The difference in play down the stretch in a span of 18 hours by Grand Island Senior High brought a smile to coach Jeremiah Slough’s face Saturday at the Heartland Hoops Classic.
After late turnovers forced the Islanders to go into overtime to defeat Omaha North on Friday, it was a different story against Class B No. 1-rated Mount Michael Benedictine.
Grand Island outscored the Knights 8-2 over the final two minutes to clinch a 47-40 victory.
“It was a tale of two nights as far as that goes,” Slough said. “I thought we played good basketball all afternoon. They didn’t guard us on the perimeter, and we just missed shots. Sometimes when you miss shots, your confidence gets shaky. You kind of saw that in the first half.
“But what we didn’t do is we didn’t allow it to affect us defensively. We just grinded out every single possession.”
That allowed the Islanders to battle back after falling behind 23-10 in the second quarter. Grand Island (12-9) closed the half with an 8-0 run and the third quarter with 11 unanswered points to take a 31-30 lead.
Mount Michael led 35-34 after a Kaleb Brink basket early in the fourth, but Grand Island took over from there. Back-to-back baskets including a 3-pointer by Isaac Traudt — who had 22 points and nine rebounds — gave the Islanders a 39-35 advantage. Traudt was 9-for-9 from the free-throw line with Grand Island going 13-for-15 overall.
It was the third close win of the week by the Islanders, who defeated both Norfolk and Omaha North in overtime.
“We talked that if we win three out of the last four games, we guaranteed ourselves a winning season,” Slough said. “We won three in a row, so we’ve got that locked up.
“Sometimes you start looking at point standings and figuring out who you might play in districts, but right now these kids are pretty locked in to what we’ve got going in the near future. We’re going to enjoy the rest of this day and watch some good basketball, then (Sunday) we’ll start getting ready for (Lincoln) Pius.”