Scottsbluff ends season with state championship loss
     2016-03-18      By Roger Holsinger    editor@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Roger Holsinger Scottsbluff senior Matthew Holloway looks to the basket while Gretna's Jared Samuelson (14) and Trey Brown defend their basket during the Class B State Championship game on March 12 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln. 
LINCOLN — Like every other boys basketball team in the state, the Scottsbluff Bearcat team set its goal to be state champions when the season began.

Unlike many others, Scottsbluff was one that was in that position last week.

Seeded number one in the state tournament, the Bearcats first faced Platteview and won, advancing into the semifinals against Aurora. Again, the Bearcats were victorious and now faced the number two seeded team in the tournament, the Dragons of Gretna that entered the contest with 24 wins and one loss.

For Scottsbluff Head Coach Tony Siske and his squad that won 24 games and lost just three games, it would be a memorable and hard-fought contest, but the outcome was just not what he and his team had hoped for.

After playing the Dragons basket-for-basket in the first quarter, the dream of a championship began to slip away as Gretna’s outside shooting and impressive offensive rebounds proved too much for the Bearcats. Gretna won the final game, 52-33.

Scottsbluff would end up finishing as the second best team in Class B, something to be proud of, but yet not how Siske and his crew wanted to end the season.

Siske said he believed Gretna’s defense was the key to the Dragon’s victory. “They just keep coming at you and keep the pressure on you on every pass and on every shot,” he said.

While the Gretna defense was hard to get around, its offense was hard to stop. As Scottsbluff spent a lot of the game in a zone defense, Gretna almost methodically worked the ball around the court until a weak spot opened and allowed for the score.

Gretna was also hard to stop from the outside, something Scottsbluff had experienced the entire season.

With the outside guns of Dru Kuxhausen, a junior; seniors Jonah Wright, Dillon Hernandez, Traceten Halley and junior Evan Hughes, the Bearcats scored at will from the outside, and just when someone was covered, the twin towers of Landon Walker and Austin Clarkson would dominate the inside game.

However, Halley tore his ACL late in the season and was not able to compete in the state tournament. And Clarkson would not play the final game, as at some point during the Aurora game, he broke his foot.

Siske said the loss of Clarkson was “unexpected” and that you never think something like that is going to happen, especially during the state tournament. “We would have loved to have him, but I don’t know with the way Gretna shot . . . I don’t want to take anything away from them. They are very deserving champions,” he said.

Gretna ended the game making 42 percent of its field-goals; they were 10-22 from the three-point stripe and were 8-12 from the free throw line.

The Bearcats three-point shooting slumped hard in the championship game hitting just 29 percent and were 2-6 from the free throw line.

Gretna also controlled the ball better with just three turnovers, compared to Scottsbluff’s nine.

Siske said his team got fatigued and it showed.

“I thought it was going to be difficult no matter what, but to go really from a seven-man rotation (with Clarkson playing) to a six-man rotation it made it that much more difficult.

“I am proud of our guys and they battled to the very end,” said Siske. “They never gave up; the shots just didn’t fall.”

As the game tipped off, Scottsbluff controlled the ball and Hernandez sunk the three and it appeared that the Bearcats were ready to pick up where they had left off against Aurora.

Gretna missed its first shot and Scottsbluff came back with another two point as Walker scored under the basket.

Gretna came back and added the trey as Zach Imig scored, but Wright replied with a three of his own. Jared Samuelson scored another three for the Dragons, but Wright again added a try and Scottsbluff was up, 11-9. Samuelson and Imig added two more three as Gretna took the lead, then Kuxhausen scored a bucket to end the first quarter with Gretna leading, 15-13.

Then came a very cold front for the Bearcats and their shooting was non-existent. The Bearcats managed just three points in the quarter, compared to Gretna’s 12. Scottsbluff passes missed their marks and Gretna seemed to control the boards at each end of the court. The Bearcats went in at half trailing, 26-16.

As the third quarter opened, Wright got things moving forward with a three-pointer to cut the Gretna lead to eight. Then Kuxhausen added a three a few possessions later. Scottsbluff then went into a zone defense and Gretna was in no hurry to take any risks with an 11-point lead.

Siske said Gretna’s slow-down offense was something he expected.

“You know that if Gretna gets ahead they are going to do that,” he said. “They took care of the ball and they are going to milk the clock. They are good at it and that’s why you don’t want to fall behind them because it’s almost impossible to come back from.”

As Siske pointed out, Gretna “just kept scoring” and ended the third period with a 15-point lead.

Scottsbluff tried a bit of a rally in the fourth quarter, but missed lay-ups and unnecessary fouls continued to plague the Bearcats. One bright spot in the final quarter came with senior Matthew Holloway who scored four points and Walker added the final basket for the Bearcats.

Ending the season in the state championship game is no small task and Siske summed up the season saying he was proud of his players.

“It was a great season and we had six seniors that had a great career and have meant a lot to our program,” he said. “It was not the ending that we wanted, but they have accomplished a lot and I want them to remember how well they performed on the court, how well they have represented our school and program .

“This is a fun team to coach and this is as much fun as I’ve had and it just wasn’t the finish we were looking for.”

The Bearcats end the season with a 24-4 record.

Scottsbluff 13 3 7 10 – 33

Gretna 15 12 11 14 – 52

Scoring

Scottsbluff: Landon Walker 10; Dru Kuxhausen 7; Jonah Wright 9; Dillon Hernandez 3; Matthew Holloway 4.

Gretna: Jared Samuelson 17; Zach Imig 12; Trey Brown 6; Emmitt Knight 4; Tre Mikkelsen 3; Tyler Sullivan 2; Joseph Johnson 3; Isiah Workman 2; Tynan Duin 3.

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