Grand Island Senior High
6-6, Senior, Forward
Them Koang didn’t need to be close to the basket to score during his senior season at Grand Island Senior High.
While the 6-foot-6 post certainly more than held his own banging down low to earn the tough points, he also showed a nice mid-range game that allowed him to average 19.1 points.
“It was nice knowing that I could shoot from the mid-range,” Koang said. “I wanted to be able to step out and shoot it.”
Koang finished 189-for-308 (61.4%) from 2-point range.
He was 0-for-4 on 3-pointers, but that’s an area he wants to work on for his future playing days at Western Nebraska Community College.
Islanders coach Jeremiah Slough said Koang has steadily improved on the offensive end throughout the career to become the threat that he was this season.
“He’s developed a nice skill-set,” Slough said. “We told him he had to dominate at two feet last year and then expand from there. Then when he started getting double-teamed, it opened up the floor for everyone.”
Koang improved his field-goal shooting percentage from 54.1% as a junior when he took 127 fewer shots.
He also upped his free-throw shooting by 2% to 64.5% (100-for-155) while taking 33 more attempts.
“I improved my shooting and improved my free throws,” Koang said. “But I still need to work on the 3-ball.”
Koang finished with 819 careers points and 512 career rebounds with the Islanders.
6-1, Senior, Guard
Connor Creech came up clutch time and time again over his four-year career at Hastings.
His coach/father Lance can reel off a list of big shots that Connor took — and made.
As a sophomore, he extended a game that the Tigers won in five overtimes against Beatrice and won an OT contest with North Platte.
He went off and scored 17 straight points in the second quarter against Ralston.
As a senior, Connor hit a buzzer beater against Grand Island Senior High and forced overtime against Mount Michael Benedictine.
“He’s just seized it,” Lance said.
Connor got a great education of being a standout guard from a young age while his father was coaching at Hastings College.
“He watched Cory Fehringer and Miah Slough, two of the better guards I’ve ever coached,” Lance said. “He studied them.”
Connor excelled throughout games during his senior year, leading the Tigers to 21 wins and a Class B state tournament berth.
He averaged 16.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists.
“As a coach, I feel pretty blessed,” Lance said. “He’s a threat to score from three levels on offense. He’s durable. He’s tough. I wouldn’t have said that a couple years ago.”
Connor was thrown into the mix as a freshman who his father said was “5-7 on the roster but didn’t weight 120 pounds. He was not ready for it, but he was the best we had at the time.”
Connor ended up being one of the best in school history. Now he will again look to learn from Fehringer, who will be his coach at Western Nebraska Community College.
6-9, Senior, Forward
Haggan Hilgendorf made a big impact in his one year as a Hastings Tiger.
The 6-foot-9 senior forward averaged 13.5 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting a team-leading 39.4% (39-for-99) on 3-pointers.
Hastings coach Lance Creech said what Hilgendorf did after transferring from Adams Central shouldn’t be overlooked.
“He was phenomenal,” Creech said. “His points and his stats might not have been what some people thought they should be, but he had to learn an entirely new language and entirely new system. He joined an already pretty sound group.
“You could see his competitiveness. He was always asking questions, especially on the defensive end. I could not be more proud of a player for what he did in his one year here.”
Creech said he got a different view coaching Hilgendorf than he did coaching against him earlier in his career.
“He’s a lot tougher mentally and physically than people give him credit for,” Creech said. “Some people think he’s just a tall, sleight kid out there. But he can take a beating, and with his toughness he keeps going hard.”
The Fort Hays State recruit was also a tough match-up for opponents.
“He’s a guy who can score from three levels,” Creech said. “A lot of people see a 6-9 guy and think he gets his points on the inside. But we had Jake Schroeder, who is our best rebounder and a good interior scorer.
“That wasn’t the best spot for Haggan. He’s 6-9 but he was our best 3-point percentage shooter.”
Grand Island Central Catholic
6-0, Junior, Guard
Russ Martinez isn’t just a long-distance sharpshooter for Grand Island Central Catholic anymore.
The three-year starter improved his all-around game for his junior year. And that helped the 6-foot guard and a balanced cast of Crusaders reach the Class C-2 championship game.
“Russ has always been a 3-point shooting threat,” said GICC coach Tino Martinez, Russ’ cousin. “But he added to his game. He was able to score baskets in the paint.
“Defensively, he always drew the toughest assignment on the perimeter each night.”
On a team that shot 39.8% on 3-pointers, Russ was the most productive and most accurate.
He went 76-for-169 from behind the arc, connecting at an impressive 45.0%.
“He’s got such a smooth shot,” Tino said. “A lot of coaches have told me that if he has his feet set, it’s going in. Shooting 76-for-169 is a really good year.”
Russ scored 10.4 points per game while directing an offense that had all five starters average between 11.6 and 9.0 points.
His impact on the defensive end may have been even more important for the Crusaders.
“He’s so competitive,” Tino said. “If you see him in practice, you would understand. He hates getting scored on in practice.
“Ever since his sophomore year, he’s had the toughest perimeter assignment, and he’s willing to do it. It takes a lot of effort and heart.”
And expectations will by sky high next year for GICC with Russ and every other starter returning.
Grand Island Senior High
6-8, Sophomore, Guard/Forward
A 30-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to hand Omaha Creighton Prep a rare home loss announced the presence of Isaac Traudt to the rest of the state.
But that performance wasn’t anything surprising to anyone who watched the 6-foot-8 sophomore play from the start of Grand Island Senior High’s season.
Traudt averaged 16.7 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 36.1% (44-for-122) from beyond the 3-point line.
“He not only grew physically from a 6-1 freshman to a 6-8 sophomore, but he also grew in every aspect of his game,” Islanders coach Jeremiah Slough said. “As a freshman he was a good shooter when he was open, but he really put the other pieces together. He got good defensively and learned the nuances offensively.”
Traudt’s second start was a 31-point night against Lincoln High where he went 9-for-13 from the floor.
“He doesn’t need a volume of shots,” Slough said. “He can be productive with 10-12 shots from the floor and 6-8 from the free-throw line.”
Traudt’s 3-pointer capped off a 33-point effort in a 57-54 overtime win at Prep on Feb. 8.
“That was a springboard for this program,” Slough said. “After we beat Prep we won a conference championship. It was a big win for the program and a big boost for his confidence.”
Already gaining NCAA Div. I attention, Traudt will see plenty of attention from opponents next year, too.
“He’s our only returning starter, so he better not get used to playing in space,” Slough said.
ALL-HEARTLAND SECOND TEAM
Name Yr. Ht. Pos. PPG RPG School
Koby Bales Jr. 6-2 F 15.8 6.2 GICC
Gavin Lipovsky Sr. 6-2 G 12.3 2.9 Adams Central
Trey Meith Jr. 6-2 G 14.7 7.0 Ravenna
Keithan Stafford Sr. 6-0 G/F 14.2 6.5 Doniphan-Trumbull
Tommy Wroblewski Jr. 6-2 G 15.9 3.1 St. Paul
ALL-HEARTLAND THIRD TEAM
Name Yr. Ht. Pos. PPG RPG School
Barak Birch Jr. 5-11 G 17.9 4.4 Burwell
Nate Boerkircher Sr. 5-10 G 16.0 8.4 Aurora
Cam Foster Jr. 6-1 G 11.6 2.3 Adams Central
Isaac Herbek So. 6-3 G 11.6 3.5* GICC
Tredyn Prososki Sr. 6-0 G 19.8 4.0 Riverside
ALL-HEARTLAND FOURTH TEAM
Name Yr. Ht. Pos. PPG RPG School
Jayden Byabato Sr. 6-2 G 13.3 2.9* Grand Island
Jordan Maxfield Sr. 6-4 G 14.3 7.0 Fullerton
Ben Noakes Sr. 5-9 G 12.3 3.5 Centura
Karsen Reimers Jr. 6-3 G 20.4 10.2 Palmer
Jed Walford Jr. 6-1 G 14.0 5.2* Northwest
*assists per game
Adams Central: Tyler Slechta, Jr.; Dante Boelhower, Jr. Ansley-Litchfield: Parker Lefever, Sr.; Tycen Bailey, Jr. Arcadia/Loup City: Caden Kusek, Sr.; Jadyn Scott, Jr.. Aurora: Tate Nachtgal, So.; Andrew Bell, Jr. Broken Bow: Keegan Baxter, So.; Blake Denson, Jr. Boone Central: Ryan Kramer, Jr.; Blaine Young, Sr. Burwell: Carter Mann, So.; Levi Bode, Jr. Central City: Jackson McGinnis, Sr. Central Valley: Ty Nekoliczak, Jr.; Trevor Cargill, Jr. Centura: Eli Wooden, Jr.; Trent Rasmussen, Jr. Cross County: Cory Hollinger, So.; Cael Lundstrom, Sr. Doniphan-Trumbull: Cade Sterner, Sr.; Griffin Hendricks, Sr. Fullerton: Cole Horacek, Jr.; Brandon Rasmussen, Sr. Giltner: Taner Roth, Jr.; Lance McKay, Sr. Grand Island: Caleb Francl, Sr.; Jay Gustafson, Sr. Grand Island Central Catholic: Dei Jengmer, Jr.; Marcus Lowry, So. Hastings: Jake Schroeder, Sr.; Mike Boeve, Sr. Hastings St. Cecilia: Paul Fago, So; Brayden Schropp, So. Heartland: Trajan Arbuck, So.; Jared Nunnenkamp, Sr. Heartland Lutheran: Justus Bader, Sr.; Quinston Larsen, Jr. Kenesaw: Eli Jensen, So.; Wyatt Hansen, Sr. Nebraska Christian: Elijah Boersen, Jr. Northwest: Colby Hayes, Sr.; Tyler Hageman, Sr. Ord: Reese Davenport, Sr.; Zach Smith, Jr. Palmer: Kade Caspersen, Jr.; Jesus Guzman, Sr. Ravenna: Jake Jarzynka, Sr.; MarKel Miigerl, Sr. Riverside: Michael Bernt, Jr.; Trent Carraher, So. Spalding Academy: Jacob Deissner, Jr.; David Esch, Sr. Shelton: Marcus Lauber, Sr.; Angel Lehn, Jr. St. Edward: Isaac Roberts, Fr.; Cole Mowrey, So. St. Paul: Logan Vogel, Jr.; Andy Poss, So. Wood River: Gideon Luehr, Sr.; Ty Swanson, Sr.