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Photo Credit: Mike Sautter

2023 Heartland Hoops Classic Roundup

February 11, 2023

The 16th annual Heartland Hoops Classic at the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island Saturday featured teams from all over the state and the country in a seven-game showcase of basketball in central Nebraska.

GAME ONE: C2 No. 2 Freeman 61, C1 No. 6 Central City 47

An incredible second half on the offensive end led by senior Carter Ruse and a terrific defensive job throughout from senior Taylan Vetrovsky led Freeman to a 14-point win over a good Central City team.

Ruse, a Doane commit, scored 25 points in the second half, only missing twice in the final 16 minutes. He finished with 32 points — sixth-highest in event history — on 12-for-18 shooting including 6-for-10 from 3. He added nine rebounds, two assists and two steals to his line.

“I thought he was good from the second quarter on,” Freeman coach Jim McLaughlin said. “I think maybe he hit a shot at the end of the first quarter. I thought he missed his first 3, was a really good look, but like I told him, he had confidence to stay with it and he hit some big 3s.” 

Vetrovsky took on the tough defensive assignment of guarding junior Ayden Zikmund, one of C1’s leading scorers at 21.6 points per game, to six points on 3-of-11 shooting and four turnovers. He also added six points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals for the Falcons.

“He played [Zikmund] as well as anybody has this year, holding him to six and he kind of got that one cheap,” McLaughlin said. “But I thought he did tremendous just staying into him. His length, I think, took away some shots and he did a heck of a job. His energy allowed us to kind of get our feet there in the second quarter and start to kinda gap a little bit.”

After a slow start, falling behind 16-9 early in the sand quarter, Freeman ripped off a 14-2 run to take the lead and never gave it up. 

The Falcons led 23-21 at halftime and opened the third quarter with a 13-2 run including eight points and an assist for a 3 from Ruse. He hit a 3 at the buzzer as well to put Freeman up 41-28 after three then opened the fourth with a personal 12-3 run to put the game to bed.

Junior Hayden Jennings chipped in 12 points for Freeman on a perfect 4-for-4 from the field including two 3s and 2-for-2 from the foul line.

Senior Kenai Kearney led Central City with 13 points, six rebounds and two steals.


Freeman:        9-14-18-20 — 61

Central City: 12-  9-  7-19 — 47

F: Carter Ruse 32, Hayden Jennings 12, Carter Niles 9, Taylan Vetrvsky 6, Easton Buss 2

CC: Kenai Kearney 13, Clark Brown 9, Ashton Gragg 9, Dylan Pfeifer 7, Blake Jensen 3

GAME TWO: B No. 4 Platteview 54, A UR Grand Island 37

A dominant second quarter was enough to overcome an ice-cold start for Platteview and the Trojans held the Islanders to nine total points in the second half to secure the victory.

Grand Island sat in a 2-3 zone the entire game. Platteview moved the ball well but shot just 4-for-19 from deep in the first half to trail 28-22 at halftime.

Then the flood gates opened after halftime. The Trojans shot a blistering 7-for-11 from 3 while picking it up on the other end to outscore the Islanders 24-4. Trey Moseman and Connor Millikan hit three 3s apiece and combined for 21 in the period to give Platteview a 46-32 lead heading into the fourth.

“That’s kind of us,” Platteview coach Tim Brotzki said. “If teams play zone against us, I expect our kids to make shots. We didn’t in the first half. We used the phrase “water is going to find its level eventually, and it did. [Alex] Draper hit a couple, Moseman hit a couple, Connor hit a couple, and that’s who we are.”

The Trojans cooled off again in the fourth, but the Islanders only made two more shots as Platteview cruised to the victory. 

Millikan finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds (five offensive), 10 assists, six steals and no turnovers despite playing on an injury knee. He sat out the team’s win atHastings last weekend but returned to the lineup for Platteview this week.

“He’s got a knee injury right now and for the last couple weeks he’s been dating with it,” Brotzki said. “It slowed him down a little bit, but he’s done everything he can — humanly possible — to play, with rehab and seeing a specialist and doing all those things. You kind of saw what he did today, I think he ended up with a triple-double. He ended with 26 points and 17 rebounds his last game and that’s playing on a bad knee.”

Moseman led the Trojans with 19 points and five 3-pointers.

Junior Mukadi Mukoma was the only Islander in double figures with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooing including 1-of-3 from deep. 


Platteview:       7-15-24-  8 — 54

Grand Island: 14-14-  4-  5 — 37

P: Trey Moseman 19, Connor Millikan 16, Alex Draper 9, Reiman Zetert 6, Ezra Stewart 4

GI: Mukadi Mukoma 11, Riley Plummer 9, Kazadi Mukoma 8, Colton Marsh 4, Bode Albers 3, Reid Kelly 2

GAME THREE: C1 No. 1 Wahoo 58, A UR North Platte 51

Wahoo overcome a brutally cold start to make it a tight game in the second half then made some big plays down the stretch to secure a victory against a Class A team and improve to 20-1 on the season. Thirteen of those wins have come against teams above Class C1.

Wahoo missed 11 of its first 12 shots and fell behind 12-3 before Marcus Glock hit a 3 to settle the Warriors down. Wahoo trailed 14-7 after one and 23-14 midway through the second before closing the half on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to two a the break.

Glock got going with seven points in the third to spark the Warriors, and Beni Nelson close out the quarter with a steal and slam to put Wahoo up 39-38 heading into the fourth. 

North Platte opened the fourth with a 3 from Jesse Mauch and a layup from River Johnston, but Wahoo answered with a 9-2 run featuring buckets from four different Warriors to re-take the lead and Wahoo went 10-fr-13 at the free-throw line with a couple of stops mixed in to seal the victory.

“It was another grind-it-out type game,” Wahoo coach Kevin Scheef said. “North Platte’s got a really nice team. They defend really well and River Johnston’s really good, but we just kept telling our kids ‘stay the course and at some point we hop we’re going to make a little run, get a couple shots to go,’ and finally it worked out that way. We hit some big free throws, enough down the stretch, anyway, to get it done.”

Glock led the Warriors with 19 points on 5-of-10 from the field (3-of-6 from 3) and also hit all six of his free throws in the fourth quarter. He did for the team led with six rebounds as well. Owen Hancock added 11 points on 4o-of-5 from the field and 3-of-3 from the line.

North Platte got game-high 22 points, five rebounds and three assists from Johnson (a Doane commit) plus 19 points from Mauch, but it wasn’t enough.


Wahoo:          7-14-18-19 — 58

North Platte: 14- 9-15-13 — 51

W: Marcus Glock 19, Owen Hancock 11, Anthony Simon 7, Garrett Grandgenett 7, Kamron Kasischke 5, Trey Simon 5, Benji Nelson 4

NP: River Johnston 22, Jesse Mauch 19, Daniel Shea 4, Carter Kelley 4, Caleb Kincaid 2

GAME FOUR: C2 UR Grand Island Central Catholic 45, C2 No. 9 Gordon-Rushville 34

The Crusaders used a strong defensive effort and a big day from beyond the arc to cruise past the Mustangs.

Grand Island Central Catholic built a 25-11 lead at halftime thanks to a 7-for-13 effort from 3. Gordon-Rushville shot 1-of-8 from deep in the first 16 minutes.

“[A good start] was very important,” Crusader coach Tino Martinez said. “On film we felt those shots were going to be open. We talked about making sure we were taking good open shots … Everybody’s better when shots go in, and shots went in. Our kids were ready and I was happy for them.”

The Mustangs finally found their touch in the third quarter, hitting all three of their 3-pointers, to make a push. They cut it down to seven at 37-30 midway through the fourth, but that’s as close as they got as Thomas Birch stretched it back out with a 3 and then the Crusaders closed it out at the foul line.

Grand Island Central Catholic shot 10-for-22 (45.5%) overall from 3 and turned the ball over just five times (half as many as it forced). Ishmael Nadir led the way with 14 points (2-of-3 from 3), five assists and four steals. Thomas Birch shot 4-for-8 from 3 for 12 points while chipping in eight rebounds and four assists. Bowdie Fox added 10 points and six boards. Grand Island Central Catholic played the same five players all game.

The Crusaders did a great job of packing the paint and limiting interior touches for Gordon-Rushville’s 6-foot-6 senior Jace Nelson. H finished with 11 points and seven rebounds but Sven of his points cam in the fourth quarter after the Crusaders had already built their lead.

“We wouldn’t have beat them if we didn’t [limit his touches],” Martinez said. “Not that they don’t have other quality guys, but he’s the engine that makes that thing go. We had to limit his touches — our only chance to win — and our kids did a good job of executing that.”


Gordon-Rushville:                       7-  4-11-12 — 34

Grand Island Central Catholic: 14-11-  9-11 — 45

GR: Jace Nelson 11, Ellis Livingston 9, Keenan Schwarting 7, Carter Anderson 4, Logan Slama 3

GICC: Ishmael Nadir 14, Thomas Birch 12, Bowdie Fox 10, Thomas Liban 6, Jacob Stegman 3

GAME FIVE: Omaha Westside 62, Real Salt Lake Academy (Herriman, Utah) 56

After a 10-2 start to the season capped by a big win at Millard North, Omaha Westside hit a rough patch, using four of its next seven. The Warriors hit an extreme cold spell (shooting 9-of-63 from 3 in those four losses combined including an 0-for-15 performance against Lincoln East Tuesday) and struggled to find other ways to win.

The Warriors again struggled from deep in Grand Island on Saturday, hitting just two of their 14 3-point attempts. However, they dominated in the paint (shooting nearly 64% on 2-pointers) and got some timely stops to send the visitors back to Utah with a loss.

“We talked at the beginning if the year about being a team that was going to be tough, gritty and together, and to be honest, we haven’t been that at all times this year,” Westside coach Jim Simons said. “That was the team we thought we could have. We’ve shown glimpses of that team and we’ve shown glimpses of not being that team. I just thought we were really tough and gritty.”

Senior Colorado Christian signee Tate Odvody led the Warriors with 17 points on 50% shooting while junior Kevin Stubblefield scored 16. Senior forward Kevin Brown Jr. added nine points and six rebounds while battling with Salt Lake’s 6-foot-10 bigs in the paint. 

Junior Caleb Benning made the most of his offensive opportunities (eight points on 3-of-4 from the field and 2-of-3 from the line with three assists and no turnovers) while also serving as the primary defender on Salt Lake point guard JJ Mandaquit, a sophomore with multiple high-major offers already. He finished with a team-high 11 points but it took him 12 shots and a pair of free throws to get there and he also turned the ball over six times.

“I thought we got a lot of 50-50 balls, I thought we got a lot of loose balls, I thought we were tough and finished around the rim,” Simons said. “We played off of two feet really well and we were really connected and together. We did a good job of just moving on to the next play.”

Westside raced out to a 9-2 lead early behind a pair of buckets each from Stubblefield and Odvody and took a 14-7 lead at the end of the quarter as the Griffins settled for mostly perimeter shots and missed all seven of them.

Westside got a 3 from Brown and a layup from Stubblefield to extend the lead to 12 before a 7-0 Salt Lake run. Westside pushed the lead back to 10 before heading back to the locker room with a 31-23 advantage at halftime. Salt Lake cut back on the 3s and began attacking the basket more, but Westside continued to have its own success in the paint. 

Salt Lake finally found the range in the third quarter, shooting 4-for-7 from 3 to cut Westside’s lead from 12 all the way down to six at one point before settling at 47-39 heading into the fourth. Junior guard Maddox Anderson scored two big buckets off the bench to help maintain Westside’s lead.

But the Griffins had found their rhythm by that point, hitting five of their first six shots including a pair of 3s to tie the game up at 51-all with five minutes to play. The Warriors locked back in on defense, however, getting stops on the next few possessions then going 5-for-7 from the foul line on the other end to extend the lead to six.

JJ Apathjang hit a 3 to make it a two-point game with less than a minute to play, but Westside easily picked apart the Salt Lake full-court press for layups to finish the game on a 6-2 run and earn the win.

“That was big for us, because we have not handled adversity at times this year,” Simons said. “We were up 10 or 11 or whatever and they made a great charge at us to tie it with about three and a half minutes to go. We said on the bench a couple weeks ago we probably lose that game. No. 1, I think we got stops on five of the next seven possessions. We were able to get to the foul line, we were able to run a couple actions and did a good job of sending some cutters … got fouled, made some big free throws, got some stops and got some run-outs.”

Salt Lake shot 7-for-11 from 3 in the second half while Westside went 0-for-6, but the eight-point lead at halftime and free-throw shooting down the stretch were enough to overcome losing the 3-point battle.


Real Salt Lake Academy: 7-16-16-17 — 56

Omaha Westside:            14-17-16-15 — 62


OW: Tate Odvody 17, Kevin Stubblefield 16, Kevin Brown Jr. 9, Caleb Benning 8, CJ Mitchell 6, Maddox Anderson 4, Malik Crawford 2

GAME SIX: A No. 1 Bellevue West 80, Bishop Walsh (Cumberland, Maryland) 69

Bishop Walsh featured a dynamic senior backcourt of LSU signee Mike Williams III and Mikkel Tyne that combined for an efficient 55 points on Saturday night.

However, Bellevue West has its own Division I-bound guard in Creighton commit Josiah Dotzler and he was just as spectacular on the big Stage, making plays early and late to lead Bellevue West to victory.

Dotzler finished with a carer-high 30 points on 10-of-16 from the field and 8-of-10 from the foul line, seven rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a block. He knocked down two 3s, got into the lane off the bounce at will and converted on timely cuts to the rim, especially in the fourth quarter. 

“He was a dude out there tonight on a court with a lot of physically gifted individuals and two incredibly skilled guards,” Bellevue West coach Doug Woodard said. “I can’t say enough. His teammates found him on a couple those cuts in the fourth quarter, Eldon [Turner] and Jaden [Jackson], great plays they made. That was a fun game, because boy they were making some shots.”

Dotzler hit his first four shots including an and-one and scored 10 of Bellevue West’s first 15 points before a pair of late 3s from Jackson and Steven Poulicek pushed the lead to 21-9 at the end of the first.

Bishop Walsh made two pushes in the second quarter, cutting the deficit to four twice, but Jackson knocked down a pair of late 3s to push it back to 10 and Bellevue West took a 38-28 lead into halftime despite Tyne erupting four 12 points on 100% shooting in the period.

Williams scored eight points in the third quarter including a pair of pull-up 3s to lead a charge to cut Bellevue West’s lead down to three, but the Thunderbirds closed the period with six straight including another 3 from Jackson for a 55-46 lead.

Bellevue West had no answer for Williams as he scored 14 point in the fourth including a four-point play, but the Spartans weren’t able too get many stops either. Six was as close as Bishop Walsh got as Turner and Dotzler made some big plays down the stretch and Dotzler salted the game away at the foul line.

Bellevue West went into the game with a severe height disadvantage against the bigger Bishop Walsh squad and lost both of its posts during the game as sophomore Robby Garcia rolled his ankle early and juniorJacob Arop took a hard fall with just under five minutes to play and did not return to the game. Back-up forward J’Dyn Bullion missed the game with an illness as well. Even so, Bellevue West found. Way to close out the game and dominate the boards as Bellevue West earns an 18-5 edge in offensive rebounds and an 18-7 advantage in second-chance points.

“When we see those two go down, that was a big loss for our team,” Dotzler said. “So I was proud of our guys for stepping up and trying to get their backs. We had to play big with the size we have going down, and I thought we were able to do that.”

Jackson, the junior guard listed at 6-foot-1 who is drawing Division I interest in his own right, was a big part of that with five offensive rebounds to go with his 18 points on 6-of-11 from 3, four assists and two blocks.

Bellevue West’s undefeated season rolls on with the victory. The Thunderbirds are 22-0 including four wins against non-Nebraska teams and now turn their attention to completing the regular season with back-t-back games against top-six opponents in Millard North and Omaha Westside next weekend.

“Coach talked about it in the locker room, this game really means nothing to us,” Dotzler said. “We were really happy for the win. We were really happy to come out and play someone we had never played before; Bishop Walsh, great program. Now we’re moving on to the next game. Two more regular season games, we’ve got to stay locked in and stay the course.”


Bishop Walsh:    9-19-18-23 — 69

Bellevue West: 21-17-17-25 — 80

BiW: Mike Williams III 34, Mikkel Tyne 21, Israel Bosenge 8, Emmanuel Okitondo 4, Jasiah Cannady 2

BeW: Josiah Dotzler 30, Jaden Jackson 18, Jaxon Stueve 10, Jacob Arop 8, Steven Poulicek 8, Eldon Turner 5, Isaiah McMorris 1

GAME SEVEN: Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kansas) 69, Chicago Prep (Illinois) 47

Chicago Prep was a last-second fill-in when illness forced Huntington Prep (West Virginia) to drop out a couple days before the event, but the Freeze wasn’t a match for the powerhouse that is Sunrise.

G League Ignite-bound 6-foot-11 forward Matas Buzelis put on a show with 23 points and 18 rebounds (both game highs), Ohio State commit Scotty Middleton scored 15 points and Arkansas commit Layden Blocker chipped in 13 points.

Michael Jones led Chicago Prep with 17 points including 12 of his team’s 22 in the third quarter. Jiovanny Garcia chipped in 10 points.

Sunrise raced out to a 16-2 lead before a pair of 3s late in the quarter from Caleb Spencer and Garcia. The Buffaloes held the Freeze to seven points in the second quarter to build a 33-15 edge at halftime and pushed that advantage north of 20 in he third quarter.

Chicago Prep did make one push, cutting the deficit down to 14 about a minute into the fourth quarter, but Sunrise responded with a 15-0 run to slam the door shut.


Sunrise Christian Academy: 18-15-20-16 — 69

Chicago Prep:                          8-  7-22-10 — 47

SCA: Matas Buzelis 23, Scotty Middleton 15, Layden Blocker 13, Mikel Brown 5, Vincas Buzelis 5, Lamar Atlason 4, Miro Little 3, Mykolas Ivanauskas 1

CP: Michel Jones 17, Jiovanny Garcia 10, Caleb Spencer 8, Tristan Ford 5, Jalil Amous 3, Jarrod Gee 2, Dave Crittle 2

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