Final Point: Harris nets big junior season for state-bound Bearcats
     2014-03-13      By Terry Gaston   
Photo by Sheila Weber/Sheila Weber Photography - Teammates Jonah Wright, Trent Harris (center) and Blake Wilberger are all smiles after winning the district title last week. 
Trent Harris walked around on the basketball court at Cougar Palace on March 4, receiving congratulations from Scottsbluff High School teammates, classmates and other fans.

All while wearing one of the most cherished awards a basketball player can wear after his or her team wins a major tournament like the District B-6 title – the fourth straight for the Bearcats: one of the nets they cut down in the postgame celebration of Scottsbluff’s 67-53 win over Gering.

Harris was well worthy of gaining the net-wearing honor, both in the short and long term of the Bearcats’ 16-9 season.

Harris, a varsity reserve the past two years, leads the Bearcats in scoring with 405 points (16.2 per game) with 150 total field goals for 44.5 percent, and he is second in free throws and percentage (62 of 80, 77.5 percent) and rebounds (129, 5.6 average).

That’s quite a far cry from his sophomore season, when Harris played in 16 of the Bearcats’ 29 games in taking runner-up honors at state. Harris averaged 2.3 points per game, and among returnees from last year was just an average of 13.76 points per game.

“I just try to play with what the defense gives me,” Harris said. “I just work with what they give me and I can score if they want me to.”

“Trent can make the difficult shot,” Scottsbluff coach Tony Siske said. “Sometimes we just turn him loose and let him play.”

Harris was on Scottsbluff’s state-championship team in 2012 and the Bearcats’ runner-up team in 2013 but only saw the bench during the state tournaments. However, Harris still played an integral role on scouting teams in practice.

“Most of the guys who were on the team last year, we decided to tell the young guys what it’s like to get to state and what it takes to get to state,” Harris said. “They came in and did great right away. We didn’t have to tell them much, and they just figured out how to play with the bigger guys.”

Two freshmen, 3-point sharpshooter Dru Kuxhausen and 6-foot-8 insider Landon Walker, stepped into the fold immediately and have combined to average 20.2 points per game.

“In the middle of the season, we started playing extra well,” Harris said. “I don’t know that it was just one game, but more like a bunch of games.”

“Our kids help each other out, ” Siske said. “We have some juniors and sophomores on our roster who have been here as freshmen too, so they have been through it and surely can help out those other guys.”

Harris was shut out of Scottsbluff’s district semifinal game March 3 against Sidney, which led the Bearcats 28-27 at halftime, but he scored six points in the third quarter and eight more in the fourth period in pacing Scottsbluff’s 57-50, come-from-behind victory.

“I figured that I had to do more if we wanted to win, because I saw that the game was close and I wasn’t doing much,” Harris said of his team-high, 14-point effort. “I knew I had to make some contributions.”

In the district championship game, the Bearcats had 15 third-quarter points against Gering. Harris, after scoring eight first-half points, had 13 in the third period. And, he added the assist on sophomore Austin Clarkson’s other basket to have a hand in all of Scottsbluff’s points in the period.

“Trent played great in the second half,” Siske said. “He attacked the basket well and made plays for us.”

“I just figured out that I had to play harder if we were going to make it, and we had to play together as a team if we wanted to make it, and we finally got it done,” said Harris, who finished the game with a leading 23 points, hitting 10 of 15 shots. He also made seven rebounds, four assists and one steal.

“I just really wanted to make it to state so I started playing extra hard,” Harris added. “It feels way better for me because I wasn’t on the court much when went before.”

The challenge gets no easier at the state tournament in Lincoln, where the No. 5 seed Bearcats take on No. 4 seed Omaha Skutt Catholic (19-6) at 7:45 p.m. Thursday at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

“We just know we have to play extra hard if we want to win games up there,” Harris said.

A win over Skutt puts Scottsbluff into the semifinals on Friday at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Bearcats would play at 2:45 p.m. against either No. 1 seed Elkhorn South (24-0) or No. 8 Grand Island Northwest (11-16).

So, when the Bearcats take the floor on Thursday against Skutt, Harris will finally get to stand on center stage at the state tournament.

And come Saturday afternoon, a pair of nets will be cut down and will adorn the necks of two state champions’ team members. Perhaps, if all goes well for Scottsbluff, another set of nets and a state championship trophy may be headed back west for the second time in three years.

Regardless, no one can take the title, or nets, of four-time district champions from the Bearcats.

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