Published Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 12:01 am / Updated at 12:22 am
G.I. scares No. 3 Benson before falling

Grand Island Senior High almost pulled off the ambush of the season Saturday night, as the Islanders took Omaha Benson to overtime before falling 69-63 at Senior High.

The Islanders (3-12) got a monstrous offensive performance out of guard Pierce Almond, who finished with 33 points, but the point that was driven home by the Islander coaching staff was that, records aside, the Islanders have the potential to challenge anyone the rest of the season.

"To play Benson at the level we played tonight proves that we can do it if we want to," Islander coach Jeff Hofeldt said. "I’m really proud of all the kids. We’ve had some tough losses, and they’ve had to fight through adversity. They could have easily laid down tonight, but we didn’t."

Class A No. 3 Benson looked impressive as coach Donnie Johnson was able to go 10 deep on his bench all night long, but still was never able to get any significant separation.

What eventually allowed the Bunnies (13-1) to keep pace with Grand Island in the second half, then gain the lead in overtime, was its transition game and Benson’s ability to get points off turnovers.

Hofeldt said Benson was able to take advantage of Islander miscues all too consistently.

"They’re tremendously quick and athletic," he said. "That paid off for them defensively. In the second half, we should have utilized our fouls differently and try to prevent some of those easy baskets."

Johnson said he was happy to see his team pull together in the late going and create opportunities on defense.

"You have to like it any time you go on the road and get a win," he said. "This was the first time out here for a lot of our kids, and Grand Island really gave us a challenge. They were just hitting shots - they came to play tonight. We kept telling the kids that we had to get stops defensively and make the plays on offense. We did what we had to late in the game."

The Islanders kept grinding away and got results as the third quarter unfolded. Tanner Shuck’s three tied the score at 34, but Benson was able to respond and keep the Islanders at arms’ length for almost the rest of the game.

In the fourth, Tyree Peter hit an inside shot to put Benson up by seven with three minutes left. Almond scored on a drive, then after a missed shot on the front of a one and one, the Islanders regained possession and Almond hit his fourth three-pointer of the night to cut the lead to five with just over a minute and a half left. Another missed one and one by the Bunnies gave Grand Island the ball, and Almond went inside from the left wing for a reverse layup to tie the game with 67 seconds to go.

Benson held the ball for virtually all of that time before missing a shot inside. The Islanders went upcourt and saw Shuck’s buzzer beater fail to drop, forcing the extra period.But in the overtime Benson got five fast points off Islander turnovers, and Grand Island simply ran out of opportunities to steal the win.

"It says a lot that we had the last shot, that we had the chance," Hofeldt said. "We tried to put the fun back in the game tonight and I think that worked. We need to come out, play loose, have fun and focus on playing possession basketball."

Omaha Benson..............................19 11 16 11 12 — 69
Grand Island.................................16 9 18 14 6 — 63

Omaha Benson (13-1): Thomas 2-6 2-8 6, Reed 3-4 1-3 9, Barfield 1-4 0-0 2, Stewart 0-3 2-2 2, Henderson 0-1 0-0 0, Buckley 6-13 3-4 15, Clayton 0-1 3-4 3, Tiller 3-4 0-0 7, Peter 4-11 4-6 12, Kueth 1-1 0-0 2, Bol 5-7 1-2 11. Totals 25-55 16-29 69.

Grand Island (3-12): Almond 10-22 9-9 33, Shuck 1-2 2-2 5, Morrow 1-2 2-2 4, Chol 2-7 0-0 4, Wojtalewicz 3-7 1-4 7, Roberg 1-2 0-0 3, Biel 1-1 2-2 4, Uhing 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 20-46 16-19 63

3-point shooting — OB 3-7 (Reed 2-2, Stewart 0-1, Henderson 0-1, Buckley 0-1, Tiller 1-2), GI 7-18 (Almond 4-14, Shuck 1-1, Wojtalewicz 0-1, Robert 1-1, Uhing 1-1). Rebounds — OB 29 (Bol 8), GI 32 (Chol 8, Wojtawlewicz 6). Assists — OB 11 (Thomas 3), GI 11 (Almond 2, Shuck 2, Morrow 2, Uhing 2). Turnovers — OB 8, GI 17. Personal Fouls — OB 14, GI 21. Fouled Out — GI, Morrow. Technical Fouls — None.

* * *

Benson girls 69, Grand Island 36

Benson established the dominance of its inside game early against Grand Island (6-9) as the Bunnies pulled away after the opening quarter.

Junior Kianna Ibis proved to be an unstoppable force for Benson, as she hit 11-of-14 shots in close to finish with 28 points and eight rebounds. But there was much more to her game than just offense, as both coaches acknowledged.

"She changes the game," Benson coach Jon Perone said. "She’s a complete player. We had her credited for changing 11 shots during the game — a real difference maker."

Islander coach Alex Michel agreed that Ibis’s performance was huge, but gave the entire Benson squad credit for simply taking care of business.

"They’re obviously a well coached team, and they’re very passionate basketball players," he said. "We could see their focus in warm-up. We’re trying to develop that kihd of intensity as a team. I’m so proud of our girls and how hard we played — they give us everything.

"Today we were trying to focus on ourselves, and how we get better. We’re showing improvement in transition, in our half court offense. We got better today."

Benson, rated No. 3 in Class A, took some time to get its offense on track, but began to significantly build its lead in the second quarter. The Bunnies (12-2) did it, in part, by forcing 31 turnovers, the result of an impressive commitment to defensive intensity.

Perone smiled when that observation was shared.
"That’s the word we wrote on the board," he said. "Intensity. We get a high level of effort by the girls, and they did a great job on the defensive end all night."

One factor that hurt the Islanders coming in was the absence due to injury of senior Sarah Splattstoesser. The Islanders attempted only two three-pointers for the entire game, and the lack of outside shooting and Ibis’s effect on shots closer to the basket made it a difficult proposition for Grand Island to get decent offensive looks.

Omaha Benson.............................15 18 13 23 — 69
Grand Island...................................7 6 9 14 — 36

Omaha Benson (12-2): Coffiel-Nelson 3-5 0-0 7, Brye 3-5 0-0 9, Askew 1-4 0-1 2, Plater 3-3 1-3 10, Robinson 0-3 0-1 0, Benson 2-5 0-0 4, Ibis, 11-14 6-6 28, Weller 3-12 0-0 6, Valentine 0-1 0-0 0, Kirby 0-1 2-2 2, Kentch 1-2 0-0 2, Warren 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 28-56 9-15 69.

Grand Island (6-9): K. Richardson 0-2 0-0 0, Harvey 2-4 1-2 5, Libby Norvell 1-3 1-2 3, A. Richardson 2-7 2-4 6, Armstrong 3-7 3-7 9, Jacobson 0-2 0-0 0, Uhing 2-8 1-2 5, Lindsey Norvell 3-7 2-2 8. Totals 13-38 10-19 36.

3-point shooting — OB 4-13 (Coffiel-Nelson 1-1, Brye 3-4, ASkew 0-1, Benson 0-2, Weller 0-5), GI 0-2 (Uhing 0-2). Rebounds — OB 32 (Ibis 8, Weller 7), GI 31 (Jacobson 5). Assists — OB 18 (Benson 6), GI 6 (Jacobson 3). Turnovers — OB 18, GI 31. Personal Fouls — OB 15, GI 13. Fouled Out — None. Technical Fouls — None.

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