Bearcats take 3rd at GNAC
     2011-01-06      By Terry Gaston   
Scottsbluff Bearcat Zach Clemens goes for two against Chadron in this recent file photo. 
Scottsbluff boys’ basketball coach Tony Siske said the Bearcats hoped to take at least two victories in the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference Holiday Tournament last week, if not win the three-day event.

The Bearcats won their opener in a shoot-out, 82-70 over McCook, but lost to eventual champion Norfolk 81-54 in the semifinals.

Scottsbluff rebounded from a turnover-plagued loss to score a hard-fought, 70-67 victory over tournament host Kearney to claim third place and finish 2010 with a 7-2 record.

Overall, none of the Bearcats’ three opponents could stop junior Zach Clemens, who averaged 25 points per tournament game. But Clemens had strong offensive support during the tourney.

“He was our go-to guy last year, and he benefits from having the other guys scoring,” Siske said of the 6-foot-4 Clemens. “Teams aren’t able to focus so much on just him, so they have to step out and cover the other guys.”

Clemens began his offensive onslaught with a 29-point effort against McCook but needed help for the Bearcats to slay the hot shooting Bison, who made 12 3-point baskets on 32 attempts.

Clemens, who also had 17 rebounds, was joined in double figure scoring by junior Rich Williams with 16 points and sophomores Michael Hadden and Eric Moreno with 13 points apiece.

“It was a tough, fast-paced game,” Siske said. “We had to get out of there with a win.”

The Bearcats kept the pace going on Wednesday, bolting to a 20-13 lead after one quarter over Norfolk, last year’s Class A state runner-up.

The Panthers rallied back to forge a 34-all tie with 45 seconds left before halftime and buried two 3s to take a 40-34 lead at intermission. Norfolk then rode two straight baskets to start the second half to lead 68-46.

“We came out and started well, but they tightened up the defense and we turned the ball over a lot and didn’t take care of it,” said Siske, whose team committed 23 turnovers.

Clemens again led the Bearcats with 23 points while Hadden followed with 12.

Both Scottsbluff and Norfolk scored final-round victories, with the Bearcats outscoring Kearney in a contest Siske said had neither team had a lead of four or five points.

Scottsbluff took care of the ball and was again fueled by Clemens with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Williams added 17 points and Hadden followed with 15.

“We played really well against Kearney,” said Siske, whose team had just five turnovers against Kearney. “We executed well down the stretch.”

Norfolk won the GNAC Tournament title with a 69-30 ripping of North Platte.

“We wanted to get at least two wins, and it would have been nice to win the tournament, but getting two wins was really good for us,” Siske said. “We saw some things we have to improve on, but we’ll be doing that the whole year.”

Scottsbluff plays at home Thursday against Ogallala for its first home game since the Bearcats won the season-opening Western Conference Invitational Tournament on Dec. 4. SHS then travels to Alliance on Friday before its next home game, Jan. 14 against Cheyenne East.

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