Bearcat girls rally to claim Western Conference consolation title: Mitchell finishes fourth after opening win over Scottsbluff, while Gering finishes in sixth
     2014-12-11      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Ken Kurtz/Spectrum Photo - Gering senior Kaylee Spreier flies toward the basket, leaving Bearcat defenders on the ground during last weekend’s Western Conference tourney that say the Lady Bulldogs place sixth and the Lady Bearcats taking the consolation title. 
After winning just two games all last basketball season under first-year coach Rachel Larson, the Scottsbluff girls matched that win total in the Bearcats’ run to winning the consolation bracket of the Western Conference Invitational Basketball Tournament last weekend in Scottsbluff.

Scottsbluff rebounded from its 63-50, first-round loss to Mitchell with two wins in the consolation bracket, first beating Alliance 68-32 in the semifinals and then taking a 60-39 victory over Gering.
“When we played Mitchell, we forced them into turnovers and had good opportunities but we didn’t capitalize on them,” said Larson, whose team finished 2-20 last season.

“I think against Alliance and Gering, we were able to convert on those things. We did a better job on offense and played better on defense, and I was very pleased.”

In the teams’ season and tourney opener on Thursday at the Scottsbluff High School gymnasium, the Bearcats led the Tigers 13-3 early and 16-12 after the first quarter. Scottsbluff still led 17-16 when Mitchell used its press to turn in a 22-6 run and lead by 18 before the Tigers took a 39-24 halftime lead.

“We matched up well with Scottsbluff between some good athletic guards with a good big matchup between (Bearcat junior Aly) Camacho and (Mitchell senior Kady) Lower,” Tiger coach Brock Ehler said.
“It was a very competitive game, and they (Bearcats) have the potential to do some good things and I imagine they will have a lot of close games as we will.”

Senior Aspen Reifschneider led four Mitchell scorers in double figures with a game-high 17 points. Senior McKenna Zulkoski followed with 15 points, with Lower next with 12 and sophomore Celeste Cardona adding 11.

Scottsbluff junior Chesney Walker matched Aspen Reifschneider’s 17 points for game-high honors. Also for the Bearcats, junior Chloey Reifschneider added 11 points.
Gering opened with a 43-27 loss to Chadron at the Gering High School gymnasium. Senior Allie Vacha led the Bulldogs with 11 points, a game-high figure shared with Chadron senior Jazlyn Wright. The Cardinals had two 10-point scorers in junior Chandler Hageman and sophomore Jadyn McCartney.

Friday was a much better day for both the Bulldogs and Bearcats.
The Scottsbluff girls rebounded with a big 36-point win over Alliance, jumping ahead 21-9 after one quarter and held a 36-16 advantage at halftime.

Camacho led all scorers with 17 points, with Chloey Reifschneider adding 10 among the 11 scorers for Scottsbluff. Walker followed with eight points, junior Zoe Holscher added seven and junior Shayleigh James tacked on six.

“Mitchell is a very good team and we got ourselves into foul trouble,” Larson said of the Bearcats’ improvement from Thursday. “We had to play different people in who came in during a tough situation. We just need to play more disciplined, and we did a much better job of that on Friday and Saturday.

Gering bounced back from its loss to Chadron by defeating Greeley West 50-34. The Bulldogs led 21-13 at halftime and broke the game open with an 18-6 run in the third quarter.
Vacha again paced Gering in scoring with 16 points, while senior Ashlyn Schultz added eight points and junior Jade Riedel scored seven. West senior Harper Sheets led all scorers with 19 points.
“We played a lot of girls, and it was nice to see them pick up the intensity from Thursday,” Gering coach Adam Freeburg said. “It was fun to see us do some things well.”

Mitchell, however, came out on the short end of a 58-46 semifinal count to Omaha Gross Catholic, which eventually won the tournament Saturday with a 42-28 win over Sidney.

Freshman Jori Peters led the Tigers with 14 points, followed by Lower with 12 and Cardona with 11. Gross senior Lynsey Matulka led three Cougars in double figures with a game-high 24 points.
In the consolation final, the matchup of archrivals turned into a dominant victory for Scottsbluff, which downed Gering 60-39 after outscoring the Bulldogs 17-6 in the first quarter.

Holscher had a game-high 20 points that included three 3-pointers in fueling the Bearcats. Walker followed with 12 points, while Camacho and sophomore Rudi Salazar added nine apiece.
“They’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go to the point where we want to be,” Larson said. “They’re working hard and they’re on board with what we want to do.”

For Gering, Vacha led the Bulldogs with 10 points while senior Kaylee Spreier and Schultz added six apiece.
“Honestly, we just didn’t play very well,” Freeburg said. “There were times where we didn’t play as hard as we could have. But we’re going to work hard to get this thing turned around in the right direction.”
Mitchell’s loss pitted the Tigers against Chadron for third place, which the Cardinals won 48-41. The Tigers led 17-8 after one quarter and 25-15 at halftime, but Chadron outscored Mitchell 33-16 in the second half to earn the third-place win.

Cardona led the Tigers with nine points, while Lower and Aspen Reifschneider scored eight apiece. McCartney led Chadron with 15 points and Hageman added 12.

“We’re going to have a lot of tough games, and the start of this season really obviously helps us evaluate where we are,” Ehler said of the Tigers’ tournament experience.
“We played three good games where we exerted a lot of energy. They were physical and were fast, and we came out on top of one and had a couple other close games that we ended up losing, so we learned a lot but we certainly still have some things to work on.”

Mitchell and Gering return to action today (Thursday) against each other, with a 5:30 p.m. game at the Gering High School gymnasium.
“Obviously things didn’t go as well as we had hoped as far as the losses went,” Freeburg said in analyzing the Bulldogs’ tournament play.

“But after we sat down and watched the films, we saw a lot of things that we can work on and things we can improve on, so now that we have played some games, we can practice on those things.”
After playing host to Mitchell, the Bulldogs will entertain Alliance on Friday, also starting at 5:30 p.m. Mitchell then has its home opener Saturday against Hemingford, and Gering returns to action Tuesday with another home game against Bridgeport.

Ehler said the Tigers-Bulldogs game will be a game of polarizing strengths.
“They’re a little more post heavy and we’re a little more guard heavy, and I am sure Adam Freeburg has some things he wants to work on,” Ehler said.

Freeburg paid the Tigers equal respect as well.
“Mitchell is a very good team this year,” Freeburg said. “They’re a very talented team but they’re going to be hungry after their weekend also. We’ll definitely have our hands full.”
The Bearcats are off until they travel to Chadron on Dec. 19 to close out the fall semester schedule.

“We’re just really taking the stuff from the weekend and building on that and work on those things, both good and bad,” Larson said of Scottsbluff’s nearly two weeks of practice.

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