Bearcats ride well-rounded effort to district title
     2012-03-01      By Terry Gaston   
Photo by Sheila Weber/for the Citizen
The Scottsbluff Bearcats celebrate winning their second straight District B-6 title Tuesday night after their 52-34 win over Sidney at Cougar Palace. Team members arem from left: Trenton Harris, Jackson Hinze, Ty Benson, Randy Wentz, Beau Lofink, Isaiah Castellaw, Rich Williams, Zach Clements, Julian Garcia, Ty Dunkel, Eric Moreno, Taylor Winkler, Michael Hadden, Matt Klein and Tyler Mickey.
 
Much heralded has been the Scottsbluff boys’ basketball team’s collection of four seniors, but a strong contingent of juniors proved as equally or stronger than their upperclassmen Tuesday night in leading the Bearcats to the District B-6 championship and to state for the 35th time in school history.

Senior forward Zach Clemens, the Bearcats’ career scoring leader, had a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds, but junior Michael Hadden’s offensive eruption of 11 third-quarter points ignited Scottsbluff’s 52-34 triumph over Sidney at Western Nebraska Community College’s Cougar Palace.

The Bearcats (22-3) thus won their second straight district title and will make their third trip to state under fifth-year head coach Tony Siske.

“The kids are playing great basketball just at the right time,” said Siske, whose team opens class B state tournament action next Thursday as the No. 3 seed against Aurora (16-6) at 7:45 p.m. Mountain Time at Pershing Auditorium in Lincoln. “Now I can relax for the first time in 4-1/2 months,” he quipped.

The first half was an offensive struggle for both teams, who both hit 8 of 24 shots (33.3 percent) while Scottsbluff held on to a 22-21 lead after having led 19-9 early in the second quarter.

The run by foul-plagued Sidney (15-8) – begun by a 40-foot buzzer-beater by junior Samuel Arterburn – was the Red Raiders’ only threat all night but one enough to grab the Bearcats’ attention at halftime.
“Coach Siske said, ‘If you want to go to state, we need to make a good run,’ and we took it to them,” said junior forward Eric Moreno, who scored just five points on one trey but contributed in other ways with nine rebounds, two assists and one steal.

“We made a couple adjustments defensively,” Siske said. “Michael was playing great. Everybody is playing at a high level, and that is what you want to see this time of the season.”

As a result of those adjustments, Scottsbluff scored 16 unanswered points to start the second half, seven by Hadden, before Sidney scored its lone basket of the third period, a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Paxton Ehler with 2:27 left in the quarter.

“I got a couple good shots that I usually don’t get,” said Hadden, who added four more points in the third and finished the game by hitting 7 of 10 shots. “We were excited that in the last 16 minutes we were able to put it away.”

“He works really hard in practice and goes hard to the bucket, and he is really fun to play with,” Clemens said of Hadden.

“That 16-0 run to start the third quarter was huge,” added Clemens, whose team improved its shooting in the second half to 63.2 percent (12-for-19). “Our defense was outstanding.”

Indeed it was, with Sidney hitting just the one shot on 14 attempts in the third quarter and finishing the game hitting just 12 of 47 shots (25.5 percent) and 4 of 20 3-pointers (20 percent).

“We played tough defense and ran the floor really hard and shot a bunch of 3s,” said Clemens, who made one of the Bearcats’ 5 of 13 3-point attempts. Scottsbluff also had a 38-27 advantage in rebounds.
Junior guard Matt Klein, who added nine points for the Bearcats, had a team-high three assists, while senior guard Rich Williams had two steals and Clemens added two blocks and two assists to his double-double.

Senior forward Tyler Schoening – who ran into early foul trouble, as did senior center Jack McAreavey – led the Raiders with just seven points. Senior forward Chase Frerichs had a team-high six rebounds.
Scottsbluff last won a game at state in 2009 but lost its final two games to settle for fourth place. The Bearcats have their eyes on a bigger prize this time in Lincoln, however.

“It feels good to win back-to-back (district titles) and we want to make a run this year down there,” Moreno said.

Hadden added: “Last year was a lot of fun, but with a great senior class, this one is sweeter, and now we know we have (up to) three more games next week.”

See page B3 for a story on the Gering Bulldogs wildcard berth into the state tournament.

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