State ratings, lofty records, and key wild card points will be just a few things on the line when the Sidney and Chadron girls basketball teams take the court against each other for the second time this season tonight in Chadron.
Sidney brings with it a 12-3 record and a No. 8 rating in Class B by the Omaha World-Herald, while Chadron owns a mark of 14-1 and a No. 2 rating in Class C-1.
Tip off between the region’s top two teams is scheduled for around 7:30 p.m.
“These are the games that you want to play in,” Sidney coach Tyler Shaw said. “Since we’re not in the same district, it’s a good opportunity for both teams to play at a high level and gear up for February basketball.”
The first meeting of the season between the squads went in favor of the Cardinals in the championship game of the Western Conference Invitational Tournament back on Dec. 1 in Scottsbluff. After trailing for much of the first half, Chadron managed to pull away for a 54-45 victory. Ashlea Kerr ended with 28 points for the victorious Cardinals.
Despite falling short on the scoreboard in that game, the Red Raiders proved to be one of the few teams this season to play the Cardinals within single digits. In fact, the closeness of that contest showed how competitive the Sidney-Chadron match ups have been recently.
“Sidney’s a team that has given us fits over the last couple years,” Chadron coach Curt Holmquist said. “It’s just always a good match up. I know it’s a game that our girls look forward to playing in. I’m sure the Sidney girls are also looking forward to it.”
After suffering its only loss of the season against Rapid City St. Thomas More right before Christmas break, the Cardinals have won six straight by large margins. The closest of those was a 20-point win over Gering last Friday. Chadron cracked the 80-point mark for the third time this season in an 80-44 victory over Gordon-Rushville on Tuesday.
Chadron’s ability to win game after game by huge point totals has been largely due to its tall and athletic roster that creates mismatches on both ends of the court. The Cardinals’ knack for turning turnovers into bushels of points with a smothering full-court press has been a big challenge for opposing coaches to counter.
“Their length and ability to press in the full court make it so difficult to play them,” Shaw said. “You have to take care of the ball against Chadron. If you don’t, it’s easy for the game to get away from you in a hurry. Sometimes it’s easy to lose focus if you turn the ball over against them and give them those runs that can add up quickly. You have to minimize those runs and get stops. That’s really difficult to do against them.”
While Chadron has feasted on other teams’ inability to handle the ball against its press this season, that wasn’t exactly the case against the Raiders in their first contest. Holmquist said the ball-handling skills of Sidney’s veteran guards are very impressive.
“Their guard play is a big strength for them,” Holmquist said. “They handle our press as well as any team does, so it’s a challenge for us to do some things to slow them down.”
Sidney enters tonight’s game on the heels of four straight wins all by double figures. Other than to Chadron, the Raiders’ only other losses this season have been to fellow state-rated McCook and undefeated Douglas, Wyo.
After playing at Chadron tonight, Sidney will turn around and play at Hershey on Saturday. The Panthers are 13-3 this season and rated No. 5 in Class C-2.
“This is a gauntlet of a weekend for us with two road games against state-ranked teams that have very good and dynamic basketball players,” Shaw said. “We just have to play solid for four quarters [tonight], which is really tough to do against them. They do such a good job of getting you out of your game if you play a little bit faster than you want to play.”
Chadron will also be back in action on Saturday at Douglas, S.D.
The Cardinals and Raiders will face off for a third and final time this season on Feb. 8 in Sidney.
“Coach Shaw always has a great game plan and his girls seem to always follow through with it,” Holmquist said. “We know we have to be ready to play because Sidney is definitely going to come in here ready to play.”