Bearcat boys ready for state tournament: First round offers familiar foe in Sidney despite Scottsbluff’s district championship
     2015-03-12      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Angela Hernandez - Scottsbluff sophomore Dru Kuxhausen (No. 0) attacks the basket against the defense of Gering freshman Tyler Pszanka (No. 34) in the teams’ District B-6 semifinal game on March 2 at the Cabela’s Athletic Facility in Sidney. Also eyeing the play are Gering senior Kraiger Ebbers (background), Bearcat senior Austin Clarkson (No. 55), Bulldog senior Esai Hernandez (No. 32) and Scottsbluff senior Trent Harris. The Bearcats defeated the Bulldogs 51-39 and went on to win their fifth straight district championship on March 3 with a 62-48 win over Alliance at Scottsbluff. 
When the Scottsbluff and Sidney boys’ basketball teams open play today (Thursday) in the Class B State Tournament, the game will mark the fourth time the Bearcats and Red Raiders take on each other this season.

After Scottsbluff finished off Alliance to win the District B-6 championship on March 3, the next question on every Bearcat player and supporter’s minds was whom their first-round opponent would be at this week’s Class B State Tournament in Lincoln.

While the answer was not official until the Nebraska School Activities Association released the brackets the following morning, prognosticators among those at the Scottsbluff High School gymnasium for the district final – a result of Alliance’s 56-50 semifinal win at Sidney on March 2– was that the Red Raiders were a wild-card.
The reaction among several players: Oh. Hmmm. Really?

Indeed, Sidney maintained its No. 3 spot in the Class B power points despite its loss to Alliance, while Scottsbluff’s 62-48 championship win over the 10-14 Bulldogs left the Bearcats in a tie for fifth place.

When Scottsbluff (21-4) and Adams Central (also 21-4) came up tied on power points at 44.04, the NSAA broke the tie and awarded the Patriots the No. 5 seed based on the number of Division 1 teams played – or teams with winning percentages of better than 75 percent.
So the loss of the tiebreak left the Bearcats as the No. 6 seed and with a fourth meeting against Sidney (20-4), which will take place at 10:45 a.m. Central Time at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

“I think their reaction probably was just the fact that it’s someone that we’ve already played three times and not someone new, said eighth-year Scottsbluff head coach Tony Siske, who is leading his sixth team to state in seven years.
“And they know some of those guys, so I think it was that they would like to play someone different.”

Despite the matchup, liked or not, Siske said the Bearcats should be ready to take on any opponent at state.
“Basketball can be a long season, and this is something they’ve been shooting for all year,” he said. “To finally get to this point, I think they’re excited to be here. We’re just fine-tuning at this point. I think our defense has improved and attention to detail has improved. We just need to keep fine-tuning and keeping our rhythm.”
Scottsbluff enters the state tournament on an 11-game winning streak. Its last loss was on Jan. 23, a 65-58 setback at Sidney.

The Bearcats own two other wins over the Red Raiders, 67-54 in the Western Conference Invitational Tournament final at Western Nebraska Community College and 70-56 at home on Feb. 7.
“You worry about every game,” Siske said in spite of the opponent at hand. “As coaches we’re going through film again and just preparing like usual.”

While junior post Austin Clarkson has been averaging 5.7 points and 5.0 rebounds, he came up big against Alliance with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore Dru Kuxhausen, whose 366 points (14.6 average) include 69 3-pointers (43.6 percent made) on the year, scored 16 points against the Bulldogs.

Sophomore post Landon Walker is second in scoring with 333 points (13.3 average) while he has 198 rebounds (8.0 per game), and senior guard Trent Harris brings a 13.2-point average into state. Harris also has a team-high 47 steals, and senior Jackson Hinze (4.1 points) leads in assists with 55.
“We don’t rely on one or two guys and that’s a strength of our team,” Siske said. “Anyone can step up and do that for us.”
Scottsbluff’s trip to state, after winning five straight district championships and six of the last seven under eighth-year Bearcat head coach Tony Siske, is its 38th in school history.

Sidney, meanwhile, is making its 39th trip to state but its first since 2010, when the Red Raiders lost in the first round to eventual champion South Sioux City. Scottsbluff and Sidney met in the first third-place round in 2009, with the Red Raiders avenging their district final loss to the Bearcats with a 52-42 win.

The Red Raiders’ scoring leaders against Scottsbluff this season have been junior Tyler Wintholz (17 per game), senior Lane Harvey (14.3 average), junior Cutter O’Connell (10 per contest) and junior Jake Heeren (9.7 average).

The winner of the Scottsbluff-Sidney game will play in Friday’s 2 p.m. semifinal contest against the winner of today’s first-round game between No. 2 seed Beatrice (21-1) and No. 7 Plattsmouth (16-8.
The other first-round games match No. 1 seed Gretna (24-2 against No. 8 Mount Michael Benedictine (13-9) and No. 4 Elkhorn South (18-5) against Adams Central.

“I think anytime you get to this point, anyone can come out of it,” Siske said. “It’s fun every year. I’m just happy for the group that you’re with at the time.”

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