Heartache has become an all-too-familiar feeling for Grand Island Senior High.
Trailing by two points, the Islanders had possession following a timeout with 13.5 seconds remaining, but failed to get a shot attempt as Lincoln Southeast held on for a 62-59 victory on Friday, spoiling Grand Island’s senior night. Brayden Day made one of two free-throw attempts with 1.2 seconds left for the Knights, providing the final margin of victory as the Islanders’ long inbound pass was broken up at midcourt and time expired.
“We have put ourselves in position to win a lot of basketball games here lately,” Grand Island coach Jeremiah Slough said. “Now, we just have to find a way to make game-winning plays down the stretch. We had the ball late with a chance to win it or tie it, but we just have to learn to execute that last play.
“That piece of it will come. Now that we’re in games, we just have to stay the course and understand that it’s not easy getting to the top.”
On Grand Island’s final possession, Will Nordhues lost his footing while driving on the right wing. The ball was recovered after a frantic scramble by teammate Casey Burnham, who was whistled for a traveling violation with 2.9 seconds remaining — a call hotly contested by the Islanders’ bench.
Lincoln Southeast coach Jeff Smith said the Knights did a solid job, defensively, keeping Grand Island from getting off the tying or go-ahead shot.
“There are times in those situations where we play four guards or even five and we switch out on every (screen),” Smith said. “We have pretty good athleticism and Sam Morris can guard a (post player), so that’s what we were looking to do there at the end.
“Maybe we should play that way more often.”
The game was much different than the teams’ previous meeting on Dec. 29 when Southeast beat the Islanders 62-47 in the Heartland Athletic Conference Tournament at GISH. Trailing 35-26 at halftime on Friday night, Grand Island shot 56.3 percent (9 of 16) from the floor in the second half, outscoring the Knights 33-27 after the intermission.
“Thank goodness we got off to a good start because we knew Grand Island had improved a lot,” Smith said. “We could see it on film and with the addition of (Nordhues) as another shooter, they’re a little harder to guard.
“It was big that we shot the three well. It was kind of the battle of 3-pointers tonight.”
The Islanders (3-17) have now lost eight games by nine points or less this season. Their last three outings have included a 54-53 home loss to Kearney on Feb. 5 and a 72-67 overtime setback at Bellevue West last Saturday night, prior to coming up just short against Southeast.
Slough said he continues to look past the disappointment and instead focuses on the strides the Islanders have made.
“We have absolutely improved because I think Southeast is a heck of a lot better than when we played them the first time,” Slough said. “I feel that we’re definitely making progress and I wouldn’t trade my guys for anyone. We’ve got high-character dudes who competed through adversity tonight and I’m really proud of them.”
Interestingly, Slough said Grand Island’s late rally was sparked by a technical foul called on Nordhues with 4:22 to play.
“That showed that we’re not going to back down when we’re getting pushed around,” said Slough, who was previously assessed a technical with 1:04 remaining in the third quarter. “I don’t want us to go out and get technical fouls by any stretch of the imagination, but when you’re being disrespected by someone on your home floor by the opponent, I expect our guys match their level of competitiveness. Will did that.”
Nordhues scored 19 points on the strength of 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range, to lead Grand Island. Shay Schanaman added 16 points for the Islanders, who were 8 of 19 (42.1 percent) on 3-point attempts.
Trevor Dockum scored 17 points and Morris finished with 16 points for the Knights (11-9), who made their first three 3-point tries of the game and finished 9 of 18 from behind the arc. Morris scored 10 first-quarter points before the Islanders made defensive adjustments.
“We kind of put a face-guard on Morris and just decided that we were going to make other people beat us,” Slough said. “We executed that pretty well. Southeast did hit some threes there in the third quarter by guys who we were OK with taking those shots, so credit them for knocking them down.”
Playing in their final home game, the Islanders started seniors Brandon Trotter, Tucker Vahle and Brennon Root along with normal starting post player Alec Redwine.
“It’s a very unselfish bunch to pave the way and, in some cases, step aside and allow the younger group to get in there and take the majority of the minutes and still stay unselfish,” Slough said of Grand Island’s senior class. “Putting we before me — that’s their mentality — and we think this senior group is going to be the catalyst for what we’re building.”
Lincoln Southeast ...................... 20 15 18 9—62
Grand Island .............................. 15 11 19 14—59
LINCOLN SOUTHEAST (11-9): Morris 5-9 4-6 16, Dockum 6-12 3-4 17, McDonald 1-5 0-0 3, Kulhanek 1-2 0-1 3, Euse 2-5 1-3 5, Strong 2-6 0-0 5, Day 3-4 3-4 11, Brittenham 0-0 0-0 0, Byron 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 21-45 11-18 62.
GRAND ISLAND (3-17): Schanaman 4-14 6-9 16, Trotter 0-0 0-0 0, Root 1-1 0-0 2, T.Vahle 0-2 0-0 0, Redwine 3-4 1-2 8, Burnham 0-1 4-4 4, Nordhues 6-9 3-4 19, Wald 2-4 3-4 7, Felicier-Alvarez 0-0 0-0 0, Warren 1-2 0-0 3, N.Vahle 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-37 17-23 59.
3-point goals—LSE 9-18 (Morris 2-3, Dockum 2-4, McDonald 1-2, Kulhanek 1-1, Euse 0-2, Strong 1-3, Day 2-3), GI 8-19 (Schanaman 2-9, T.Vahle 0-2, Redwine 1-1, Nordhues 4-5, Warren 1-2). Fouled out—None. Rebounds—LSE 24 (Morris 5), GI 21 (Wald 6). Assists—LSE 11 (Morris 4), GI 13 (Burnham 4). Turnovers—LSE 12, GI 10. Total fouls—LSE 18, GI 15. Technicals—GI bench, Nordhues. A—NA.
Girls: Lincoln Southeast 51, Grand Island 23
Leading by four points with 4 1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter, Lincoln Southeast produced a 22-1 scoring run on its way to a 51-23 road victory at Grand Island Senior High on Friday night.
“Southeast started pressing us harder and our younger guards weren’t quite ready for the challenge yet,” Grand Island coach Alex Michel said. “We just have to keep growing. It’s great experience for us.
“We need to learn how to weather those storms and when the opponent goes on runs, we need to be able to stop them. We need to find that extra focus and to be extra tough — mentally and physically — to go get that rebound that we need or make that big play.”
The combination of Grand Island’s gritty defensive effort and a sluggish shooting performance by the Knights left the visitors ahead 22-18 with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter. Southeast, which led 18-13 at halftime, outscored the Islanders 19-5 in the fourth quarter.
“The first three quarters were kind of ugly, but our girls executed our defensive game plan very, very well and Southeast struggled to score,” Michel said. “We scored just enough to hang in there and if we hadn’t turned the ball over a ton in the first half, we could’ve had a decent lead at halftime.
“Even though we weren’t getting a lot of things, offensively, we were hanging tough and staying in the game.”
Karsin Underwood scored a game-high 13 points to lead the Knights (9-11). McKenzie Beach added 12 points for Southeast.
Senior Josephine Jacobson had 11 points in her final home game to lead the Islanders (1-19). Grand Island played without starting senior point guard Lindsey Norvell, who suffered a high-ankle sprain on Feb. 5 against Kearney and hopes to be back in time for the district tournament.
“We struggled tonight without Lindsey,” Michel said. “She handled the ball about 80 percent of the time for us and she — along with our other seniors — is the heart of our team.”
Lincoln Southeast (9-11) .................... 7 11 14 19—51
Grand Island (1-19) ............................. 2 11 5 5—23
LINCOLN SOUTHEAST—Alex Barada 5, Karsin Underwood 13, Cassie Nash 3, Makada Beamon 6, McKenzie Beach 12, Jocelyn Anderson 6, Alaetra Long 2, Bailey Cowling 4.
GRAND ISLAND—Sydney Wald 6, Haleigh Hoos 6, Josephine Jacobson 11.