The agony and ecstasy of playoff basketball - Alliance rallies late in 2nd OT to end Gering boys’ season
     2013-02-28      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
SCOTTSBLUFF – In a single-elimination playoff game and equally tense yet exciting atmosphere, when both the Gering and Alliance boys’ basketball teams and their fans were taken on a double-overtime emotional rollercoaster, Saturday’s District B-6 first-round contest was bound to come down to which team shook its adversity last.

In this third battle of the Bulldogs this season -- the first two won by Gering by margins of 13 and 12 points --No. 5 district seed Alliance controlled the action from midway through the first quarter, built an 11-point advantage before it fended off four game-tying possessions in the fourth quarter by Gering.

For most of the night at Western Nebraska Community College’s Cougar Palace, Alliance’s Bulldogs played consistently well and looked in prime position to upset fourth-seeded G-town.

"Even though we were down by seven (at halftime), I told them that if we stay the course where we don't panic and just go out and do what we've done all year, we'd be OK," seventh-year Gering coach Randy Plummer said of the Bulldogs' rally back from being down 29-18 with two unanswered buckets before halftime.

And sure enough, Gering stayed the course and got within one score on four occasions in the fourth quarter before Gering senior Zac Bibb took a pass with time running out in the left wing area from freshman Austin Hoffman in the lane. Bibb’s 15-footer beat the buzzer and ripped through the net to forge a 55-all tie and overtime.

After nearly four minutes of the first overtime, each team scored just six points and Gering had a four-point lead after Bibb’s back-to-back 3-pointers with 1:57 left in the extra period.
Alliance senior Isaac Burnham, who with 51 seconds left had tied the game on two of his perfect run of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime, had the ball as the OT clock wound down, but his 15-footer from the line bounced off. Gering was unable to get off a last shot, so 4:00 more was put on the clock.

Both teams came out determined to end the game in the second OT. Gering senior Austin Ferguson hit 3 of 4 free throws, hot-shooting Alliance sophomore Jordan Mills bagged two 3-pointers, Gering sophomore Joses Palomo answered with two 3s and Bibb canned a trey in between.

Four lead changes in the first 2:25 of the second extra period, after which Gering led 69-67 – only to have Burnham tie the game on a traditional three-point play with 1:23 left. Then Burnham answered Bibb’s trey with a 3-ball with 50 seconds left, tying the game at 72.

After Palomo’s second 3-pointer of the period, and with 22.4 seconds remaining, Bibb hit the first of two free throws giving Gering a 76-72 lead.
A safe lead, finally, for the Bulldogs with the home-bench advantage?

This Alliance team, playing without a usually hot-shooting junior Trevor Kamerzell because of a suspension following the Bulldogs’ last-second loss a week earlier to Sidney, was not about to give into even a two-possession deficit.

After Bibb’s second free throw missed, Ferguson committed his fifth foul on the rebound and Alliance junior Gage Lehl hit the second of two free throws, closing the blue-clad Bulldogs within three of Gering.

But then Bibb, while trying to make the in-bounds pass, was trapped by Alliance’s lock-down defense. So were his teammates trying to receive a pass. With no Gering time-outs left to save Bibb, a five-second violation was called; Alliance ball with 21.9 seconds remaining.

Mills, who finished with 26 points that included eight 3-pointers, received credit on a short-range shot because of goaltending, but Gering was still ahead 77-76 with 15.2 seconds left.
Get the ball in-bounds, make Alliance foul, try to put the game away and advance to Monday’s semifinal game. Sounded easy enough, and Bibb took the ball, dribbled down the left sideline to midcourt – and then the ball got away as he was dribbling around a defender. Alliance ball again, 12.3 seconds.

Burnham, who finished with a game-high 32 points, got the chance to win the game for his Bulldogs again. This time, he made good on a driving layup with 7.0 seconds left.

But Gering, in spite of its late turnovers, still had a chance. But as senior Walker Britsch drove down the left sideline and tried to get off a shot near the 3-point arc, he slipped and was called for traveling with 0.8 seconds remaining.

On Alliance’s in-bounds play, Gering tried to get a quick foul, but the officials said it came too late, Game over: Alliance 78, Gering 77.

"It was a pretty even game, if you look at all the stats," said Plummer, whose team held a 42-32 advantage in rebounding. "I kept thinking we were going to win, and then I'd look up again and we'd be behind. But those guys just refused to let us beat them, which is to their credit."

Indeed, when all was said and done, both teams had attempted 65 shots from the floor and 18 free throws, and both had 14 turnovers apiece.

Gering was 26-for-55 (40 percent), going 13-for-32 (40.6 percent) from the 3-point line. Alliance was 24-for-65 (36.9 percent) from the field, hitting a sharp 12 of 23 from 3-point range (52.2 percent).

"I couldn't believe how many 3s we took in the end, but they came out in a zone, which was completely surprising to me since we've played Alliance. And they just packed it in and said, 'If you're going to beat us, you're going to have to do it from the outside.'

"We started really hesitant from the outside, we only made two 3s in the second half, and then as we started getting warmed up, the rest of them in the second half and overtime. Usually we're going to play our man offense against their man defense, so it was a different game."

From the charity stripe, Alliance made 15 (83.3 percent) while Gering hit just 11 (61.1 percent).
"And there's your difference," Plummer said Gering's three more missed free throws while out-rebounding Alliance 42-32. Both teams had 14 turnovers apiece.

The Alliance bench players raced out to surround the on-court players. The Gering guys, especially the seniors, were left in shock. So were the Bulldogs’ student section and the other Gering faithful.

"This was a crazy game, and they just happened to win," Plummer said. "Sometimes it's harder to finish on a game like that than it is a 20-point blowout. But our guys, to their credit, they came back from that deficit. And Alliance played well, a lot better than the first two times we played them.

"You hate to see the season end like that, but it's going to end at some point and it just happened to end (Saturday) night for us."
Two teams of Bulldogs, one in agony, one in ecstasy. Alliance (9-13) had its season continue, into Monday's District B-6 semifinals against Scottsbluff. And Gering (13-10) had its bid for the district semifinals disappear in 22.4 crazy seconds.

For Plummer and seniors Bibb, Britsch and Ferguson, the loss was even more painful. The three players would never don the Gering basketball uniform again.
Bibb finished with a Gering-high 19 points, hitting four 3-pointers and going 4-for-4 at the free-throw line and grabbed 11 rebounds for one of two Gering double-doubles.

Ferguson finished with eight points, scoring three second-OT free throws and seven points after halftime, and grabbed 10 rebounds. Britsch had four points, all coming in the third-quarter.
"I thanked each one of them for being a part of it, especially the seniors," Plummer said of the post-game locker room atmosphere. "It's always heart-breaking because they almost become like sons to you, when you're with them for all that practice time, bus trips and motels, and then it all disintegrates at the end of the last game."

For a team that had no returning starters from last season -- and of the returnees, very little varsity experience -- Plummer said he was pleased with what the Bulldogs accomplished this season.
"I think we accomplished quite a bit," Plummer said. "We lost four games that were within the last five seconds of the game. At the end of January and the first of February, we played really well. It was a fun year, and ours just ended (Saturday) night."

In leading Gering’s returning players, Palomo followed Bibb with 17 points with five 3-pointers, with all of his scoring coming at key times in the fourth quarter and second overtime. Palomo also had four assists, sharing team-high honors with freshman Austin Hoffman.
Junior post Grant Olsson finished with a double-double of 14 points and a team-high 15 rebounds before fouling out in the first OT.

"We have a lot of guys coming back so I'm sure they're looking at a chance for next year," Plummer said. "I've got a lot of hungry guys who I'm sure are already licking their chops."

Share this story on Facebook
LOGIN or REGISTER for exclusive access to premium content

Good Morning friend!
Recently Read Sports
597The agony and ecstasy of playoff basketball - Alliance rallies late in 2nd OT to end Gering boys’ season
605Gering Juniors defeat Sidney, Ogallala
1240Twin Cities roll Gering
661Bulldogs savor state experience despite loss
1002Scottsbluff tennis girls take second at home invite
844Gering's Palomo, Mitchell's McVay ink letter of intents with WNCC basketball
626Seacat boys log Wyoming wins; prep for Twin City Invitational
633Bearcat football teammates college bound in different directions: Lofink commits to continue baseball career at WNCC, while Aratani to take gridiron talents to Iowa school
848Bulldog wrestlers compete tough at Colorado duals tourney
666Cougar men jump out to quick 3-0 start
1241WNCC baseball sweeps Otero in conference play
667MAC Tourney results
728Alliance uses experience to top Gering wrestlers
485Area athletes selected to all star teams
970American Marksman names Sure Shot its qualifying range
590 Valley natives fuel Chadron State win
801Gering basketball back in the winning groove
1049Host Bayard sweeps MAC meet
686Gering suffers road loss in playoffs
615Express wins own tourney
Most Read Sports 2012
3746Mitchell track off to a strong start
3597Morrill baseball back in business
2903Rivals make good friends, better training partners
2810Mendoza spirit lives on in softball tournament
2463Raising the bar high
2435Gering breaks two records at Chadron: Track season gets underway at Chadron Indoor Meet
2410Kizzire and Kautz take first place
2266Gering wrestling builds on experience
2248Doing the heavy lifting
2166Bulldogs basketball ready to run Class B gauntlet
2131Gering girls’ soccer team creating team first attitude
1991Gering resident lives his dream
1983Morrill Lions move to eight-man offers opportunity
1918All Points West: Time to get tough Huskers
1892Gering Boys’ soccer builds foundation
1891Mud Volleyball has another wildly successful year
1878All Points West: We’ll miss 2016 seniors
1873Bearcat coach nears finish line
1854All Points West: Deter gave us reason to golf
1842Scottsbluff hopes to repeat as state champs
Most Read Sports 2011
3746Mitchell track off to a strong start
3597Morrill baseball back in business
2903Rivals make good friends, better training partners
2810Mendoza spirit lives on in softball tournament
2463Raising the bar high
2435Gering breaks two records at Chadron: Track season gets underway at Chadron Indoor Meet
2410Kizzire and Kautz take first place
2266Gering wrestling builds on experience
2248Doing the heavy lifting
2166Bulldogs basketball ready to run Class B gauntlet
2131Gering girls’ soccer team creating team first attitude
1991Gering resident lives his dream
1983Morrill Lions move to eight-man offers opportunity
1918All Points West: Time to get tough Huskers
1892Gering Boys’ soccer builds foundation
1891Mud Volleyball has another wildly successful year
1878All Points West: We’ll miss 2016 seniors
1873Bearcat coach nears finish line
1854All Points West: Deter gave us reason to golf
1842Scottsbluff hopes to repeat as state champs
Platte Valley Companies
Fresh Foods
Hale Multimedia LLC
Spectrum Photo
Kendell Henderson
= = = Platte Valley Companies' = = =
Sports Page

Check out the
Gering Bulldogs on