Published Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 12:35 am
North Platte holds off Islanders

GRAND ISLAND - North Platte led Grand Island Senior High the entire game in the season opener for both teams Thursday at Senior High.

The Bulldogs led by as many as 15 points late in the third quarter, but North Platte coach Matt Kaminski knew it wasn’t over.

"I thought we played good basketball the whole game except for a three- or four-minute stretch there where they made a run," Kaminski said. "We thought they were going to make a run. I just didn’t think they’d make it that late."

The Islanders did make that run late and got to within two points, but North Platte hit six straight free throws in the final minute to hang on for a 66-62 victory over the Islanders.

Grand Island’s Pierce Almond led all scorers with 25 points. The junior also had a shot to tie it late in the game.

"What more could you ask?" Grand Island coach Jeff Hofeldt said. "It was 59-56 and we had Pierce shooting a three at the top, and that’s exactly who we would want taking the shot."

But this one missed. The Bulldogs got the rebound and then put the game away at the line. Shane Mauch, who led North Platte with 20 points, hit two free throws with 37 seconds left for a 62-58 lead. After Almond scored on a drive, Mauch hit two more with 21 seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs a 64-60 lead.

Grand Island’s Jake Morrow scored to narrow the gap to 64-60, but Kade Erickson hit two free throws with 5.5 seconds left to put the game away.

Kaminski was proud of the way his team hit its free throws down the stretch.

"It’s kind of hurt us the last couple of years, but I think this kind of game and making them in pressure situations does a lot for our confidence," he said.

North Platte led 18-6 after the first quarter and 33-24 at the half. Kaminski said the Bulldogs played defense, rebounded and got into transition in the opening two quarters.

"Those were two keys for us tonight," he said. "Pierce got a couple of shots the first half but I thought we did a pretty good job containing him the first half. Defensively I was proud of the team effort and some of our bench players coming in and making an impact."

Hofeldt was surprised with the Islanders’ slow start in the first half.

"I felt offensively, especially in the first half, we were standing around. We weren’t moving," Hofeldt said. "We looked very tense out there which I thought wouldn’t happen. It certainly wasn’t the team that practiced the first 14 days, but once we got things going in the second half defensively, it kind of created the tempo. I think that’s the tempo we want people to see."

Morrow added 15 points for the Islanders in a game where Hofeldt played 10 different players.

"I think we proved tonight we can go 10 deep," Hofeldt said. "We just have to find the right guys who are going to play hard and play smart."

North Platte.............................18 15 14 19—66
Grand Island.............................6 18 10 28—62

NORTH PLATTE (1-0): Mauch 5-7 5-6 20, Anderson 2-5 3-6 7, Erickson 4-10 4-7 13, Allberry 1-5 3-4 5, Callaghan 4-10 6-6 14, Wesslund 0-0 1-2 1, Mason 0-0 0-0 0, Horton 0-0 0-0 0, Foote 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-39 24-33 66.

GRAND ISLAND (0-1): Almond 8-17 4-7 25, Witkowski 2-3 2-2 7, J. Morrow 6-8 3-4 15, Wojtalewicz 2-4 3-6 7, Shuck 0-2 0-0 0, Biel 0-4 0-0 0, Huston 1-1 0-0 3, Uhing 1-1 0-0 2, B. Morrow 0-3 1-2 1. Totals 22-46 13-21 62.

3-point goals—North Platte 6-15 (Mauch 5-7, Erickson 1-6, Allberry 0-1, Callaghan 0-1). Grand Island 5-13 (Almond 3-9, Witkowski 1-1, Huston 1-1, J. Morrow 0-1, Wojtalewicz 0-1). Fouled out—Callaghan, Wojtalewicz. Rebounds—North Platte 29 (Allberry 7). Grand Island 27 (Almond 6). Turnovers—North Platte 12, Grand Island 12. Total fouls—North Platte 20, Grand Island 29. Technicals—Callaghan.

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