Tino Martinez-Entreprenuer/Promoter/Basketball coach
I know it's early in the high school boys basketball season, but if you are a true hoops fan, get the permanent marker in hand and put a huge, dark circle around Saturday, February 13, of next year. That is the date Grand Island entrepreneur/basketball wizard, Tino Martinez has set for the 3rd Annual Heartland Hoops Classic to be held at the Heartland Events Center in GI. This is going to be a dandy my friends, and that is an understatement.
Two years ago, Martinez shocked the high school hoops world in Nebraska by announcing he was going to stage a "Classic" featuring some of the best match-ups you could ever dream of, including a dream clash between Fremont Bergan's Wes Eikmeier and Ainsworth's Jesse Carr. Most people, upon hearing this news were slapping their hands together, rubbing them upward and downward rapidly in anticipation. I have to admit, this high school sports aficionado was wildly exited about the idea, but fearful the former Islander basketball star would lose his shirt (and a lot more) on the venture. It would also be an understatement to say that the maiden voyage enjoyed great success. One of the top teams from Iowa was imported to play a fine Ralston squad and the dream match-up of Eikmeier/Carr was as sweet as advertised. I'm not certain of the exact of the final count, but the Events Center was rockin' and the Heartland Hoops Classic was off and running!
Last season's event was a great success as well and the 2010 version of this brainchild of the man who once set the Grand Island single game scoring record as a Sophomore, is on to something. Let's take a peak at this 3rd Heartland Hoops Classic field and throw out a line that every true Nebraska high school basketball fan is certain to bite on.
The 2010 Heartland Hoops Classic - February 13th- 2010:
9:30 - Wood River vs. Sumner-Eddyville-Miller
11:15 - Weeping Water vs. Ravenna
1:00 - Hastings Adams Central vs. Kearney Catholic
2:45 - Axtell vs. Ewing
4:30 - Gretna vs. Grand Island Central Catholic
6:15 - Ralston vs. Chadron
8:00 - Hastings St. Cecilia vs. Omaha Skutt
In the name of James Naismith, is that a lineup or what? For one price, you can see an entire day of the best basketball you are going to find in the entire State under one roof at one setting. How about some facts on this menu...........
*Wood River-SEM - The Mustangs of SEM finished last season with a 13-8 record and are pre-season #9 in Class D-2. Wood River has a 6-3, Jr. scoring machine named Cooper Wissing that will just kill you from inside or out. Classic match-up of a C-1 team against a D-2 school....should be interesting to say the least.
*Weeping Water-Ravenna - Paul Beranek's 'Jays are defending C-2 champs and rated currently numero uno in that Class. Weeping Water always fields a competitive squad.
*Adams Central-Kearney Catholic - Talk about basketball tradition at these two schools....oh man! AC is just coming off a heck of a football season and features sure-fire All-Stater, Zac Hunt, Nate Arlt, Conner Lyons, Nate Steine, and sharp shooting youngster, Brady Barrett....that's some real have some fireworks. The Stars have an immovable force inside in 6-2, 225 pound Matt Bowman. Add Drew Butler and the aggressive style employed by head coach Donnie Leiss and you have non-stop action.
*Axtell-Ewing - This baby is a dream match-up if I ever saw one. Ewing features one of the State's top players in D-1 prospect/Super-Stater, Austin Kaczer. The 6-4 Senior has been an All-State footballer/basketballer three straight seasons and averaged a state best 28 ppg last year. The Tigers were beaten in last year's D-2 Finals by a buzzer beater by Sterling's Zack Lemka in overtime. Ewing's foe is Axtell and the boys in purple are rated number 3 in C-2 in 2009/2010 and boast a cast of veterans that look like a Who's Who in C-2 hoops. The Fecht brothers, Spencer and Trevor, Bryce Runge, Nick Robinson, and Blake Fahrenbruch know the game. The Wildcats were elimated in last year's State Tourney by eventual champ, Ravenna in the C-2 semis.
*Gretna-GICC - It's "B" going against "C-1" in this baby. The Dragons compiled a 17-5 record last season and are always in the thick of the Class B race to State. They lost in last year's District final to eventual State Champ Ralston by a mere point. Nobody has to tell you about GICC. They always pride themselves on a smothering "D" and are pre-season #5 in C-1 and have already dismantled C-2 #1 Ravenna 63-29 in '09.
*Ralston-Chadron - My gosh.....does it get any better? Two D-1 recruits in Chadron's Elliott Eliason (Minnesota) and Ralston's Dwight Smith (Colorado State) go head to head in this baby. Ralston won it all in "B" last year and The Cardinals return almost everybody form their C-1 runner-up bunch. Classic "B" vs. "C-1" clash. It'll be two pre-season NUMBER ONES locking horns here. Be worth the admission price just to see this one.
*Omaha Skutt-Hastings St. Cecilia - OK, and you thought you couldn't top the previous game! Bluehawks won it all in Basketball last year and nabbed the C-1 football crown. Skutt, who has waited 3 years to get into this Hoops Classic was runner-up in Class B football to Aurora a few weeks back. St. C''s is rated 2nd behind in C-1 behind Chadron and The SkyHawks are a close #2 behind the Ralston Rams in Class B. Remember, St. Cecilia BEAT Ralston in the featured game this Heartland Classic last year. Bluehawks will have to contend with the towering duo of 6-6 Charles Wallrapp and 6-9 James Hajek inside, but will counter with rapidly growing Zach Sterup, who now measures 6-10. All-Stater Dalton Sealey will score plenty for the 'Hawks and Myles Jablonski of the other 'Hawks will try and prevent Sealey from doing too much damage.
Alright............now the stage is set. All you have to do is visit the website below, order your tickets, and get set for a day of hoops you'll not soon forget, a day of outstanding Nebraska High School basketball. Oh yes.....thank you Tino Martinez, and keep this baby rolling for years to come!