Versatility leads Bearcat boys to Western Conference title Young Bulldogs put aside first two losses to claim seventh place with win over Mitchell
     2014-12-11      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Christian Miller - Bearcat senior Trent Harris (No. 12), heads toward the basket during a Western Conference game against Mitchell last weekend. Scottsbluff won the game 71-23. The Bearcats went 3-0 in the tournament to claim the title, defeating Alliance in the semifinals and Sidney in the championship game. 
Scottsbluff boys’ basketball coach Tony Siske said he expects the versatility of his Bearcats to play key roles in their quest of making their fifth straight Class B State Tournament.

That versatility was already evident in Scottsbluff’s run of sweeping through its opposition in winning the Western Conference Invitational Tournament last Thursday.
With different players leading the Bearcats’ victories every night, Siske said he thinks his team will be ready to face whatever the opposition brings to the court.

“That’s the way it will probably be with our team this year,” said Siske, whose team opened tournament and season play with a dominant, 71-23 win over Mitchell. The Bearcats then turned back Alliance 68-48 in the semifinals before they clinched the tournament title with a 67-54 win over Sidney.

“A lot of that will be dictated by what the defense is trying to take away. If they’re trying to take away our inside game, then the outside guys will have to carry the load. If they’re working on our perimeter shooting, then the inside guys will get more touches.”

In its opener against Mitchell – which finished eighth and 0-3 in the tournament – Scottsbluff rode balanced scoring to the victory. Sophomores Dru Kuxhausen and Landon Walker shared game-high scoring honors with 14 points each for the Bearcats, and senior Ashley Jones followed with a dozen points.

Ten Scottsbluff players scored in all in the game, in which the Bearcats broke out quickly in leading 25-6 after one quarter and then 54-12 at halftime to force a running clock during the entire second half.
Mitchell senior Antonio Barrios led the Tigers with 11 points, 10 coming after halftime.

In Friday’s semifinals, Scottsbluff defeated Alliance after taking command with a 25-13 run in the first quarter. Walker again set the Bearcats’ offensive pace with his game-high 19 points. Kuxhausen and seniors Jackson Hinze and Trent Harris added 11 apiece.

In Saturday’s championship game, Scottsbluff led a tight game 30-26 at halftime before the Bearcats broke loose from Sidney with a 21-11 run in the third quarter.
Harris had the hot hand and led Scottsbluff with 23 points, while Kuxhausen followed with 14 and Walker added 10.

“I think we’ve taken a big step forward from last year, in that we’re physically more mature than last year,” Siske said in summarizing his impressions of the Bearcats after their first weekend of competition. “Their decisions are getting better in just understanding the game.”

Where Siske said he sees needs for improvement are the same areas he said were needed coming out of its Nebraska Hall of Fame Jamboree scrimmage against Kimball on Dec. 1.
“We have to continue working on executing our offense and making the right decisions in moving the ball, and defensively, positioning is something we definitely need to keep working on,” Siske said. “It’s a work in progress.”

The Bearcats will travel to Gillette, Wyo., for action today (Thursday) through Saturday in the Campbell County Camel Classic. Scottsbluff will play Rock Springs 12:45 today, Cheyenne East at 12:45 Friday and Campbell County at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s a good tournament for us,” Siske said. “Campbell was one of the best teams in the state last year and looks to be so again.”

Like Mitchell, Gering lost its tournament and season opener Thursday night, 43-32 to Chadron. The Cardinals held the host Bulldogs to five second-quarter points in taking a 21-14 halftime lead.

“Against Chadron, we didn’t play them too bad but we lost because we shot 4-for-24 from the 3-point line and that was our biggest problem that we had,” Gering coach Randy Plummer said.
Chadron senior Vonsinh Sayaloune led all scorers with 16 points and senior Jackson Dickerson followed with 12 for the Cardinals. Gering junior Austin Hoffman led the Bulldogs with 14 points, while senior Esai Hernandez and freshman Tyler Pszanka followed with six points apiece.

On Friday, Gering fell to Greeley (Colo.) West 75-57.

“We played a really good team in Greeley West,” Plummer said of the Spartans, who finished third in the tournament with a 64-47 win over Omaha Gross Catholic.
“We played pretty even with them in the first half, but lost a couple of our big guys to fouls and they really hammered us around the basket. Our intent was good, but we need to play a lot better defense than we did this weekend.”
Free throws were thus a deciding factor, with Gering going 7-for-8 at the line, while West was 21-for-32.

Spartan juniors Preston Marion and Cordell Gillingham had 22 points apiece, while Gering was paced by Hoffman with 17 points, junior Joses Palomo with 14 points and Pszanka with 12.

Mitchell joined Gering in Saturday’s seventh-place game with its 63-34 semifinal loss Friday to Omaha Gross.
After the Bulldogs and Tigers scored 14 points apiece in the first quarter, Gering began pulling away with a 20-12 run in the second quarter and then outscored Mitchell 18-12 in the third period for a 52-38 advantage.

Palomo sank seven of the Bulldogs’ 14 treys on his way to scoring a game-high 23 points. Hoffman had four 3-pointers en route to a 14-point effort.
Mitchell junior Colby Eberspecher and Barrios had 15 points apiece in leading the Tigers, who will be looking for revenge tonight (Thursday) when they visit Gering for a 7 p.m. contest.

“It was about what I expected,” Plummer said in assessing his team’s tournament performance. “We’re starting over with two guys who’ve had any varsity experience at all.
“We need to improve our defense and stop fouling so much. We were playing hard but just not all that smart, and that’s what we’re going to be working on all season long.”

The Bulldogs will play Alliance at home on Friday and then entertain Bridgeport on Tuesday, with starting times also planned for 7 p.m. Gering finishes first-semester play Dec. 20 at Chadron.

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