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Heartland Hoops Classic an oasis for prep basketball fans

Heartland Hoops Classic returning for 14th year
Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 10:49 PM CST
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Over the years, the Heartland Hoops Classic has become what is already in its title, a classic. Tino Martinez started it back in 2008 and since then it has become a marquee event in Central Nebraska.

“I wanted to put together a unique environment for the high school basketball teams to play in,” Martinez said. “The event started off well. From there we really just continued to grow the event.”

The classic consistently brings in the top prep basketball teams in the country. This year we’ll see two top-25 match-ups in Bellevue West vs. Sunrise Christian Academy and Millard North vs. Oak Hill Academy.

“It means a ton. You’re going to have two of the best teams in the country,” Grand Island boys basketball coach Jeremiah Slough said. “Then our state has to offer two top-25 teams in the country as well, in Bellevue West and Millard North. So, there is going to be a lot of talent on display and kind of showcase what Nebraska basketball is all about.”

It is not only about seeing the top prep teams in the country but creating unique match-ups and giving smaller schools the opportunity to play on a big stage.

“When you have eight basketball games of that caliber right in Grand Island. I mean real special for the community,” Grand Island Northwest boys basketball coach Chip Bahe said. “We tip our hats to Coach Martinez and his staff and the Heartland Hoops Classic. We’re really honored and really excited to be a part of it this year.”

More than the big dunks or the large venue, Martinez’s drive to hold the classic stems from his love for prep sports.

“I have a lot of passion for high school sports,” Martinez said. “You know a lot of people love college and the NFL and pro sports and things like that. I’m a high school sports guy. Have always been that way. You know I’m glad to be able to do this for the student athletes and give them a fun deal for them to be a part of. Hopefully, they remember it.”

Whether its top-three team Sunrise Christian or small Class D school Loomis, for one day they all play at the same venue on the same court.

All the games for the 14th Annual Heartland Hoops Classic can be found here.

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