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12/30/2014 - HAC TOURNEY BASKETBALL: Northeast Uses Press To Stymie Grand Island

By Jeff Motz

Lincoln Northeast used a full-court press in the fourth quarter and took away Grand Island's momentum, as the Rockets earned a 62-59 victory in the semifinals of the Heartland Athletic Conference Boys Basketball Tournament on Tuesday evening.  

The Rockets will play in the 2:15pm game Wednesday against Lincoln High for the championship, while the Islanders will play for third place against Fremont at 12:30pm.  

Northeast (7-1) began the fourth quarter, trailing Grand Island 50-44.  Utilizing a full-court press, the Rockets caused problems for the Islanders.   Off a forced turnover, Liem Liem scored a basket early, then Khan Kailech converted on a three-point play to pull Northeast to within one at 50-49 with 6:54 remaining.

Grand Island (3-5) responded as Pierce Almond, who had a game-high 22 points, sank a three pointer to put the Islanders back up by four.   Tyson Shadegg hit a pair of free throws for Northeast and a forced turnover led to another Kailech basket to tie the game at 53 with 5:51 to play.

After the Islanders missed a field goal, the Rockets drew a foul on the other end and Kailech hit one of two free throws for a 54-53 lead with 5:02 left.  

Freshman guard Casey Burnham hit two free throws to help Grand Island regain a 55-54 lead with 4:42 left.  More than two minutes later, Northeast got a basket off a steal and layup from Ryan Garver, then Islanders forward Jay Jeffries committed a foul on Liem, who hit two free throws for a 58-55 lead with 1:46 remaining in the game.

Garver then forced a steal and drew a foul, where he hit a pair of free throws for a 60-55 Northeast lead with 1:02 to play.  Jeffries answered for Grand Island with a basket on the other end, but Garver hit one of two free throws for Northeast.  Grand Island's 6-8 senior center Choul Biel scored and drew a foul and couldn't convert on the free throw.

After a scramble for the basketball, Northeast's sophomore guard Noah Thompson drew a foul and hit one of two free throw attempts with 15 seconds remaining.  Grand Island's designed play for Almond with three seconds to go went long, leading to Northeast losing control of the ball out of bounds with :00.7 left.  A touch and shoot attempt from Tanner Shuck was long at the buzzer.

Northeast had a quick 6-0 in the first minute of the game off back to back threes from Thompson and Derrick Curtis.  But Grand Island rattled off 15 straight points behind threes from Almond and Shuck and held on for a 21-16 first quarter lead and 32-27 halftime advantage.

Kailech led Northeast with 13 points, while Thompson added 11 and Garver finished with 10 points.

Shuck added 18 points in the loss for Grand Island.

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