5, DeShon Thompson 4, RaShawn McNeal-Lee 2, Jay Saunders 2.