The Alliance girls basketball team received 15 points from Morgan Anthony and used a strong second-half effort to post a 57-40 win over Scottsbluff in the opening game of the Class B, District 6 Tournament on Tuesday at Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff.
The win advances the Bulldogs into a semifinal showdown with top seed McCook on Thursday at 6 p.m. at WNCC. The other semifinal on Thursday will pit No. 2 Sidney against No. 3 Gering at 7:30 p.m. The semifinal winners will meet for the championship on Friday at 7 p.m.
Alliance coach Nate Lanik pointed to his team’s second-half performance as one of the big keys in the Bulldogs’ first-round win.
“I think in the first half all of our silly fouls put them on the free-throw line and we weren’t able to get out and run,” Lanik said. “Then in the second half we were able to get out and run and get some lay-ups and buckets. It was a sluggish first half, but the girls responded after halftime and put together a pretty good third quarter. We were able to build the lead and hang on at the end.”
Alliance moved out to a 13-4 lead after the opening eight minutes, but Scottsbluff caught fire in the second quarter to pull within 13-10. The Bulldogs held a 25-20 lead at halftime.
The second half saw Alliance pick up the pace offensively by going on an 8-1 run at the start of the third period. A 3-pointer by Andri Halouska gave the Bulldogs a 33-21 lead.
Alliance held a 41-29 advantage after three quarters.
While the third-quarter surge proved pivotal, Lanik said his team also was sparked by a strong rebounding effort.
“I think a lot of this tournament is going to come down to rebounding,” he said. “Rebounding comes down to one of two ways, either they are missing free throws or shots or we are actually getting offensive rebounds and put backs. I think we did a better job of rebounding in the second half than in the first half.”
Scottsbluff’s Toni Rosado converted an old-fashioned three-point play to keep the Bearcats within 12 about midway through the fourth quarter. However, Alliance responded to put the game away when Olivia Vogel scored four straight points.
Scottsbluff coach Mike Burda credited the play of his squad’s defense throughout the game.
“I think we did really well defensively, but we just couldn’t score,” he said. “I don’t know how many open looks we had, including put backs, that we missed. That has been our vice all season. We just struggled shooting. We know that, and that is something we have to fix next year.”
Alliance, which evened its record at 11-11 with the win, only had one player score in double figures in Anthony with 15 points. She canned three 3-pointers. Vogel chipped in nine points, while Halouska and Shae Brennan each added eight points.
Kiley Guerue led Scottsbluff in scoring with 15 points. Rosado followed with eight points and Zoe Holscher added six points.
Lanik said the Bulldogs will now get to work on a game plan for McCook. The last time the two squads played, the Bison prevailed 54-41. McCook also beat Alliance in last year’s district final.
“It is going to be one of those things that we have to go back to the grindstone and modify our game plan,” Lanik said. “We played them once this year, and it was a relativity close game throughout. We will change a few things and we anticipate that their coach will change some things as well. We’ll just go out and play basketball when they throw it up on Thursday night.”
The loss ended the Bearcats’ season at 2-21. Burda lauded the effort of his four seniors all season. They are Liz Cunningham, Lauren Miller, Alexus Pinedo, and Brayden Auer.
“Give our seniors all the credit to all the success that we have had this season because they did a good job going through a difficult season like this,” he said. “The seniors did a nice job of staying positive and keeping the team going.”
Scottsbluff (2-21) 4 15 9 11 – 40
Alliance (11-11) 13 12 16 15 – 57
Liz Cunningham 2, Alexus Pinedo 3, Zoe Holscher 6, Kiley Guerue 15, Chesney Walker 4, Aly Camacho 2, Toni Rosado 8.
Gabby Conley 5, Morgan Anthony 15, Danielle Brennan 4, Caitlyn Tritle 2, Andri Hoalouska 8, Shae Brennan 8, Rylee Trout 6, Olivia Vogel 9.