For the second time this season, the showdown between Omaha Creighton Prep and Grand Island needed an extra four minutes to determine a winner. This time, however, the Junior Jays came out on top and punched their ticket to state with a 64-60 overtime win in the A-6 District Final.
Here are five thoughts on the instant classic.
Instant Classic… Again
On Feb. 8, sophomore Isaac Traudt put the Islanders on his back and led them to a big win with 33 points and the game-winning 3-pointer in overtime on Prep’s court. On Monday, with a trip to sate on the line, the Junior Jays got their revenge.
Grand Island was in control early, leading 12-4 after one and 19-11 at halftime with a couple of 10-point leads in between. Coach Josh Luedtke must have given one heck of a halftime speech as the Junior Jays doubled their first-half scoring in the third quarter and took 34-30 lead into the fourth quarter.
Prep made some big plays, but the Islanders had an answer each time to keep the Junior Jays from stretching out the lead beyond six, and they made a late run to tie it ip at 47-all with 70 seconds remaining. Prep went 3-for-4 from the foul line to pull ahead by 3, but Grand Island senior center Them Koang dropped in a hook shot to make it a one point game. Prep again split a pair of free throws and Grand Island went inside to Koang again, and he beat the buzzer to send the game to overtime.
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) March 3, 2020
In overtime, Grand Island took the lead, then Prep tied it. Prep took the lead, then Grand Island tied it. The Junior Jays pulled ahead by four, then Koang converted an and-one to make it a one-point game with 36.3 to play. Two Prep free throws pushed the lead back to three and a layup attempt by Grand Island was off-target.
Prep finally sealed the game at the free-throw line, avenging its only home loss of the season.
Showtime Shows Out
Spencer “Showtime” Schomers is Prep’s only senior starter. Monday was his last game at the Heider Center. It did not get off to a pretty start as he missed his first seven shots and only scored two points in the first half.
Schemers wasn’t going to go out like that. He scored seven points in the third, seven in the fourth and eight in overtime to finish with a career-high 31 points. He shot 7-of-16 from the field, 3-of-6 from 3 and 14-of-15 from the free-throw line. Schomers missed a free free throw with less than a minute remaining in regulation that proved costly as a make could have prevented overtime, but he bounced back in the fourth to go 6-for-6 to seal the win.
Schomers also led Prep with eight rebounds, dished out two assists without a turnover and recorded two steals.
Schomers scored just five points in the first game against Grand Island. On Monday, he walked off the court for the final time with a net draped around his neck.
A Tale of Two Halves
The first half of the game was not pretty basketball. Props to the coaching staffs for their defensive game plans. Grand Island starts a non-shooter at guard and Prep parked is defender in the paint to make it tough for the Islanders to get the ball inside to Koang.
On the other end, Grand Island switched everything on the perimeter and every time a Junior Jay tried to drive it seemed like an Islander was there sticking a hand in to knock the ball loose.
At halftime, the two teams had combined for 30 points on 13-of-15 shooting with 14 turnovers.
Prep figured some things out at halftime. The Juniors Jays scored 53 points in the last 20 minutes, shooting 57.7% from the field including 5-of-10 from 3. After attempting just one free throw in the first half, Prep went 18-of-22 from the line in the second half and overtime.
Grand Island continued to struggle a bit in the third quarter, scoring 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting, but the Islanders picked it up to score 21 points on 4-of-8 from the field and 7-of-8 from the line, in order to get the game to overtime, but a few missed shots at the rim and a couple of turnovers were too much to overcome in the extra period.
Big Man Battle
Creighton Prep came out with the win, but Koang didn’t let the Islanders go down without a fight in his last game. He finished with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting and 4-of-7 from the line, 17 rebounds including five on the offensive end and two assists.
Ten of his points came in the fourth quarter and overtime when Grand Island needed him the most. He scored Grand Island’s last four points of regulation to get it to overtime, then he converted the three-point play to give Grand Island a chance in the last 40 seconds.
AJ Rollins, Prep’s junior big man and a 2021 Nebraska football target, had a quiet game. He was the only Junior Jay to score in the first quarter with four points, but he only scored four more the rest of the way (all in the third quarter) before fouling out with 55.2 on the clock in overtime.
Rollins finished with eight points on 4-of-6 from the field and 0-of-1 from the line, seven rebounds (three offensive), three blocks, one assist and two turnovers.
Traudt, the hero for Grand Island in the first game, had a quiet game, and a lot of that had to do with Prep’s defense. The Junior Jays started with 6-foot-2 point guard Justin Sitti on the 6-foot-8 Traudt and had a couple others take turns, and there weren’t going to let him beat them again.
Traudt finished with 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting, and every look was tough. Even so, the show he did make showed off his incredible touch. Omaha head coach Derrin Hansen and Creighton assistant Paul Lusk were both in attendance, likely to get a look at Traudt primarily.
Second-Half Spark Plugs
As mentioned above, the first half didn’t feature a whole lot of points. Other than Schemers and Koang, however, a few guys came alive to spark their respective teams.
For Grand Island, senior guard Jayden Byabato came off the bench to score a team-high 21 points and dish out a team-high four assists. He also had two of Grand Island’s three made 3-pointers, both in the fourth quarter.
The guy leading the charge in Prep’s third-quarter explosion was junior Brendan Buckley. He scored all nine of his points, converting two tough buckets at the rim, hitting a pair of free throws and splitting his two 3-point attempts.
Junior Mai’Jhe Wiley had a big second half and overtime, scoring 11 of his 13 points after halftime. After shooting 1-for-5 in the firs half, he made four of his five shots in the final 20 minutes including two layups in overtime.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.