Heartland Hoops Classic creator Tino Martinez does his homework every year, attempting to piece together the perfect day of marquee matchups for Nebraska prep basketball’s top day of hoops.
Every single one of the previous 10 years of Heartland Hoops Classics has been an outstanding lineup of top notch basketball matchups, but this year GICC Coach Tino Martinez has hit the ultimate home run in fashioning this Saturday’s day of terrific high school basketball. Jackpot baby.
Oak Hill Academy, the nations #2 ranked team, already at 35-0, will face #5 Sunrise Christian Academy (20-2) in the 7:30 game. And the two teams have not faced each other this season either.
And the other 7 games? Every team but Omaha South is rated in the Omaha World-Herald basketball ratings coming into this Saturday. How’s that for Mr. Martinez doing his homework?
Now, let’s have a peak at all eight games on tap for the 2018 Heartland Hoops Classic, being staged this Saturday at the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island.
Game 1 - (9:00 AM) - South Loup (17-1) vs. Yutan (18-1)
A battle between Class C-2’s #2 rated Yutan and C-2’s #7 South Loup Bobcats. Yutan is fresh off a Class C-2 11-Man football championship and is on an 18 game hoops winning streak after dropping a season opening 58-47 loss to current Class C-2’s #4 Elmwood-Murdock.
South Loup is coming off an 8-Man Class D-1 football runner-up trophy and like Yutan, is on a long winning streak (17 games) after losing their 2nd game of the season to a fine Amherst team (64-53).
Yutan is a very balanced basketball team featuring seniors Mason Timm, who averages 12.3 ppg and a career 1000 point man, and rugged 6-3 Colton “The Beast” Feist (pronounced Feast). Feist averages 11.5 ppg but is a superior force on defense.
South Loup is paced by All-State QB Jack Rush, a lanky 6-5 athlete who can score from anywhere on the floor.
Game 2 - (10:45 AM) - Hastings St. Cecilia (17-3) vs. O’Neill (18-1)
O’Neill was Class C-1’s top rated team until losing to Battle Creek in the Mid-State Tournament semifinals. The loss only demoted the Eagles to #2 in the World-Herald and this O’Neill bunch is still considered a very dangerous basketball team, led by seniors Alex Thramer (6-4), Justin Appleby (6-1) and 6-4 Wyatt Liewer, who can jump out of the gym.
Justin Appleby, who missed the majority of O’Neill’s football season, leads Class C-1 scoring, averaging 20.7 ppg according to MaxPreps. The senior sharpshooter has connected on 43% of his 105 three point attempts to date.
This year’s St. Cecilia team is currently rated #3 in Class C-2 and is fresh off a Centennial Tournament championship after beating GICC, 55-40 and then duplicating the big win Thursday, 51-47 on the Crusaders home court.
Any number of Kevin Asher’s players can hurt you, including Sutton transfer Trevor Leach. The Bluehawks defense can just simply apply a chokehold on any opposing offense. Part of this is due to a brutal St. Cecilia schedule, including Class B power York, and a steady diet of Centennial conference teams.
Game 3 - (12:30 PM) - Omaha South (6-12) vs. York (18-1)
Another classic cross class matchup, pitting Class B York, coming off a state football title, against an unrated Class A Omaha South team who is currently on a two game winning streak.
The Dukes of York led the Class B ratings until dropping a 54-44 decision to surging Aurora in the Central Conference championship game. York can pound you to death on a defense that features Nebraska football recruit Garrett Snodgrass in the paint.
Snodgrass on the inside, along with sharpshooting Brady Danielson on the outside, can put points on the board for the Dukes. Any number of Dukes can also hurt you when York has possession of the ball, including Wyatt Cast, Reid Hoffman, and others.
Omaha South, a young team, is led by senior Tyreek Anderson, a 5-10 dandy, who averages 14.4 ppg. Sophomore Jadriane Sanders (10.4 ppg) is the other Packer in double figures.
Before you dismiss this bunch, remember that the legendary Bruce Chubick Sr. is still the head coach for the Packers and Bruce Jr. is right alongside on that South bench.
Game 4 - (2:15 PM) - Gretna (15-3) vs. Ponca (21-1)
Talk about crossing classes. Class B Gretna steps down a couple of those classes to face Class C-2’s #2 Ponca. The Indians just won the rubber match with Winnebago in the Lewis and Clark Tournament championship on Wednesday in Laurel.
This, indeed, may be the most intriguing game of the entire day just because of the “David and Goliath” feel.
Brad Feeken and his Dragons hold down the #7 slot in Class B and just love to push the pace with 6-3 senior Joey Johnson and 6-0 junior Tre’ Mikkelsen leading the pack. Burly Tyler Sullivan (6-0), Cole Ruff (6-2) and 6-4 Chance Sterling make Gretna a very balanced scoring team.
There is no doubt that the Kingsbury brothers, senior Logan and sophomore Carter, make the Ponca Indians roll. We all know about the bloodlines there with father Chris Kingsbury, who was a star for the Iowa Hawkeyes from 1993-1996. Chris was also a McDonald’s All-American as a high schooler for Hamilton high school in Hamilton, Ohio.
Logan already holds the school record for career points, assists and steals, while Carter is averaging 12 ppg and love the shot from beyond the arc.
Versatile football star Dalton Tremayne and 6-6 Max Masin underneath, add depth to Ponca, as well as 6-2 senior Connor Day. The Indians should be right at home with Gretna’s running style and play the same kind of suffocating “D” as the Dragons do.
Very interesting here game here with lots of emotions and pride involved on both sides.
Game 5 - (4:00 PM) - G I C C (15-6) vs. Winnebago (17-4)
A match of Class C-1 powers, as #5 GICC meets #3 Winnebago in a rematch of the 2015 C-1 semifinals that saw Bago down the Crusaders 69-63 enroute to a State Championship.
Tino Martinez troops are on a rare 4 game losing streak, having dropped two games to St. Cecilia, and one each to Class B Lexington, and C-1’s top rated Wahoo Warriors. GICC has the most brutal closing schedule in C-1, with that Thursday rematch with St. Cecilia (a 51-47 loss), Winnebago and St. Paul.
GICC marvel Mayra Almyra is one of C-1’s best players with his leaping ability, great footwork and defensive skills. Jack Goering adds scoring punch, along with freshman Russ Martinez (2nd cousin to Tino). The Crusader defense has always been the strong point of the GICC hoops program and is certainly no different this season.
It’s no secret point guard D’Von LaPointe makes the Winnebago offensive machine click . Often times appearing to be out of control driving to the bucket, the highly skilled 5-11 senior knows exactly how to score and draw the foul. 6-6 South Sioux City transplant Lance Denny is also a huge force in the paint for head coach Jeff Berridge.
6-2 senior Manape Cleveland dropped 41 big ones on Osmond in the Lewis and Clark semis and 5-11 junior TJ Frenchman can hit the trey coming off the bench.
GICC will have to slow down the Indians pace and prevent LaPoint and Denny from from doing their thing to win this game.
Game 6 - (5:45 PM) - Omaha Skutt Catholic (16-3) vs. Aurora (17-2)
Could this be a preview of the Class B championship game? Aurora assumed the #1 spot in the class when they defeated York in that Central Conference final. Skutt is currently rated #2 in Class B. You couldn’t ask for a better game preceding the Oak Hill/Sunrise Christian battle.
Coach Tom Leininger’s Huskies are all the more dangerous because they are peaking at the right time. Gretna, as well as York, beat this team early, but the Huskies are on a 12 game winning streak going into Friday’s game with Crete.
6 foot five Henry Penner can do it all for Aurora and then throw in 6-6 junior Baylor Scheierman, you have a lethal scoring duo. Former GINW girls championship coach Mike Herzberg’s son Jayden, a slick 6-3 ball handler, can also drive to the bucket or bury the trey to hurt you.
Aurora runs a very balanced up tempo offense and can just flat out shut an opposing offense down with their aggressive defensive play.
The Skutt SkyHawks are a young team with just three seniors on the squad, but they certainly don’t play like it. 6-3 senior Austin Ash and sophomore Tyson Gordon, also 6-3, lead the scoring parade for Skutt, but are not the only weapons.
5-11 Junior Jake Kudron drilled a three pointer in the final moments to sink Sioux City Heelan a week ago and lest we forget, 6-6 T.J. Skradski is always under the basket as a scoring threat and is a shot blocker on defense.