Class B No. 5 Scottsbluff made the long trip to the eastern part of the state this weekend and opened its road trip with a 62-49 win at No. 9 Waverly on Friday night.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
Friday was a busy day at Waverly High School as the Vikings hosted the EMC Dual Championships in the main gym. That meant Waverly had to squeeze the basketball games into the auxiliary gym with seating on just one side of the gym.
It made for a great setting with the bleachers full and two competitive varsity games. First, the girls pulled out a 36-33 win as Payton Burda hit a pair of go-ahead free throws to break a late tie. Then the Bearcat boys took care of business as well despite the Vikings making multiple runs in the second half with the home crowd cheering them on.
Scottsbluff travels well and there were plenty of fans in red in the stands. Now they’ll follow the team to Crete on Saturday for an afternoon tip against the 9-1 Cardinals, led by former Scottsbluff head coach Tony Siske, before heading back to the Panhandle.
Game of Runs
Friday’s game went back and forth all night long, and the team who went on the final run is the one who secured victory.
First, Scottsbluff closed the first quarter on a 9-0 run featuring points from four different players to build an 18-8 lead. The Vikings fired back with an 11-4 stretch to open the second quarter, cutting the deficit down to three, but Scottsbluff settled in and took a 32-26 lead into halftime.
Waverly came out of the locker room fired up, ripping off eight straight points to take the lead, but it didn’t last long as Scottsbluff answered with a 13-2 run including a deep 3 and a breakaway dunk from senior Kellon Harris.
Scottsbluff led 47-39 at the end of the third before Waverly made one last run, cutting the deficit down to five at 50-45 midway through the fourth. However, Scottsbluff slammed the door shut with an 11-2 run with the last nine points coming at the foul line. The Bearcats went 11-15 from the charity stripe in the fourth to seal the win.
Scottsbluff lost its top two scorers to graduation from a state tournament qualifier last year, including a dynamic point guard in Austin Thyne.
However, freshman Nate Kelley has stepped into Thyne’s place and the Bearcats are off to an 8-3 start with Kelley regularly scoring in double figures.
The 5-foot-10 lead guard finished with 14 points on 4-of-5 from the field and 6-of-8 from the foul line, four rebounds, two assists and just one turnover against Waverly. He hit some tough shots, including a jumper to beat the buzzer at the end of the third quarter. He went 5-for-6 at the foul line in the fourth quarter to help seal the lead. He also took on a tough defensive assignment and did a really good job one-on-one, working hard to slide his feet and stay in front of his man.
Kelley will certainly be one to watch over the next three-and-a-half years.
With that 9-0 run to end the first quarter and a 3-for-11 shooting performance in the first eight minutes, it looked like the Vikings were cruising for a blowout.
Then senior Preston Harms got a bucket to go at the basket, and that’s all he needed to get hot. Harms got to the basket again for another tough bucket, then he hit a pull-up in the lane, then he knocked down a pair of 3s then he scored another bucket inside the arc.
In total, Harms scored 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting in the second quarter, almost single-handedly getting the Vikings back into the game and giving him a game-high 17 points in the first half. Unfortunately, halftime cooled him down as he didn’t get a shot to go down in the second half.
Still, the Doane commit can catch fire like few others and when he’s hot, it’s going to give the Vikings a chance to compete with most of the teams on their schedule.
Total Team Effort
Harms led all scorers with 17 points and fellow senior guard AJ Heffelfinger added 16 points including 12 in the second half, but the rest of the team combined for just 16 points and it took Heffelfinger and Harms 35 shots to score their 33 points as the Bearcats loaded up their defense against the dynamic duo.
Conversely, Scottsbluff only used seven players, but all seven of them scored. Harris led the team with 16 points 6-of-9 from the field including 2-of-3 from deep and 2-of-4 from the free-throw line. Kelley scored an efficient 14 points as mentioned above, but those two received plenty of support as well.
Tate Talkington stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Carter Reisig scored nine points ooff the bench, shooting 2-of-3 from deep and 3-of-4 from the line. Kaeden Patton scored six, Tyson Klein chipped in five off the bench while going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the fourth and Michael Mickey knocked down a big 3-pointer in the second quarter after Waverly had pulled within three.
Scottsbluff shot 50% from the field including 40% from 3 with four different Bearcats connecting from deep. Friday was a total team effort for Scottsbluff.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.