Bearcat boys 3rd, girls 6th in GNAC Tournaments
     2015-01-08      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photos by Jim Headley/for the Citizen - Hastings sophomore Zane Bender (in white) reaches for a loose ball while entrapped by the defense of Scottsbluff sophomore Dru Kuxhausen (No. 0) and seniors Ashley Jones (No. 15) and Jackson Hinze (on floor) during the teams’ third-place game Dec. 31 at the boys’ Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference Tournament in Hastings. The Bearcats rebounded from a 51-42 semifinal loss to Kearney to down Bender and the host Tigers 68-46 for third place. 
HASTINGS — When a school’s varsity basketball programs are at opposite levels, the same can be said for their coaches’ analyses of their respective team’s play.
While the Scottsbluff boys were seeded No. 2 in last week’s Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference Tournament in Hastings, Bearcat coach Tony Siske expressed disappointment in his team’s third-place finish.

The Bearcat girls earned a No. 6 seed in their bracket and finished that way, and second-year head coach Rachel Larson offered praises for her team’s continued progress from a 2-20 season last winter.

The Scottsbluff boys, winners of their first six games before a 56-55 loss at Chadron on Dec. 19, opened the GNAC Tournament with a 66-32 romp over McCook before the Bearcats came out on the short end of a 51-42 count to Kearney in the semifinals.
In the third-place game, Scottsbluff (8-2) bounced back to take a big 68-46 win over Hastings.

In beating McCook (2-6), Scottsbluff made 49 percent of its shots while holding the Bison to just 29 percent shooting.
Eleven Bearcats scored in the game, led by senior Ashley Jones with 12 points and sophomore Landon Walker with 11. Senior Trent Harris and sophomore Dru Kuxhausen followed with eight points apiece.

The win put Scottsbluff into an all-Bearcat matchup against third-seeded Kearney (4-5 after finishing second to Norfolk in the championship game). The underdogs had the best of things, however, riding a 24-point barrage from sharpshooting guard Jake Waller to Kearney’s nine-point win.

“We didn’t shoot the ball very well and they did,” said Siske, whose team trailed 37-34 after a 15-12 run in the third quarter. “It was a knockdown, drag-out game, and they have one guy go 6 of 9 from 3s, and that was the difference.”
Scottsbluff got a team-high 12 points from Harris, while Walker added nine.
But the Bearcats finished the tournament strong on New Year’s Eve, shooting 60 percent against Hastings (5-5) in the first half on their way to a 38-20 halftime lead.

“I like the way we bounced back against Hastings,” Siske said. “If we can carry that over and move forward and continue in that direction, it will be a good thing for us.”

Kuxhausen led Scottsbluff with 21 points that included four 3-pointers. Walker followed with 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Harris added nine points with three assists and three steals.

“We need to continue to work on offensive execution,” Siske said in summarizing the Bearcats’ play in the tournament. “We need to work a little harder on the defensive end and play with a little more of an attitude.”
The Bearcats travel to Alliance (2-5) on Friday. Scottsbluff defeated the Bulldogs 68-48 in their Western Conference Invitational Tournament semifinal game on Dec 5, leading to the Bearcats’ 67-54 championship game win over Sidney the following night.
Scottsbluff will then be off until Jan. 16, when the Bearcats entertain Cheyenne East and then travel to Cheyenne on Jan. 17 to face Central.

“It will really give us some time where we can stuff some practice in,” Siske said of the time between games next week. “We just haven’t had a string of practices where we can really install stuff, so we’re going to start adding stuff and that should help us.”

The Scottsbluff girls could not have gotten out of the gym fast enough following a 73-24, opening-round loss to Kearney (now 5-3).
But Larson said plenty could be learned from the lopsided loss, and the Bearcats responded well in their 59-40 win over McCook (4-5).

“We just talked to the kids about playing hard every possession,” said Larson, whose team (3-4) has already surpassed last year’s two-win total.
“That game was really tough because they were just a very solid team and it was very easy to get down early on. It was one of those things that we decided that we need to play hard, no matter what the score is. I think the girls did a much better job of doing that against McCook and Hastings.”

Against Kearney, Scottsbluff still had two double-figure scorers in junior Aly Camacho with 11 points and junior Chesney Walker with 10.
Against McCook, junior Zoe Holscher – whose foul trouble against Kearney resulted in a scoreless first game – led nine Bearcats in scoring with her 13-point outing.
Junior Chloey Reifschneider followed with 10 points that included two 3-pointers. Walker added seven points, while senior Aubree Ford and sophomore Rudi Salazar added six points apiece.

In their fifth-place game against Hastings, the Bearcats trailed the Tigers by two points in the final minute and had a play set up for Walker for a tying layup, but a foul on the floor negated the game-knotting effort. The Tigers (4-5) then finished off their 59-54 win with success at the free-throw line.
Holscher had another 13-point outing in leading Scottsbluff, and Walker added 10 points while Camacho grabbed 12 rebounds and scored eight points.

“The girls hung in there and weathered the storm,” Larson said. “They were in it at the end to win it, and I was really proud of them.”
Of her assessment of the Bearcats following the tournament, Larson said: “We’re moving in the right direction. The kids are buying into what we’re doing and they’re seeing the results and are proud of the success that we’re having.

“It’s been a few seasons since we’ve had some success, so they’re excited about it and seeing what we’re trying to do is working, and we’re playing to what our skills and strengths are and I think the kids are really starting to buy into it.”
Scottsbluff (3-4) returns to action Friday when the Bearcats play host to Alliance (1-6) at 7 p.m. in the Scottsbluff High School gymnasium. The Bearcats then make the short trip to Gering (3-5) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Scottsbluff defeated both teams in consolation action of the season-opening Western Conference Invitational Tournament. After the Bearcats lost their opener to Mitchell (now 6-3), they downed Alliance in the consolation semifinals 68-32 and Gering 60-39 in the consolation championship game.
“They’re going to be two completely different teams,” Larson said of Scottsbluff’s next two opponents.

“Since we played them, there’s been a lot of basketball since then,” Larson said. “When you beat a team the way we did both of them, they’re going to come out with a vengeance and looking for payback.
“We just have to be ready to play because we know that they’re going to be much better than they were when we first played them.”
The Bearcats will then play at Cheyenne Central on Jan. 16 and entertain Cheyenne East on Jan. 17.

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