Hadden fuels Bearcats to 3rd straight Western Conference title
     2012-12-06      By Terry Gaston   
Photo by Sheila Weber/for the Citizen
Scottsbluff senior Michael Hadden preps for a shot amid fierce coverage by Chadron defenders during Thursday’s Western Conference game against Chadron. Hadden led the Bearcats to the tournament title.
 
Hadden fuels Bearcats to 3rd straight Western Conference title

SCOTTSBLUFF — If the boys’ division of this year’s season-opening Western Conference Invitational Tournament is remembered for nothing else, it should be for the performance of Scottsbluff senior Michael Hadden.

In leading the Bearcats to their third straight Western Conference tourney title, Hadden chalked up in Scottsbluff’s three games – including a 39-point effort in leading the Bearcats to a 65-52 to tournament newcomer Omaha Skutt Catholic.

Hadden, who grew into a starter late last season and was a key element in the Bearcats’ drive to winning the Class B state tournament championship, scored 19 of his game-high 25 points in Scottsbluff’s tournament-opening, 57-39 home win over Chadron in which the Cardinals – who finished 1-2 after downing Mitchell for seventh place – had led 30-21 at halftime.

In Scottsbluff’s 67-39 semifinal win over Gering, Hadden scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in a first half that the Bearcats roared to a 48-22 halftime lead.

Gering rebounded, literally, from its semifinal loss to Scottsbluff by capturing third place with a 53-50 overtime win over Sidney, which had been forced into overtime Friday night by Skutt in a game the Red Raiders lost 62-52.

Alliance won the consolation bracket by downing Torrington, Wyo., 51-56, and Chadron earned seventh place with a 69-46 win over Mitchell.

Scottsbluff 67, Gering 39

After having needed to rally in beating Chadron in its first-round victory, Scottsbluff embraced its switch to Western Nebraska Community College’s Ron Brillhart Court at Cougar Palace and continued the roll that ignited the Bearcats past Chadron in the second half Thursday night.

“I thought Chadron came out and executed pretty well,” Scottsbluff boys’ coach Tony Siske said. “We had some defensive breakdowns, kind of shored those up and have kind of rolled since that first half.”

Scottsbluff led 48-22 at halftime, which gave Siske not only a chance to rest his starting rotation for Saturday’s championship game against Skutt but gave his younger players significant playing time.

Against Gering, which advanced with a 60-45 first-round victory at Torrington, Wyo., on Thursday night (see story, page B2), Scottsbluff never trailed, reached a permanent double-digit lead in the final minute of the first quarter and led by 14 before Gering cut the quarter’s end margin to 25-14.

“We played really well,” said Siske whose team shot 50 percent (24-for-48) from the floor, including 6 of 13 3-pointers while holding the Bulldogs to 30.2 percent shooting (16-for-53). Scottsbluff also was good on 13 of 16 free throws (81.3 percent).

“I expect Gering to be a good team. They may not have any starters back, but they have more guys with experience back than we do. They have a lot of guys back that played a lot for a team that went to state.”

The Bearcats smothered the Bulldogs and allowed Gering just eight second-quarter points, while Scottsbluff poured on a half-ending, 15-0 run to lead 48-22 at halftime.

“The opponent was very, very good and exposed everything that we had done wrong. Gering boys’ coach Randy Plummer said. “We didn’t stop anything on defense, they were quicker than us, took us to the hole. We shot 3 at the offensive end and couldn’t get anything going, so we went to the one-on-one individual dribble around and took bad shots, and that’s the recipe for getting your fanny kicked.

“They took us to the woodshed, because they executed everything better on offense and defense, and they played with more confidence.”

The Bulldogs had one advantage in the otherwise lopsided contest, and that was leading in rebounding, 28-18. Senior Zac Bibb had a team-high six rebounds in a balance attack on the boards for Gering. Bibb had six points for the Bulldogs, outscored only by junior Taylor Nelson’s eight points in reserve time.

After Hadden’s game-high 18-point effort, Scottsbluff had senior Taylor Winkler, who also had 14 points at the half, finished with 16. Senior Eric Moreno scored 13 points, 10 in the first half, with three 3-pointers on the night.

Gering 53, Sidney 50 (OT)

Gering found its third-place battle against Sidney a tough one in the early going. Instead of seeing the Red Raiders run loose like Scottsbluff had done against the Bulldogs on Friday night, Gering put Sidney’s 15-0, first-quarter run aside and drew to within two at 23-21 before halftime on sophomore Joses Palomo’s 3-pointer.

After letting the Red Raiders jump ahead by seven in the third, the Bulldogs finished the quarter with seven straight points to forge a 30-all deadlock. The game-tying basket came on junior Gage Winkler’s backdoor pass to Nelson, who lay in the ball at the third-period buzzer.

Gering led 45-43 in a nip-and-tug fourth quarter but committed two turnovers in the final 1:10. Sidney played messy ball as well, but the Raiders forged a tie when junior Lucas Rosenbaum scored off an inbounds pass with 10 seconds left.

The Bulldogs’ youth was evident in the waning seconds of regulation, when the Bulldogs lost focus on the time and were unable to put up a game-winning attempt.

Sidney had Gering down 50-49 on junior Paxton Ehler’s fourth 3-pointer of the game. But the Bulldogs scored on 4 of 6 free throws, the first two by Bibb with 27.1 seconds left when Sidney tried to call time-out with a loose ball going out of bounds. The Raiders had burned all their time-outs, forcing a technical foul.

After some indecision on who was going to shoot the technical free throws, Bibb hit a pair to give Gering a 51-50 lead. After that, Sidney missed two shots, and a free throw each by Bulldog senior Walker Britsch and Bibb provided the final margin.

“When you have a team that has not played any varsity (as starters), everybody’s establishing their roles and the team is establishing their identity, and that’s what we’re in the process of doing right now,” Plummer said. “That’s a big step in getting a team’s identity is getting a big win like that.”

For the third straight game, the Bulldogs held the rebounding advantage, 35-30.

“We found a way to win at the end and that’s going to help us as we progress along in this season. We’ll take a 2-1 in this tournament. It’s a tough tournament.”

Gering was 42.3 percent (22-for-52) from the field but held Sidney to 30.5 percent (18-for-59).

“After (Friday) night’s thorough buttkicking, to come back like that and beat a really, really good Sidney team, that’s a good way to start the season,” Plummer said. “Our guys developed some character right off the bat. True, they missed a lot of shots but so did we.”

The Bulldogs will be at home Thursday against Mitchell and Friday against Alliance, with both games starting at about 7:30 p.m. Gering then travels to Wheatland, Wyo., for a Saturday evening contest.

Scottsbluff 65, Omaha Skutt 52

In the Bearcats’ finale against Skutt, the 6-foot-3 Hadden was not afraid to take the basketball inside against the Skyhawks’ bigger inside players, 6-4 senior leading scorer Brian Schwetschenau and 6-8 senior Zach Legband.

Hadden scored four on four baskets on which he drew ensuing fouls and went to the line for 26 shots, where he made 21 (80.8 percent). His free-throw shooting prowess added to an 82-point run for Hadden, a 27.3 per-game average, in the season-opening three-day tournament.

“He’s starting to get smarter about body control, when to jump stop and that kind of stuff to avoid the charge call,” Siske said of Hadden’s increasing aggression. “He got called for one, but he avoided a lot and got himself to the free-throw line, obviously quite a few times. He had a great night.”

As the defending Class B state champions, Siske said the Bearcats – who are without senior starting guard Matt Klein with a broken wrist – are not worried about their preseason No. 1 rankings by eastern daily newspapers.

“We’re not going out to make statements, we’re going out to beat the people on our schedule,” Siske said. “That’s all we try to do, and our kids had a great weekend.”

The Bearcats travel to Gillette, Wyo., for the Campbell County Classic. Scottsbluff plays the host Camels on Thursday, Rock Springs on Friday and Casper-Kelly Walsh on Saturday.

Chadron 69, Mitchell 46

When a team like Mitchell has just one senior anyway — in Robbie Burke, and then Tigers are missing him with a pending prognosis after a preseason knee injury – learning from its experiences against larger schools’ teams offers a sense of urgency.

“Defense is a must. We have to learn how to stop teams and their penetration first,” Mitchell assistant coach Jason Gregory said. “Offensively, we think that will come with time and practice, but we’ve got to figure out how to stop teams.”

Mitchell was dealt a 74-41, first-round loss to Sidney and then fell to Alliance 74-59 to find itself facing the only other Class C1 school in the tournament in the Chadron Cardinals.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the level of classification didn’t matter any Saturday morning.

Chadron jumped ahead 17-9 after one quarter, led 34-18 late in the second quarter and increased its lead to 52-31 after three periods. The Cardinals led by as many as 26 at 62-36.

“We were able to shoot the ball,” Gregory said. “Both with Bo McVay (eight points vs. Chadron) and Jimmy Fegler (21 points), when they’re hot they’re hot and can put up points in bunches. We can push the ball up the floor and like that.”

Sophomore Alex Morales added 10 points for the Tigers. The height of 6-7 Chadron junior Spencer Eliason 24 points and 6-4 Cy Rayhill (18 points) was too tall an order for a smaller Mitchell team. The Tigers have two games this week, Thursday at Gering for a 7:30 p.m. start and Saturday at home against Hemingford.

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