Grand Island Senior High’s Them Koang dunks the ball last season against Lincoln Southeast.

Defense will lead the way for the Grand Island Senior High boys basketball team, at least early on in the 2019-20 season.

“I think we’re more comfortable in our second year of this match-up defensive system,” coach Jeremiah Slough said. “We’re really communicating well, and it seems like a lot of the guys are further along than they were last year.”

And that defense will be something the Islanders will hang their hats on throughout December along with their posts on the offensive end.

“We will lean on our defense early on,” Slough said. “Hopefully by the end of the year we are clicking on all cylinders on the offensive end.”

As Grand Island figures things out offensively, opponents could get a big dose of Them Koang. The 6-foot-6 senior is a three-year starter who gives the Islanders a reliable scoring threat inside.

Senior 6-foot guard/forward Caleb Francl also returns to the starting lineup.

Jay Gustafson (6-1 senior guard) started several games last season, and Blake Leiting (6-1 senior forward) was a major contributor off the bench.

Slough said Isaac Traudt (6-8 sophomore guard/forward) and Broc Douglass (5-11 senior guard) are other players who should make an impact.

Unlike last year when the football team made it to the Class A championship game, the Islanders received more practice time and should be better prepared for Thursday’s opener at Lincoln High against Papillion-La Vista South.

Grand Island better be ready for the season. The December portion of the schedule is challenging, to say the least.

“Papillion South was a state tournament team last year,” Slough said. “If we win, we’ll play Millard North which has four Power Five guys.

“In the next week we play Omaha South and Fremont. We have Lincoln East and Omaha Central before the break.”

Overall, Grand Island faces five out of last year’s eight Class A state tournament teams.

Three of those games come within the first six games of the season.

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