Hemingford girls catch Mitchell in WTC tourney final
     2015-02-12      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Philip Eckerberg/for the Citizen - Mitchell senior Creighton Reichert (No. 14) looks to pass while sophomore Alex Duncan (No. 12) and teammate freshman Tyler Pszanka (No. 34) defend for Gering during a December 4 game at Gering. 
SCOTTSBLUFF – Mitchell girls’ basketball coach Brock Ehler and the Tigers, the two-time defending champions of the Western Trails Conference Tournament, knew they would have their hands full Saturday in the championship game against two-loss Hemingford.

And the two teams battled with each having a seven-point lead in the first quarter, which ended with Mitchell ahead 16-9, and the Tigers led by eight early in the fourth quarter and still by four with 3:27 remaining when the tide turned in the Bobcats’ direction.

Hemingford took its first lead since the opening quarter with 45 seconds left on a one-handed layup by sophomore Kaitlyn Kumph and denied Mitchell a last-second chance to tie in taking the game 43-40, clinched the Bobcat girls’ first WTC tourney title at Western Nebraska Community College’s Cougar Palace.

Mitchell (14-5) had handed the Bobcats (14-2) their first loss of the season, a 47-45 home win for the Tigers. Mitchell had grabbed the No. 1 seed for the WTC tourney but later that week, on Jan. 30, had a 10-game winning streak snapped at home by Gordon-Rushville, 40-36.
The Tigers got a first-round bye as the top seed and advanced to the final with a 52-40 semifinal win over Kimball.

Hemingford, the No. 2 seed in the WTC tourney, was undefeated in 13 games since a Dec. 30 loss at Chadron and had to play Thursday and Friday to make the championship game. The Bobcats took care of business by downing Bayard 70-24 at home and then beat Gordon-Rushville in Friday’s semifinals, 64-50.

“I knew it would be a tough game and one that would be exciting for the fans,” Ehler said. “I felt for the majority of the game we had control, and they kept hitting big shots to stay with us. At the end, we had an eight-point lead and we just unfortunately able to keep it.”

“The environment was intense and Brooke Turek got a lot of touches on the ball and did a great job of putting some pressure on us,” Ehler said of Turek, a sophomore who led Hemingford with 12 points.

“After we had a couple turnovers, I think the girls panicked just a little bit and then didn’t do what they normally do under pressure.”
Turek got offensive assistance from sophomore Natalie Gasseling, who had 13 points, and junior Faith Rohrbouck, who matched Turek’s dozen points.

Seniors McKenna Zulkoski and Kady Lower respectively led the Tigers with 14 and 12 points.

Mitchell was making its fourth straight WTC championship appearance, and Ehler said the balance exhibited in the tournament spoke well for the conference.

For Hemingford, the title was its second conference championship this season; the Bobcats won the Panhandle Conference title two weeks earlier.

Mitchell completes its regular season with road trips to Ogallala on Friday and Sidney on Saturday before the Tigers enter what looks to be a very tough Sub-district C1-12 tournament in Alliance.
“We look forward to getting better by competing and working as hard as we can every day,” Ehler said. “Hopefully we will be playing our best basketball come sub-district time, and our sub-district is pretty wide open.”

In the girls’ third-place game, Gordon-Rushville (12-7) rode a 31-point effort by sophomore Josie Perez in scoring a 67-49 win over Kimball (10-11).

In Mitchell’s semifinal win over Kimball, sophomore Celeste Cardona fueled the Tigers with 19 points and senior Aspen Reifschneider followed with 11. Longhorn junior Danika Daum matched Cardona for game-high scoring honors with 19.

In first-round girls’ action, Gordon-Rushville eliminated Morrill with a 54-38 win at Gordon. The Mustangs had four double-figure scorers, while the Lions (9-10) were paced by junior Leanne Sherrod’s game-high 17 points and sophomore Jessica Harvey’s 13 points.
Morrill completes regular-season play today (Thursday) at Bridgeport and Saturday at Gordon-Rushville.

In Hemingford’s win over Bayard, Gasseling led the Bobcats with 20 points and Turek followed with 16. Junior Miah Vera led the Tigers (7-12) with 11 points.

Bayard finishes its regular-season schedule this week with its home game Tuesday against Leyton before the Tigers finish regular-season play Friday at Minatare.

Mitchell takes third in Tiger battle

The Mitchell boys overcame a 28-point semifinal loss to No. 1 seed Hemingford on Friday to claim third place Saturday with a 49-40 win over Bayard.

The Tigers (9-10) had to get past Kimball on Thursday in overtime 43-40 to even make the final four at Cougar Palace. Kimball’s loss snapped the Longhorns’ eight-year hold on the conference tourney championship trophy.

In defeating Bayard – which lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Bridgeport 52-32 – Mitchell took command by outscoring their fellow Tigers 18-4 in the second quarter to take a 31-15 halftime lead.

Bayard (12-8) got within six points of Mitchell midway through the fourth period before Mitchell finished the game on an 8-5 run.

“It just shows the character of the boys,” said Mitchell boys’ coach Jayson Gregory, whose team is on an 8-3 winning stretch after the Tigers started out with six straight losses and a 1-7 record.
“We talked at halftime about that Bayard wasn’t going to go away. We knew they’d stick around, and when things got a little dicey, we held our composure.”

Senior Antonio Barrios paced Mitchell with 16 points and senior Joe Pieper followed with 10. Bayard senior Justin Baird was the game’s leading scorer with 18 and junior Jacob Hoff added 10.

“We had another opportunity to play another game today and get better,” Gregory said. “We wanted to take that opportunity to get back on the right track before the sub-district tournament.
“They’ve been continually improving all year. They show tremendous character, they come to practice ready to work and have great attitudes. They’re fun to be around, and we learn. We talk about not taking a step back, we just take a step to the side and look to improve.”

In Mitchell’s 65-37 semifinal loss to Hemingford, Barrios led the Tigers with 17 points and senior Alex Morales added nine, but they could not overcome the Bobcats’ potency led by senior Colt Foster’s 19 points and Matthew Wood’s 18 points.

In winning its first-round overtime game over Kimball, Mitchell got 20 points from Barrios and 17 from junior Colby Eberspecher – including the only three points in OT – in shaking an 11-point deficit from the first half.

Bayard opened play Thursday with a 67-34 win at home over Morrill. Senior Bryce Hargens scored a game-high 18 points in leading the Tigers, while Hoff followed with 13 points and junior Chandler Cox added 11.

The Lions (7-11) got a 12-point effort from junior Ryan McMackin.
In its semifinal loss to Bridgeport, Bayard was unable to overcome the 26-point effort put up by Bulldog junior Quentin Baxter.
Senior Tyler Fiscus led the Tigers with 13 points and Baird finished with nine.

Mitchell plays at Ogallala on Friday and at Sidney on Saturday before the Tigers finish the regular season at home Feb. 20 against Kimball.
Bayard finished its home schedule Tuesday night against Leyton and will play at Minatare on Friday before the Tigers wrap up their schedule at Banner County on Feb. 20.

Morrill will be at Bridgeport tonight and at Gordon-Rushville on Saturday before the Lions finish their schedule Tuesday at home against Glendo, Wyo.

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