GILLETTE, Wyo. — The Scottsbluff boys basketball team played sharp both offensively and defensively Saturday en route to remaining unbeaten on the season.
The Bearcats, bolstered by Eric Moreno’s 29 points, turned the ball over only five times during their 63-49 win over Casper Kelly Walsh in the final day of the Gillette Tournament. And despite being at a height disadvantage, Scottsbluff gave up only five offensive rebounds while lifting its season record to 6-0.
“I thought we played really well,” Scottsbluff coach Tony Siske said. “We were very efficient. We had a lot of kids step up.”
The victory allowed Scottsbluff to finish the Gillette Tournament with a 3-0 record. It’s the second straight year that the Bearcats have finished on top in the event. It’s also the second tournament win for Scottsbluff this year; the Bearcats also won the season-opening Western Conference Invitational Tournament.
“We talk about winning championships. We want to play championship basketball,” Siske said. “So far, we’ve played in two tournaments, and we’ve accomplished that goal twice.”
What’s impressive about the Bearcats’ 6-0 start is that they’ve excelled despite being hit with some adversity. One of their top players, Matt Klein, has been out with an injury, and another key player, Michael Hadden, suffered a leg injury in Friday’s game and didn’t play Saturday.
Siske said he’s proud of the way his players have responded so far this season.
“This team has proven that it knows how to win games,” he said. “They’re doing what it takes to win games.”
Kelly Walsh gave Scottsbluff about all it could handle, but the Class B No. 1-rated Bearcats (Omaha World-Herald) came up big down the stretch. Although Kelly Walsh cut the deficit to just 48-43 heading into the final quarter, Scottsbluff managed to stay in front. Solid free-throw shooting in the final minutes helped the Bearcats prevail.
“We did a really nice job of playing with a lead in the second half,” said Siske, whose team led 34-24 at halftime. “We finished the first half on a 10-0 run to take a 10-point lead. Then we came out and played really well with a lead in the second half.”
A big reason Scottsbluff was able to stay in front in the second half was that it turned the ball over just five times the entire game.
“We just did an excellent job of taking care of the ball,” Siske said. “We played the way you need to play to win a game like that.”
Kelly Walsh got off to a nice start, jumping out to a 16-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. Kelly Walsh continued to play right with Scottsbluff until the Bearcats’ late surge to end the second quarter.
“They’re a good team,” Siske said of Kelly Walsh. “They run their motion offense very well, and then they’re just a sound defensive team. We had to earn all of our points. We shot the ball well, and a lot of those were contested shots. Our guys stepped up and made big shots.”
Moreno paced Scottsbluff’s offensive attack with 29 points. He was particularly effective from long range, burying five of his six 3-point attempts. He was 8 of 11 from the field overall.
“He had a great game,” Siske said. “He was very efficient.”
Six other Bearcats reached the scoring column, including Taylor Winkler, who nailed two treys on his way to scoring 10 points. Tyler Mickey also hit two 3-pointers and finished with nine points. Jackson Hinze added eight points, and he also collected seven rebounds, seven assists and committed no turnovers.
Scottsbluff will look to maintain its unbeaten record Friday when it travels to Chadron.
Scottsbluff............................13 21 14 15—63
Casper Kelly Walsh.......................16 8 19 6—49
Beau Lofink 3, Austin Clarkson 2, Eric Moreno 29, Matthew Mickey 2, Tyler Mickey 9, Jackson Hinze 8, Taylor Winkler 10.