A third-quarter surge propelled the Sidney girls basketball team past Alliance 40-30 in the semifinals of the Western Conference Invitational Tournament on Friday afternoon at Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff.
Clinging to a one-point lead midway through the third quarter, Sidney used a 10-0 run to push its advantage into double figures entering the final eight minutes of play. The lead hovered right around the double-digit mark the rest of the way as the Red Raiders marched into the championship game.
“It wasn’t the prettiest of games on the eyes to watch, but we’re really proud of our girls finding a way to win,” Sidney coach Tyler Shaw said. “Whenever we play Alliance it’s always a battle. Coach [Nate] Lanik does a great job of preparing his girls. They know what we do and we know what they do. We’re just happy to be moving on into the championship game.”
Sidney (2-0) will be aiming for its first conference-tournament title since 2009. The Raiders will take on Chadron in today’s final at 5 p.m. at WNCC. Chadron, the tournament’s defending champion, raced past Torrington 80-26 in Friday’s other semifinal game. Shaw said his ball club will need to step up its effort in all areas against the Cardinals.
“We need to clean up a lot of things if we want to compete with them,” Shaw said. “I thought our defensive intensity was really good at times tonight, but we have to value the basketball better when we have it on offense. I want us to be aggressive with it, but I also want us to try and get the ball to people where they can do something with it.”
Sidney’s Karissa Segelke tallied a game-high 17 points to pace the Raiders offensively against the Bulldogs. Jeni Heeren added nine points.
Both teams struggled taking care of the ball in a turnover-filled first half. But solid free throw shooting by Sidney helped the Raiders to a 14-11 advantage at halftime. The majority of Sidney’s scoring was done at the charity stripe, as the Raiders were 10-for-17 there in the half.
Despite mustering just one field goal early in the opening quarter, and later going scoreless for a stretch of 7 minutes, 11 seconds, Alliance put together a 9-2 run in the second frame to climb back into the contest. Free throws from Olivia Vogel and Rylee Trout pulled the Bulldogs in front on two occasions late in the half before Sidney’s Morgan Linneman sank a jumper to give the Raiders their halftime lead.
Alliance unfortunately was forced to play the majority of the game without the services of senior Shae Brennan. Brennan, who scored 20 points in the Bulldogs’ opening-round win over Omaha Skutt Catholic on Thursday, left the semifinal game with a knee injury early in the first quarter and didn’t return.
After Sidney’s third-quarter surge, the closest Alliance got in the final stanza was seven.
Sidney finished the contest shooting 18 of 37 at the free-throw line, while Alliance was 5 of 10.
Andri Halouska led the Bulldogs offensively with 11 points.
Sidney received a balanced effort on the glass. Linneman led the Raiders with seven rebounds, while Segelke and Heeren both pulled down six. Cody Rowley and Kylee Price each tracked down four. Heeren had a pair of steals for the Raiders.
Vogel grabbed six rebounds for Alliance. Danielle Brennan finished with five boards, while Trout and Caitlyn Tritle both had four. Danielle Brennan had two steals for the Bulldogs.
Alliance (1-1) will take on Torrington in the third-place game today at 1:30 p.m. at WNCC.
Sidney (2-0).........................9 5 16 10 — 40
Alliance (1-1)..........................2 9 9 10 — 30
Sarah Mahr 2, Karissa Segelke 17, Kylee Price 3, Cody Rowley 4, Morgan Linneman 5, Jeni Heeren 9.
Gabby Conley 5, Morgan Anthony 2, Danielle Brennan 4, Andri Halouska 11, Rylee Trout 2, Olivia Vogel 4, Brianna Ridenour 2.