A DISTRICT CHAMPIONSHIP TRIPLE CROWN - Bearcats cool down hot-shooting Bison, earn No. 1 seed for state
     2013-02-28      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Sheila Weber/for the Citizen - the 2013 B-6 District boys' champions Bearcat basketball team  
SCOTTSBLUFF --Note to the staff at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln and other Class B boys' state tournament qualifying teams: The Scottsbluff Bearcats are coming back.

In turning in what could be defined as nothing less than a spectacular all-around performance, the Bearcats boys' basketball team pulled off a 52-48 victory over McCook in the District B-6 championship game Tuesday night at Western Nebraska Community College's Cougar Palace.

The win earned Scottsbluff, the defending Class B champion, its 36th trip to the boys' state basketball tournament, the Bearcats their third consecutive District B-6 championship and sixth-year coach Tony Siske's fourth trip in six seasons as the SHS program's leader.

"The kids did all the hard work, I'm just along for the ride," Siske said amid the postgame celebration.
Earning another trip to Lincoln was not expected to be an easy chore for either Scottsbluff or McCook, which entered the game ranked second and fourth, respectively, in the Class B power points.

The teams had split their first two meetings, the latter a 60-57, double-overtime for the Bearcats at McCook on Feb. 8. The Bison had won 59-45 when the teams met in the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference Holiday Tournament's third-place game on Dec. 29 in Kearney.

And the game was played the way a title contest should be: hard-nosed, strategic and clean play, with only 11 foul shots attempted and nine turnovers committed. Scottsbluff's largest lead was five points and McCook's seven, with 13 lead changes, six ties and the game's outcome still on the line in the final seconds.

While the Bearcats were mathematically already in the state tournament before the game started, and their berth was secured when Class B power points leader Ralston was rocked 61-48 by fourth-seeded Gretna (17-7) in the District B-2 finale at Omaha Northwest.
Gretna had knocked off No. 1 district seed Elkhorn South -- the power points leader before Monday's semifinals began -- 55-50 on Monday night, and South and Ralston finished with higher power-point averages than McCook.

The Bison's quest to earn the must-win district title began with a 9-2 run, but Scottsbluff forged the game's first tie with a 7-0 run. The teams then traded the lead four times, with McCook finishing the first quarter ahead 14-13.

Scottsbluff senior Eric Moreno led the Bearcats with six first-quarter points, but senior Matthew Klein led SHS's charge in the second period with three 3-pointers, a stanza that saw senior Taylor Winkler add a fourth trey in pushing Scottsbluff ahead 29-28 at the halftime break.

In the third quarter and McCook leading 34-32, sophomore point guard Jackson Hinze broke into an opening down low and took a back-side feed from senior Michael Hadden for a game-tying lay-up.
And then Hinze, from his usual outside position, nailed a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:19 left in the quarter that gave the Bearcats a 40-39 lead with one quarter remaining.

The fourth period started with a slow pace, with more than three minutes gone before McCook senior Cody Wudtke sank his second 3-pointer of the night, on his way to a game-high 24 points, giving the Bison a 46-44 lead with 4:46 remaining.

Then Hadden, as he has on many occasions this season, rallied the Bearcats in the fourth quarter and led the pack with back-to-back buckets: the first off a rebound of Winkler's miss with 3:25 left to tie the score at 46, and then on his back-side put-back following a miss by Moreno, giving Scottsbluff a 48-46 edge with 2:49 remaining.

After McCook missed another tying opportunity, Moreno then drilled a 3-pointer, off a feed from Hadden inside, giving the Bearcats their largest lead at 51-46 with 1:37 left in the game.

Wudtke sank a driving layup with 1:17 remaining, pulling the Bison to within three at 51-48. But the game was so cleanly played up to that point that McCook still had to commit two fouls in order to force Scottsbluff to the free-throw line.

With 32.9 seconds left, the Bison fouled Hinze, but his first attempt rolled out. After a time-out, McCook wound the clock down and Wudtke put up a 3-ball that would have tied the score, but it missed.

Hinze found himself back at the line with 7.3 seconds left and needing just one free throw to give the Bearcats a two-possession lead. This time, Hinze's first shot went through. His second missed, but all the Bison could get off is one more shot, by senior Sean Backer, whose miss bounced out of play at the final horn.
"Jackson played great, made some shots and his defense was phenomenal," Siske said. "He might be as good of a ball hawk as I've coached, as far as getting up and defending someone bringing up the ball in front of him and where we want it to go. And he's turning into a pretty good court general as well."

And when the 32 minutes of competition was over, many of the players hugged the opposing team's others as they went through the line of congratulations. A hard-fought battle between two teams who left everything they had on Ron Brillhart Court.

When all was said and done, Hadden had scored six fourth-quarter points and led Scottsbluff with 16, hitting 8 of 15 shots, and he completed a double-double with 10 rebounds, three off teammates' misses.

"He makes big plays down the stretch, and he's been doing it not just this year but for a long time for us," Siske said of Hadden. "This is a good way for him and the rest of our seniors to finish their careers."

Moreno was 2-for-6 on 3-point attempts and finished with 13 points, while Klein's three treys in the second quarter accounted for all nine of his points, and he grabbed seven rebounds and made three assists.

As a team, Scottsbluff was 21-for-43 (48.8percent) for the game after shooting a blistering first-half pace of 60 percent (12-for-20). The Bearcats were 8-for-17 from 3-point range but just 2-for-5 at the free-throw line.

McCook started the game with a 50 percent shooting percentage in the first quarter, but the Bison's accuracy tumbled to 25 percent in the fourth period. McCook finished the night 20-for-57 (35 percent) from the floor, with just 5 of 21 3-pointers finding the target (23.8 percent).

Wudtke was 11-for-18 from the floor, but his teammates were otherwise 9-for-29. Wudtke and Backer (seven points) shared team-leading rebounding honors with seven boards apiece, and the Bison had a 31-30 edge in rebounds.

"They have so many guys that you have to respect offensively," Siske said of the Bison (18-7). "You can't focus on one guy. We trusted Michael to guard Wudtke one-on-one and I thought he did a good job. He made him make tough shots for the most part."
Scottsbluff's state tournament quest begins next Thursday as the eight-team bracket's No. 1 seed. The Bearcats (21-5) will take on No. 8 seed Aurora (14-9) in the opening round, with a 6 p.m. Mountain Time tipoff.

The Huskies, District B-5's No. 2 seed, won their district title Tuesday night with a 43-37 win over top-seeded Grand Island Northwest, in a game at Grand Island High School.

The game will be at the Devaney Center, where last year Scottsbluff outlasted three-time defending Class B champion South Sioux City for the school's fourth state basketball title and first since 1955.

A first-round win will keep the Bearcats at the Huskers' home for Friday's 7:45 p.m. semifinal. The Class B championship game will be next Saturday at 5:30, third place at 11 a.m. at Lincoln North Star High School.

"They have exceeded expectations, especially when you look at the injuries and everything we've been through this year," Siske said. "Up until late in the season, we haven't had our full team playing. Now that we are, we seem to start getting comfortable and starting to play pretty well."

Scottsbluff 74, Alliance 55
In Monday's semifinal, for Alliance to reach its final point total, the Bulldogs needed the full game to knock the down 55 points, while the Bearcats -- who led 53-26 after a convincing first half -- needed just a minute into the third quarter to reach 55.

"We got off to a great start, obviously shot the ball extremely well," Siske said of the Bearcats' holding Aliance to just 40.7 percent in the first half while Scottsbluff ripped the cords for 63.3 percent on its way to building a 63-26 halftime lead.
"We came out defensively early and played well, but then we let up which I was disappointed with a little about." said Siske, whose Bearcats led the Bulldogs get within the teens before the starters returned to put the game away.

"And then the second half, we were up by 25, and I will take the blame, I pulled the starters a little too early, made them feel like it was over. I was just trying to get them some rest and get the other guys out there, but then we put the starters back in there and they were a little flat."

Hadden hit a team-high 26 points, with 16 the first half. He was 11-for-14 from the floor, with 10 points leading the Bearcats out of their late-game funk, and Hadden reached a game-high nine rebounds.

Moreno was 6-for-9 from the floor, including 5 of 8 3-pointers, and he had six rebounds.
Winkler 4-for-5 with 2 of 3 treys falling for 12 points, and Klein had team leads of four assists and three steals to go with his seven first-half points that included a half-ending trey in giving the Bearcats their 25-point halftime advantage.

Alliance (9-14) got 14 points from senior Isaac Burnham, 12 from junior Josh Matulka and 10 from sophomore Jordan Mills. Burnham also was the Bulldogs' top rebounder with six.

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