Spectating is still priceless
By Larry Pritchett
Past PCHS activities director
This past weekend, the seventh annual Heartland Hoops Classic was held at the Heartlands Events Center in Grand Island.
Tino Martinez, the Hoops Classic founder, invites and matches up 16 teams for eight games during the day. Martinez has been able to match up some pretty good teams and there have been some great games played—this year was no different.
Last year Martinez was able to get Oak Hill Academy out of Virginia to play Omaha Central. Oak Hill is a national power and goes all over the United States to play games, so that was a big addition.
Last year Central defeated Oak Hill so that was a boost for Nebraska high school basketball. This year Central returned and their opponent was Denver East which is also a recognized national team.
As most basketball fans know, Central is pretty good since they are now the four time defending Class A champion in Nebraska and they also have traveled some to out of state tournaments to test their program a little. Central again played well and defeated East in a down-to-the-wire contest, but that game wasn’t the only game that was fun to watch and had some players.
The other part of a day, like Saturday, was as a retired coach who just wanted to watch some good basketball and also see some friends, some still-working coaches and even see some officials.
It was also a good day because we were joined by our son Troy who now can join his father and just watch a game and not worry about the outcome. So all the objectives of the trip were filled and it was a really fun day.
If I was still coaching, I think I might try to keep this night open just so I could go watch 16 teams and use it as a really economic clinic.
For 16 bucks you get to watch eight games and see a multitude of offensive approaches and defensive things that teams use, plus man to man presses, zone presses, and out of bounds plays and usually see them performed at a high level. If you only picked up two or three things that would help your team, it certainly would be worth the price of admission.
Even sitting and watching as many games as we did, the day went by quickly. We did take a noon break and missed part of a game, but it was still an entertaining day. I am not sure that eight straight games are enjoyable to everyone, but to a basketball crazy person it is like the nicest day you could have outside of the state tournament.
There were some big time recruits in the Central vs Denver East game. East had two that had committed. Dominique Collier, a 6-2 point guard, is going to Colorado and Ronnie Harrell, a 6-7 forward is going to Creighton. Collier had 29 points and Harrell, 11.
Central has an outstanding player in Tre’Shawn Thurman a 6-7 kid who can play, but I never did hear if he was committed to a school or not. He had 26 on the night and was also one of the outstanding players last year against Oak Hill.
Omaha Central has had a lot of success in Nebraska and I couldn’t prove this though, but last year I got the impression that Oak Hill was stopping over for a scrimmage and Central just out played them. Saturday night I got the same impression.
Central really looked like the best coached team and did more fundamental things that win games than East did. Central, I felt certainly, wasn’t out talented by East which was different than last year because I really thought Oak Hill had more talent than Central. Seven of the Oak Hill players had D1 scholarships last year.
There were some other teams that had some talent also. Norfolk has a 6-5, 260 freshman kid Logan Strom who is a man-child and if he continues to improve will be an outstanding player. He is not too bad right now.
Norfolk also has a 6-8 post player that can shoot the three. Tyler Hagedorn is just a junior. Grand Island Central Catholic also has a big kid, a junior at 6-4 and probably north of 250 some. His name is Youhanna Ghaifan and he is a junior and super strong. He isn’t the smoothest player around, he is more like the proverbial bull in a china shop, but he could take a really hard foul and still get the ball to the rim.
I thought the Central and Denver East game was maybe the best game, but close behind was the Doniphan-Trumball and Norfolk Catholic game.
NC looked like the best team for three quarters but in the fourth quarter D-T made a run triggered by some really good pressure defense and ended up winning 55-50.
D-T has one of the toughest guards that I have seen for a while. He made an outstanding steal off their press, fell down dribbling the ball, continued to dribble it while on the floor, got up dribbling and took the ball to the basket for a layup. It might have been the turning point in the game. It was a heck of an individual effort for sure.
I got to visit with Kirk and Cheryl Russell before the game and they said that their team was a football team playing basketball. They were right but they wanted to win and they got it done. They are not the best offensive team around but they played defense and stayed in the game and had enough offense to win. I enjoyed watching them play.
The weekend was topped off by the Jayhawks on Saturday and then on Sunday the Husker men going to East Lansing and defeating Michigan State. That was a big win. If they can continue to play well the NCAA tournament is a possibility. That would be great.
Later on Sunday the Creighton Bluejays did it again to Villanova scoring a 100 on them. Nova had been giving up something like 62 a game. Creighton scored 92 against Villanova at their place and then got a 100 at Omaha. Dougie McBuckets got 39 but there are a lot of McNuggets that hit buckets on that team.
The Husker women won with Jordan Hooper getting 40. It was a great weekend.