After getting off to a slow start in its first game, the Chadron High School boys’ basketball team made big gains during the Western Conference Tournament that opened the season in Gering and Scottsbluff last weekend.
The Cardinals scored just 30 points in its first game on Thursday, a 51-30 loss to Scottsbluff.
Coach Mitch Barry’s team also trailed 24-20 at halftime against Sidney on Friday and was behind 35-30 through three quarters, but outscored the Red Raiders 17-5 in the fourth stanza to post a confidence-building 47-40 victory.
The Red Birds really came alive on Saturday while tangling with Mitchell in the game to decide third place. The game was a shootout. Mitchell led much of the way, owning a 36-31 halftime lead, but the Cardinals had four players score in double-figures, finished strong again and won 79-72.
A team that scored only 30 points it its first game, poured in 263% more points two days later.
Both the Cardinals and the Tigers shot exceptionally well, particularly from long range, combining to sink 20 three-pointers.
Barry said the Cardinals were understandably nervous entering their first game. It was the initial varsity start for three of them. Also, they were playing Scottsbluff, the biggest school in conference and a basketball powerhouse in recent years while qualifying for the state tourney nine of the last 10 seasons.
“We couldn’t get our shots to drop in that game and Scottsbluff shot the ball really well, particularly from long range,” Barry noted. “We didn’t get a hand in the face on their 3-point shots and we also turned the ball over too much. The good thing is, we played better after that.”
Scottsbluff finished with nine 3-pointers in the game.
The Bearcats jumped out to a 12-6 first quarter lead. The Cardinals did not score in the final three minutes of the quarter and also failed to score during the first three of the second frame as Scottsbluff stretched its lead to 17-6.
Chadron tallied the next five points on back-to-back layups by Xander Provance and Justus Alcorn and an Alcorn free throw. However, Scottsbluff closed out the first half with three consecutive 3-pointers, two of them by Izaiah Mendoza off the bench and the other by leading scorer Tyler Harre. The flurry gave the Bearcats a 26-11 intermission lead.
The Cards tightened the defense and outscored Scottsbluff 12-6 to cut the difference to 32-23 as the third frame was winding down. But the Bearcats exploded again, this time by sinking two more treys and adding a two-point basket, all in the final minute, for a 40-23 lead.
Scottsbluff also outscored the Cards 11-7 in the last stanza to seal its 51-30 verdict.
Harre, a 6-4 junior, led Scottsbluff with 19 points that included four 3-pointers. Mendoza sank three treys while adding 11 points. Only four Cardinals scored with Alcorn finishing with 10 points, Provance with nine, Dawson Dunbar with seven and Gaurav Chima with four.
The Chadron-Sidney game was in Gering, where both had played on Thursday. Alliance had defeated the Red Raiders 60-45 in that first-round match up.
Sidney led the Cardinals 24-20 at halftime. Chadron was on top 28-25 with four minutes left in the third period before the Raiders closed it with a 10-2 run that put them ahead 35-30 going into the final eight minutes.
That’s when the Red Birds rallied. They scored the first eight points on a layup by Alcorn, pair of free throws by both Michael Sorenson and Provance and Chima’s layup to go ahead 38-35.
The score was knotted at 40-40 with 3:35 left after Nolan Hofrock scored Sidney’s only fourth quarter points on a two-point shot and a 3-pointer that were sandwiched around Provance’s putback.
It was all Chadron the rest of the way. Alcorn scored the next four points on follow shot and a pair of free throws. Some 50 seconds later, Provance stole the ball and dunked it. After Sidney missed a pair for charity shots, Chima made one of two to wrap up the scoring.
Alcorn finished with 15 points and Provance with 14, Chima added seven and Dunbar and Sorenson each had four. Nine players scored for Sidney, led by Dylan Gunkel with nine and Hofrock with seven.
Sidney showed it wasn’t a pushover on Saturday when it beat Gering 58-49 in the game to decide fifth place.
The Chadron-Mitchell showdown to decide third place, played in Scottsbluff, was donnybrook. Both teams definitely brought their A game, undoubtedly shooting more than 50 percent from the field.
Both had a hot-handed player tally 28 points. Junior Gaurav Chima did it for Chadron, knocking down 11 field goals, six of them 3-pointers. Sophomore Easton Anderson was the big gun for Mitchell with nine field goals, eight of the treys and a pair of free throws.
It seemed that neither could miss while firing away from behind the arc.
Other players chipped in big time for both teams. Alcorn notched 18 points, 14 in the second half, Provance scored 15 and Dunbar 10 for the Cardinals. Mitchell’s other double-figure scorers were freshman Carter Reisig with 15 and senior Jaron Anderson, Easton’s older brother, with 12.
Mitchell scored 36 points in each half and led the Cardinals by five at halftime.
The Cards scored just 10 points in the second quarter, six of them on a pair of treys by Dunbar, but they came alive in the third period.
Bolstered by a pair of threes by Easton Anderson, Mitchell opened a 42-33 lead early in the third. But the Cardinals went on a 10-point surge to take their first lead of the second half.
The Tigers regained the lead at 49-47 on a Jaron Anderson layup, but Alcorn’s layup tied the score before both Chima and Easton Anderson buried a trey for a 52-52 deadlock.
Chadron took the lead for keeps when alternate Cody Hall sank a follow shot and added a free throw with 1:51 left in the third.
The Cardinals went ahead by nine--62-56--on another Chima trey two minutes into the final quarter. However, Easton Anderson answered with another of his long volleys and Reisig, the freshman, sank a three and a layup to cut the Chadron lead to 70-68 with two minutes remaining.
Chima gave the Cards some breathing room with his third trey of the quarter and then added another huge bucket with a layup off an assist from Dunbar.
Provance closed Chadron’s scoring by making two free throws with 35 seconds left and following with his third dunk of the game when Alcorn hit him with a long pass while the Tigers were pressing at the other end of the court.
Provance made seven of his eight free throws, but his teammates were just three of 15 from the line, a place where the Cardinals can improve.
Mitchell played the game without its top player, junior Austin Thyne, who sustained a sprained ankle late in its first game against Gering. The Tigers will visit the Cardinals on Jan. 9.
Scottsbluff 51, Chadron 30
Scottsbluff--Tyler Harre 19, Izaiah Mendoza 11, Tate Talkington 6, Josiah Stands 4, Trace Travnicek 4, James Bruner 4, Kellen Harris 3. Totals: 19 (9) 4-10 51 points.
Chadron--Justus Alcorn 10, Xander Provance 9, Dawson Dunbar 7, Gaurav Chima 4. 11 (1) 7-16 30 points.
Scottsbluff 12 14 14 11 ---51
Chadron 6 5 12 7 ---30
3-pointers: SB--Harre 4, Mendoza 3, Talkington 2. Chad--Dunbar 1
Chadron 47, Sidney 40
Sidney--Dylan Gunkel 8, Nolan Hofrock 7, Sawyer Dickman 6, Micah Schneider 6, Jacob Dowse 4, Conner Hartzler 3, Zack Burke 2, Jaeden Dillehay 2, Treyson Johnstone 2. Totals: 17 (1) 5-11 40 points.
Chadron--Justus Alcorn 15, Xander Provance 14, Gaurav Chima 7, Dawson Dunbar 5, Michael Sorenson 5, Brodey Planansky 1. Totals: 16 (3) 12-21 47 points.
Sidney 12 12 11 5 ---40
Chadron 11 9 10 17 ---47
3-pointers: Sidney--Hofrock 1. Chad--Alcorn, Dunbar, Sorenson, all 1
Chadron 79, Mitchell 72
Mitchell--Easton Anderson 28, Carter Reisig 15, Jaron Anderon 12, Francisco Barrios 8, Rylan Aguallo 6, Jaden Schumacher 3. Totals: 25 (11) 11-15 72 points.
Chadron--Gaurav Chima 28, Justus Alcorn 18, Xander Provance 15, Dawson Dunbar 10, Brodey Planansky 3, Cody Hall 3, Michael Sorenson 2. Totals: 30 (9) 10-23 79 points.
Mitchell 22 14 18 18 ---72
Chadron 21 10 26 22 ---79
3-pointers: E. Anderson 8, Reisig 2, Barrrios 1. Chad--Chima 6, Dunbar 2, Planansky 1.