Bombs away! Moreno shoots way up state record book
     2013-03-14      By Terry Gaston   
Scottsbluff senior Eric Moreno (No. 25) drives past Aurora defender Jacob Kittle (No. 10) in second-quarter action of the teams' first round Class B State Tournament game Thursday at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln. Moreno hit five 3-point shots and two clinching free-throws in the Bearcats' 59-56 victory over the Huskies, who led Scottsbluff 30-12 late in the second quarter before Scottsbluff rallied for the win.  
Eric Moreno, for 3!
It was a phrase that became commonplace at Scottsbluff boys' basketball games this season.

A public-address response that was made a whopping 99 times during the Bearcats' 23-6 campaign, which ended Saturday night with a 55-53 loss to South Sioux City in the Class B State Tournament's championship game at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln.

“No, I never really had an idea to hit that many," said Moreno, who attempted 214 3-point attempts and finished the season with a whopping 46.2 percent accuracy rate from outside the arc.
“I just wanted to go out and have a great final season with my friends, and we did have a good season.”

“Just the fact that he was able to hit that many 3-pointers, he was our one true consistent shooter," Scottsbluff coach Tony Siske said of Moreno. "Our coaches had to work to teach Eric away from the outside. Even with the attempts that he got, he still did it. It was an amazing year for him.”

Although the title game loss left the Bearcats -- who entered the season with just three experienced players in seniors Moreno, Michael Hadden and Matthew Klein -- just short of repeating their Class B state championship from last season, Moreno's 3-point success was a major key in Scottsbluff's earning its third straight District B-6 championship and subsequent trip to state.

“State is always fun here," Moreno said Monday morning, just before the Bearcats -- who were snowed in by a weekend blizzard, as were the cheerleaders, drill team and pep band -- left Lincoln for home.
"We just wanted to come out, this being our last year of playing together, so we just wanted to make a good run together and we did. It didn’t finish how we wanted it to, but it was still a good run for us," he continued.

“We knew we were undersized against a lot of teams, so we just knew we had to try and outrun them and that worked four us, and our defense was pretty good most of the season. Just being able to make it back with all the friends I have on this team is a special memory.”

Moreno entered the state tournament with 89 3-balls, which tied him for 10th in a season according to the Nebraska School Activities Association's Web site record log. The all-time Nebraska record for 3-pointers, 133, by C.J. Cowgill of Grand Island Central Catholic in 1995-96, might as well be set in stone.

By the time he was finished ripping 5 of 8 treys against Aurora on Thursday -- in a 59-56 comeback win from an 18-point, second-quarter deficit -- Moreno had moved up to sixth place.
Moreno's two free throws -- not his strongest attribute, with a 65.2 percent accuracy rate on the season -- 7.2 seconds left gave Scottsbluff a margin that forced Aurora into a missed 3-pointer and allowed SHS to survive and advance. The free shots gave Moreno 17 points for the game.

All of a sudden, while Moreno seemed uninterested in the personal records and just scoring to gain victories for Scottsbluff, the second-place mark of 99, set by Mike Hancock of Wahoo in 1992-93, was definitely within his reach.

In the Bearcats' 55-51 semifinal win over Gretna on Friday, Moreno was 1-for-3 from 3-point range and limited to just nine points. Moreno's 3-pointer kept him in sixth overall but within one of a three-way tie for third place.

Moreno had third place all to himself two minutes into the second quarter in the championship game, a trey that he scored on a pass from junior reserve Beau Lofink that gave the Bearcats their largest lead against South Sioux City, 22-11.

Moreno hit No. 98 to end the first half, on an NBA-range, off-the-glass, off-balance shot, a trey which kept Scottsbluff ahead 28-18 after South Sioux City had started chipping away at the Bearcats' lead.

Moreno's 99th and final 3-pointer of the season, and fourth of the game, again gave Scottsbluff another 10-point advantage, 35-25, midway through the third quarter.

But, between the Cardinals' defense and their hot shooting, which resulted in SSC hitting 14 of its final 15 shots to snare the 55-53 victory, Moreno got really only one more good 3-point try, which came off a rebound but he missed with 2:05 left in the game.
Nevertheless, Moreno finished the championship game by going 4-for-9 from 3-point range and netting 18 points, second only to senior Michael Hadden's 23.

“For us to finish 23-6 and second in the state, with the injuries we had to overcome this year, lack of height and lack of experience, our kids all just did a fantastic job,” Siske said.
For the state tournament, Moreno made 10 of 20 attempts from outside the 3-point line, a pretty hot 50 percent. Moreno finished the tournament by scoring 44 points, hitting 15 of 27 field goals overall.

“We knew as the number one seed that we would have a big target on our back," Moreno said. "We won it last year, so we knew it would be tough for us. We had a rough start in the first game but we picked it up in the second half and played well. Then we played well against Gretna, and we played pretty well in the championship, but we just couldn’t pull it out.”

On Feb. 15, Moreno tied the Scottsbluff school record of nine 3-pointers in a game in the Bearcats' 74-53. The nine trey mark was first reached by Nate Shaddick in 1994. All nine of Moreno's 3-balls formulated his game-high, 27-point effort against the Bulldogs.

For the season, Moreno averaged 16.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, made 48.5 percent of his total shots from the floor (154-for-317), had 36 assists, 29 steals and seven blocked shots.
“Obviously he is an outstanding shooter, but we needed him to become more of a complete player especially as a senior," Siske said of Moreno. "So he needed to start taking the ball to the basket and that made him tougher to guard, He kind of got forced into a tough role this year.

"With his shooting, he should be playing a guard position for us, but with our lack of post players he was our five man, which meant that he had to guard the other team’s biggest post player usually. He had to do a lot for us this year. He had a great senior year, he really did. ”

Winning three straight district championships in both basketball and football has made for a memorable high school career for Moreno and his fellow seniors.

As the Bearcats’ quarterback during football season, Moreno helped lead Scottsbluff to a 9-0 regular-season record, the third in school history. The Bearcats' season ended in the first round of the Class B playoffs, however, with a 28-9 loss to an underrated York team.

Moreno earned all-district honors at punter by kicking his way to an average of 37.5 yards per boot. At quarterback, he completed 58 passes for 936 yards and seven touchdowns.

“It was great to do that in football and basketball," he said of the triple district championships. "I think it’s a reflection of the athletes we have in our school and how good of friends we all are, and that just made our teams better.”

Throwing the ball, as opposed to shooting it, is more of Moreno's forté, with his success as a pitcher for the WESTCO Zephyrs American Legion baseball team. Last summer, he helped lead the Zephyrs to the Class A State Tournament last summer.

On Saturday morning, he made a verbal commitment to play baseball at Lamar Community College in southeast Colorado.
“My mom (Amy Winters) and I talked about it and I liked it when I visited it (the first week in January), so we just made the decision and that's where I’m going to go next year,” Moreno said. And, despite his successes in other sports, especially in basketball is baseball his favorite?
“Yeah, for sure,” he said.

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