Bearcat girl’s district champs after pair of comebacks: Scottsbluff rallies to defeat McCook, Sidney for state berth; Gering’s season ends to Red Raiders
     2015-03-05      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Second-year Scottsbluff girls’ basketball coach Rachel Larson proclaimed going into last week’s District B-6 tournament, despite having just one of the five teams sporting a winning record, that any team was capable of winning the district title and subsequent trip to the Class B state tournament.

Larson – whose team last year was 2-20 and had this year’s team entering districts at 8-12 and the No. 2 seed after the Bearcats had won two of their final three regular-season games – took a nothing-to-lose attitude into their district opener at McCook and defeated the host Bison in comeback fashion Thursday night, 48-39.

Combined with No. 1 seeded Sidney’s 26-19 semifinal win over a tenacious No. 4 Gering team, the Bearcats and Red Raiders thus advanced to Friday’s district final, which was moved from McCook Community College to the Cabela’s Athletic Facility in Sidney.
The arena, where the Red Raiders had dealt Scottsbluff a 47-27 loss on Feb. 7, was packed with separate groups of red and black-clad fans, but it was the black-uniformed Bearcats who overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to score a 40-36 win and earn Scottsbluff’s first trip to Lincoln for state since 2011.

And not only did Scottsbluff earn a trip to the Class B State Tournament for the third time, all in the past 10 years with the victory, but the Bearcats also got the chance to cut down Sidney’s nets after snapping the Red Raiders’ two-year hold on the District B-6 title.

“It was just a really neat experience to be able do that there,” Larson said. “We had a good turnout and it was just really exciting.”
After the teams split two regular-season meetings – Scottsbluff scored a 68-57 home win on Jan. 23 – the third and most critical matchup proved to be tight from the start.
Scottsbluff led 9-8 after the first quarter before the teams went into intermission even at 18-18. Sidney managed to squeeze in front by one, 26-25, after three quarters before the Bearcats outscored the Red Raiders 15-10 in the final eight minutes.

“We had a shoot-around before we went, and we talked about that we had nothing to lose,” Larson said.

“From the get-go, they had the advantage, they were going for their third straight district title and we just needed to play our best and be able to handle the environment and the runs, and the kids just did a really good job of responding.”

Sidney (17-8) built a six-point advantage about midway through the fourth period after back-to-back steals and layups. But Scottsbluff answered with 3-pointers by senior Aubree Ford and junior Zoe Holscher to even things up.

The Bearcats went in front in the final minutes on a huge offensive-rebound put back from sophomore Sally Welsh, and they stayed in front with a couple of clutch free throws by junior Chloey Reifschneider.
“We just kept making big plays,” Larson said. “Sally made a huge play that put us up by one off an offensive rebound. We made our free throws down the stretch and boxed out when we needed to, and it all fell into place I guess the way it was supposed to.”

Ford, who is one of just two Scottsbluff seniors on the team along with Kyra Willats, scored a team-high 13 points with three 3-pointers.

Holscher finished with nine points, while juniors Aly Camacho and Chloey Reifschneider added six apiece. Camacho had a team-high three rebounds.

Sidney was led in scoring by Kelsey Knight with 14 points. Scottsbluff converted 5 of its 9 free throws, while Sidney finished 9 of 25.

Bearcats rally to down McCook, advance to final

Larson, whose team had scored a 55-25 rout over a short-handed McCook team at Scottsbluff on Feb. 14, said going into the teams’ district semifinal that the Bison would be much better than two weeks earlier, and that playing at home would be a major advantage compared with the Bearcats’ 240-mile bus ride.

Reifschneider erupted for a game-high 24 points with five 3-pointers, leading Scottsbluff to the nine-point win and propelling the Bearcats into their first district final since they won the B-6 title in 2011.
“It was definitely a long drive, but the kids responded well,” Larson said. “We figured as a coaching staff that McCook was going to be about 20 points better with it being on their home floor, districts, and everybody on their team was back (from injuries that affected previous meetings).”

Indeed, McCook had a 22-21 lead at halftime and it remained that way by the third quarter’s end. Then Scottsbluff exploded with a 16-6 run in the final eight minutes to put the Bison away at 6-18 for the year.

“They played their best and we were able to respond when they made some runs, and it was really nice to come back from behind,” Larson said. “It said a lot about our girls.

“We had to get some stops on defense, box out, execute on offense, handle the pressure, and once we made a shot it changed the momentum of things. And Chloey hit some really big shots and was huge for us in that game.

Holscher joined Reifschneider in the double-figure scoring column with 11 points, including a pair of 3-balls, and made four steals. Camacho added eight points and a team-high six rebounds for the Bearcats.

“It just seems like its different people on different nights. Aubree was that person for us against Sidney and Chloey was that person for us against McCook. Everybody is stepping up at different times and it’s really neat.”

The Bearcats (10-12) will be decisive underdogs against No. 1 seeded Lincoln Pius X (19-2), last year’s state runner-up, when the teams play at Pinnacle Bank Arena this morning at 10:45 Central Time.
But don’t underestimate the heart and will of Scottsbluff.
“You go through phases and you just work on things,” Larson said. “We’ve always had the will, and our schedule is pretty tough too. So I think the kids have just come a long way, and they really played a tough game in a tough environment and did a really good job.”

Gering plays Sidney tight but has season ended

While Sidney advanced to the district final with its seven-point win over Gering, the Bulldogs definitely made things difficult for the Red Raiders.

Sidney held Gering scoreless in the first quarter and limited the Bulldogs to just two points in the entire first half, but the Raiders led just 15-2 at the break.

Gering bounced back and outscored Sidney 10-1 in the third quarter to close within four at 16-12, but the Raiders held on down the stretch and outscored the Bulldogs 9-4 in the final frame.
“We played tremendous defense throughout the game,” Gering coach Adam Freeburg said. “Holding Sidney to 26 points is a great accomplishment. We just couldn’t get enough baskets to go on our end.”

Savanna Rosenbaum led Sidney in scoring with nine points and on the glass with eight rebounds. Knight followed with seven points.
Gering (6-19) was led by senior Kaylee Spreier with eight points and nine boards. Senior Ashlyn Schultz finished with five points. Junior Allie Boggs pulled down six rebounds and sophomore Mariah Conn added five boards.

“I am proud of the girls and their effort to fight back and make it a two- point game in the second half,” Freeburg said. “They never quit.”

Spreier finished the season as the Bulldogs’ leading scorer with 252 points (10.1 per game) along with team highs of 198 rebounds (7.9 average), 37 steals (1.5 per game), 32 steals (1.3 average) and 44 blocks (1.8 average).

Senior Allie Vacha was averaging 9.2 points and 2.4 steals when she was lost for the season after 10 games to a knee injury.
Schultz averaged 6.1 points and hit 25 of Gering’s 3-point shots for the season. Boggs averaged 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 points, while sophomore Kaylee Bohnsack averaged 3.0 points and shared a team-high honors in steal average with Spreier at 1.5 (32 total) and also had 1.5 assists per game (32).

“While we may not have the amount of wins that everyone would have liked, I still think the season was a success,” Freeburg said.
“The kids learned about how to deal with adversity with all the injuries that we had to go through this season. The kids learned that things won’t always go your way but you still have to wake up the next day and try to get better, just like in life.

“We will learn from this season and move on and become better athletes, coaches and people because of it.”

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