Scottsbluff girls win district title, No. 4 seed at state
     2011-03-03      By Terry Gaston    editor@geringcitizen.com
Gering's Bryana Larsen and Scottsbluff's Marcie Sindt grapple for the ball on its way to the hoop. Photo by Spectrum Photo, www.spectrumphoto.com 
A core group of four Scottsbluff High School seniors has set the pace for the Bearcat girls’ basketball team the past few seasons. And with their 59-35 victory over Gering in the District B-6 championship game Friday night, the Bearcats accomplished their season-long goal of qualifying for the Class B state tournament.

But Scottsbluff (21-4) is not content with just the trip to Lincoln for state, says Bearcat coach Mike Burda. “Our goals have been obtained, but now we want to go down and win and play for the championship,” said Burda, whose team is the No. 4 seed and plays fifth-seeded Beatrice (18-5) Thursday morning at 9:45 Mountain Time. The game is at Pershing Auditorium in downtown Lincoln. “Beatrice is our first opponent, and we want to go out and compete and move on.”

A first-round win guarantees the victor two more games, Friday’s semifinal and Saturday’s state championship or third-place contest. If Friday’s district championship game at Western Nebraska Community College offers any indication, then Scottsbluff might have been ready to play right after its dominating victory over Gering (10-14).
The teams played at Cougar Palace for the second straight Friday, but the second game was nothing like the one seven days earlier. In that game, Gering led 15-8 early in the second quarter.

With a state berth on the line Friday night, however, the Bearcats bolted to a 26-7 lead after the first quarter, riding a 10-point output by senior leading scorer Hattie Guzman. Gering cut the halftime margin to 40-27 but scored just eight second-half points while Scottsbluff rolled to the 24-point victory and Scottsbluff’s first district title since 2006.

“We played outstanding and played great defense,” Burda said. “The girls were really excited to play, and they came out and played four full quarters. That was our best game of the year, by far, and it was good to have that toward the end of the season.”

Guzman finished with a game-high 16 points, while seniors Gillian Harkins and Marcie Sindt had 13 points apiece. Harkins also had a team-high seven rebounds, while senior Makayla Westphal had a team-best four steals to go with her eight points.

The Bearcats got to the district final with a 66-46 romp over McCook, earning their school-record 20th win after having to overcome an early 8-1 deficit to jump ahead 16-14 after one quarter.

Guzman hit 14 of 17 free throws in leading the Bearcats’ 33-for-41 night (80.5 percent) at the charity stripe. Guzman shared game-high scoring honors with McCook junior Emilyne Nichols with 25 points apiece.
Harkins followed Guzman with 12 points, while Westphal had nine (including 6 of 6 free throws) and senior Abby Zach added eight. No other McCook player had more than six points.
“The free throws were huge for us,” Burda said. “The girls have shot well all year at the free-throw line (66.8 percent) and we work on them a lot in practice. We just had to settle in and get into our zone.”

Burda said the Bearcats should be fine at the state tournament in spite of having to play Thursday morning.
“The 10:45 (Central Time) start will not be as big a deal as the 9 o’clock game,” Burda said. “The girls will be ready to play.”
No. 1 seed and two-time defending state champion Seward (22-0) gets the honor of playing the early first-round game Thursday against Omaha Skutt Catholic (13-12). The winner of that contest will face the Scottsbluff-Beatrice victor on Friday at 6 p.m. MT at the University of Nebraska’s Bob Devaney Sports Center.

Saturday’s Class B championship game is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. MT at the Devaney Center and can be seen on NET. The third-place contest will be at 9 a.m. at Lincoln East High School.

Beatrice is Scottsbluff’s lone concern for the moment, however. The teams have only one common opponent in Sidney, which the Bearcats beat three times (by nine twice and 20) while Beatrice topped the Red Raiders by 15 at the Grand Island Northwest Holiday Tournament in December.

“They are just really physical and quick, not very big,” Burda said of the Lady Orange. “They like to play really good full-court defense.”

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