Bearcats ousted by wildcard Sidney at state tourney: One basket away leaves Bearcats short at buzzer
     2015-03-19      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Lisa Betz/Gering Citizen - Senior Bearcat Trent Harris (No. 23) sets sight on a trey during first round action against Sidney at the Nebraska State Basketball Tourney. Teammate Landon Walker (41) eyes the action as Sidney’s Tyler Wintholz tries to block the shot. The Bearcats were defeated by one bucket during a hard-fought battle against district rival and wildcard entry Sidney on Thursday. 
One more basket. It can be the life or death of a basketball team’s chances in any game.
But this was the first round of the Class B State Tournament and the fourth meeting of the year between the Scottsbluff and Sidney boys’ teams.

And the Red Raiders overcame the Bearcats’ late lead with two baskets in the final minute to score a 65-63 victory and end the District B-6 champion Scottsbluff’s season.
“Sidney played very well and they shot it extremely well,” Bearcat coach Tony Siske said of the Red Raiders’ 55.3 percent accuracy on 26 of 47 shots. “They beat us by two and just made more shots than we did.”

Scottsbluff made just 44.4 percent of its shots, 24 of 54, but the Bearcats still had a 63-60 lead after they had erased Sidney’s 55-48 advantage with 6:12 remaining in the game.
Bearcat senior Dillon Hernandez hit two free throws and tied the score at 60-all with 1:36 left. After a Scottsbluff steal, Bearcat senior Trent Harris sank a 3-pointer – his third in the fourth quarter and his fifth of the game. The shot, which came with 1:12 to play, gave Scottsbluff a 63-60 advantage.

“They had to play well to beat us, and I thought we played fine. They just made one more shot than we did.”
“We missed a couple shots we needed to make and they made their shots that they needed to make, and that was the difference in the game.”
Sidney tied the score at 63 when junior Kolton O’Connell hit a long-range 3-pointer with 55 seconds to play.

“They go down and run a set play, and our kids recognized it and defended it extremely well,” Siske said. “O’Connell hits a 23-footer with a hand in his face. When they make shots like that, you just tip your hat to them and there’s not much you can do. You defend it as well as you possibly can and the kid made the shot.”
After Scottsbluff missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity with 26 seconds remaining, Sidney set up its eventual game-winning opportunity.

Red Raider junior Jake Heeren, who had four fouls since the first minute of the second quarter, went one-on-one against Scottsbluff junior Austin Clarkson, who also had four fouls, and made the go-ahead basket with 5.7 seconds left to give Sidney a two-point lead.
Heeren missed the ensuing free throw, but Harris gave the Bearcats a chance to win after he grabbed the rebound off the miss.
Harris raced down court and while being closely guarded, launched a long shot that just missed the mark and time expired on Scottsbluff’s season.

“It just rimmed out,” Siske said. “Not much you can say.”
Senior Lane Harvey and junior Tyler Wintholz led Sidney in scoring with 13 points each. Heeren and Jared Ross both finished with 12, and O’Connell added 11. Ross had a team-high six rebounds.
“I told our kids that Sidney played probably as well as they could to beat us,” Siske said. “They made 8 of 16 threes and we defended some of them really well. I told them that if they do that, they’d be a tough out. If they had made have that percentage, they’d be state champs right now.

“They made eight threes against us, don’t make any against Beatrice and still win, and they made only one out of 22 in the championship.” The Raiders (22-5) lost to Elkhorn South in the title game, 60-51.
Scottsbluff took a 13-10 lead after one period, and the Bearcats built a 29-22 lead in the second quarter and had two shots on a possession that would have extended their lead.

“We got a really good look at a 3-pointer and it rimmed out, got the offensive rebound and missed a bunny,” Siske said. “Instead of being up by nine or 10, they go down and score and cut it to five.
“There are swings like that in every game that you can always look back on, and that was one in this game for us.”
The Bearcats clung to a 29-26 lead at halftime before Sidney rallied to lead 48-45 after three quarters.

For Scottsbluff, Harris led all scorers with 25 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and was 5-for-10 from 3-point range. Sophomore Landon Walker scored 18 points, and Hernandez had eight. Walker also grabbed 10 boards, leading the Bearcats’ 27-23 advantage in rebounds.
Sophomore Dru Kuxhausen, Scottsbluff’s season leader in scoring with 14.2 points per game, was held to a single 3-pointer on six shots. Kuxhausen finished the season with 70 made 3-balls with 43.2 percent accuracy.

Siske said he will remember this season as highly successful, especially after the Bearcats went 4-4 after opening the season with six straight wins.

“There was a stretch in the middle of the season where we could have gone either way. And our kids rallied together, won 11 games in a row including the district championship. We got down to state and got beat in a close game.”

Nothing to take away from a 21-5 season.
A 65-58 loss to Sidney ended a 4-4 skid after the Bearcats opened the season with a 6-0 record, including a championship game win over the Red Raiders in the Western Conference Invitational Tournament.
“With our schedule, 21 wins is not easy to do.”



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