Bearcat boys prep for another state run
     2013-03-07      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Whether the Scottsbluff boys’ basketball team emerges Saturday as the Class B state champion again will depend on a number of factors that the Bearcats can control and others that they can’t.

All sixth-year Scottsbluff coach Tony Siske wants to be concerned about in the way the Bearcats play in the school’s third straight trip to Lincoln – and the fourth under Siske, and Scottsbluff’s 36th overall – is taking care of business Thursday night.

The Bearcats (21-5), the No. 1 seed for this year’s tournament, faces a familiar first-round opponent in Aurora (14-9). The game at the Bob Devaney Sports Center is scheduled for a tipoff of 6 p.m. Mountain Time.

If the Bearcats have endured a season-long battle, it has come in overcoming adversity.
“I think that we have gone through a lot this year as far as injuries and not having a full repertoire of players at practice all the time, the fact that they still find a way to win games and win some close games down the stretch,” Siske said.

Senior guards Michael Hadden and Eric Moreno have been the stalwarts in leading the Scottsbluff offense. Hadden has averaged 18 points per game and Moreno has a 17-point average.

Hadden has made 53.6 percent of his shots on the season, with team-leading numbers of 156 field goals on 291 attempts. He also leads the Bearcats in rebounding with 148 (6.2 average), free throws and percentage (111 of 140, 79.2 percent) and is second in assists with 52 (2.2 per game).

Moreno has been the Bearcats’ most potent weapon from outside, hitting 89 shots from 3-point range at a 45.8 percent success rate. He also has grabbed 126 rebounds (5.25 average).

Senior guard Matthew Klein missed the first eight games with a broken hand suffered in the first day of practice, but he stepped back into the lineup to average 8.8 points per game and has hit 25 3-pointers (40.3 percent).

Klein leads the Bearcats in steals with 47 (3.0 average) and shares the team-leading assist average at 3.0 with sophomore guard Jackson Hinze.

Hinze, who has a team-high assist total of 78, has averaged 2.9 points, and he is one of just three players – junior Tyler Mickey and freshman Austin Clarkson as well – to play in all 26 of Scottsbluff’s games.

Senior guard Taylor Winkler has 24 3-point buckets in his 8.7-point average.
Mickey has come off the bench to nail 21 3-pointers (44.6 percent) and average 4.7 points, while Clarkson averages 3.0 points and 3.8 rebounds.

“I think they’re a really tight-knit group that really believes in each other,” Siske said of his players. “I think that they believe every game when they step on the court, and I think they believe that they can overcome a lot of difference circumstances.

“We’ve been down at halftime and we’ve been down double digits in games and come back and won. I also think it’s a group with strong leadership because a lot of the guys have been there before.”
Scottsbluff will face Aurora in the first round again after the Bearcats held off the Huskies for a 62-59 win at Lincoln’s Pershing Center.

“I’m sure they’re excited to play us,” Siske said. “They’re very, very athletic, they return quite a few players that played last year, so I’m sure they are going to be up to play us and try to knock us off.”

The first factor Siske said he noticed about matching up against Aurora will be neutralizing the Huskies’ rebounding abilities.
“I still think we have to be tougher defensively, especially on the glass, that’s one think that Aurora does extremely well is offensive rebound,” Siske said. “So we are going to have to be more physical and just tougher. We kind of talk about that rebounding is a want-to deal, and we’ve got to want to do it.”

The winner will play the victor of Thursday's first-round game between No. 4 Waverly (18-7) and No. 5 Gretna (17-7), Friday at 7:45 p.m. MT at the Devaney Center. The championship game will be Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Thursday's other first-round games have No. 2 Ralston (19-6) against No. 7 South Sioux City (13-12), and No. 3 Elkhorn South (18-5) against No. 6 York (19-5).

But to Siske, Waverly and Gretna could not be of the Bearcats’ concern this week before they left for Lincoln on Wednesday morning.
“We will prepare a lot for Aurora, and that’s the only team we will look at and have a game plan for,” Siske said. “Coaches will watch film (on other probable opponents), but we’re not going to prepare for anybody but Aurora, because if we don’t win the first one it doesn’t matter.”

And can the Bearcats make it a state championship repeat?
“I think they believe they can do it again, and that’s where it has to start,” Siske said. “You have to know that you’re capable of winning it, and I feel that they do know that. They also know it’s not going to be easy, and you have to go there and be at your best for three straight days. But I don’t think they’re satisfied yet, which is a good thing.”

A championship would mark the fifth in Scottsbluff boys’ basketball history, joining the 1941, ’52, ’55 and 2012 Bearcats.

“It’s a pretty special thing. It doesn’t happen very often,” Siske said of winning a state championship. “For Scottsbluff, it had 57 years, and for other schools, maybe it’s never even happened. Not many kids get to experience that. For one out of 32 teams each year, it is a special thing.”

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