Bearcat boys ride early comeback, free throws to down Bulldogs: Olsson has double-double of 16 points, 19 rebounds for Gering; Kuxhausen perfect on 11 charity shots for SHS
     2014-01-30      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Sheila Weber/for the Citizen - Scottsbluff freshman Dru Kuxhausen keeps his balance while working his way over Gering senior Justin Brester (No. 20) and past Bulldog junior Joses Palomo (No. 3) during the second half of Saturday's Twin Cities arch-rivalry boys' basketball game at the Scottsbluff High School gymnasium. The host Bearcats downed the Bulldogs 65-52. 
When the Gering and Scottsbluff boys’ basketball teams met to open the season in the Western Conference Invitational Tournament, the Bulldogs romped to a 67-44 win thanks in large part to their experience.

Since that Dec. 5 game, however, the Bearcats have grown by leaps and bounds, thanks to the emergence of a strong inside game led by sophomore Austin Clarkson and freshman Landon Walker and the outside and free-throw shooting of freshman Dru Kuxhausen.

On Saturday night, in front of a near full house at the Scottsbluff High School gymnasium, Gering jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead. But the host Bearcats spent the next four minutes of the first quarter scoring 15 straight points, extended that streak to 18 and held off the Bulldogs the rest of the way for a 65-52 win.

The difference between the two games?

“Time,” Scottsbluff coach Tony Siske, whose team improved to 10-4 with its fifth straight win. “They’re a different team, we’re a different team.

“I know we have to play them a (tough) game when we play them (at Gering on Feb. 21). It could flip-flop again. Teams get better over time, and you make adjustments and do things a little bit differently.”

“They’re a better team now,” Gering coach Randy Plummer said of the Bearcats. “They were just starting out, had two freshmen and now we’re kind of on even terms. We never gave up. We missed some shots we usually make, so we’ll go back and play Tuesday and Friday and try to get back on a winning streak.”

Junior guard Joses Palomo knocked in two 3-pointers — scoring four overall and finishing with 14 points — and sophomore Austin Hoffman drained a trey in between to get the Bulldogs off and running in the first three minutes.

Senior post Grant Olsson finished with 16 points and 19 rebounds for Gering, but he picked up his second foul with 3:18 left in the first quarter.

“We couldn’t find any scoring,” Plummer said of the Bulldogs’ scoring drought of more than seven minutes when a nine-point lead became a nine-point deficit.

“Grant Olsson has been scoring probably a third to half of our points the past couple weeks. They were doubling and tripling him inside, and we couldn’t find anybody during that time when they went ahead of us to pick up the scoring slack. By the time we found those guys to score, they were ahead of us by five to 10 and we weren’t able to make it up.

“We had to move him outside and make sure he was playing on the perimeter, and that didn’t help either,” Plummer said of Olsson. “He’s the best post player around, as far as I’m concerned. He wasn’t able to do what he usually does, which is post up and score in the paint.

“So during that time, they got a lead on us, shot a lot of free throws and made a lot of free throws.”

Siske also had some early foul trouble from Clarkson and junior Matthew Mickey, who each earned their second infractions in the second quarter after the Bearcats had worked their way to a 25-12 advantage.

But Scottsbluff stayed the course, thanks to the contributions of Kuxhausen and Walker off the bench, and Gering only got to within eight points on several occasions the rest of the game.

“We had Clarkson and Mickey with two, and we had to put those guys on the bench,” Siske said. “He (Plummer) has a lot of faith in Olsson, to leave him out there with two fouls that early. But you can do that with a senior who is a smart player and been through it. Grant did a great job playing with those two fouls.”

Scottsbluff indeed solidified its lead at the free-throw line, hitting 10 of 11 attempts in the first half while Gering had 3 of 4 charity shots in the first two quarters. Kuxhausen led the Bearcats’ free-throw charge by hitting all 11 of his attempts on his way to scoring 16 points.

Walker and Clarkson both shot 50 percent from the floor and had eight points apiece, while Clarkson had a team-high seven rebounds. Junior Adam Harris made 8 of 17 shots from the floor and was 3-for-4 at the line in scoring a game-high 20 points while adding six rebounds and two steals.

Siske said the Bearcats’ defense played a big role in overcoming the early deficit and taking command.

“I thought we defended well early,” said Siske, whose team held Gering (10-5) to 33.3 percent shooting. “They made a couple tough shots and I thought we defended them pretty well, and then we just had to settle in on offense. Once we did, we started executing a little bit better and played better from there on.”

The Bearcats only shot 39.5 percent

from the floor, making the need of hitting 24 of 27 free throws that much more important and impressive.

“We’ve been shooting a lot more in practice, just in general, but we have good shooters, different shooters who can make free throws,“ Siske said.

Scottsbluff had eight players see action, with seven scoring, but Siske said the seven players who didn’t see the court Saturday night had plenty to contribute in getting the Bearcats ready.

“The other thing that is not seen is our practices,” Siske said. “The guys who don’t even play, these guys did a great job of preparing us for this game. You have to have someone to go up against, and if those guys aren’t putting in the effort, aren’t giving you good looks, you’re not getting better.

“Our depth isn’t just guys who play, it continues through our program.”

Scottsbluff travels to Rapid City, S.D., to play Stevens High on Friday and returns home to play Sidney in a 7 p.m. game Saturday.

After traveling to Torrington on Tuesday night, the Bulldogs return home Friday to take on Alliance. Ogallala then visits Gering on Tuesday.

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