Bison-Bearcat showdown for boys B-6 District title
SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. -- Hollywood screen writers couldn't write a more fitting script to the end to the boys Class B-6 District basketball tournament.
Two of the top teams in the state will clash Tuesday, Feb. 26, in Scottsbluff to decide the B-6 District title and the automatic berth in the Class B state tournament at Lincoln March 7-9. McCook and Scottsbluff will tip-off at 8 p.m. Central time at the Cougar Palace on the Western Nebraska Community College campus in Scottsbluff.
The Bison and Bearcats each won semifinal contest Monday, Feb. 25, at the WNCC gym. McCook, the second seed, exploded for a 75-36 win over third seed Sidney in the second semifinal. Top seed Scottsbluff eliminated fifth seed Alliance, 76-55, in Monday's opening semifinal action.
McCook enters Tuesday's district title game with an 18-6 record, while defending Class B state champion Scottsbluff is 20-5.
The Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference rivals split two games this season. McCook won the first battle, a 59-45 decision in the third-place finals of the GNAC Tournament at Columbus Dec. 29. Scottsbluff claimed the last confrontation in a 60-57 double-overtime victory in the middle game of the East-West Shootout Feb. 8 at the McCook Senior High gym.
MOST McCOOK FANS, and probably the entire Bison team, were probably expecting a tough battle from the Red Raiders Monday. But the Bison simply pulled away from Sidney after a close first quarter that saw the Bison lead 17-10. McCook outscored the Raiders 16-3 in the second period to build a 33-13 lead at the halftime break.
Sidney battled in the third quarter, as McCook outscored the Red Raiders 22-19 to make the score 55-32 entering the final period. The Bison outscored Sidney 20-4 in the last eight minutes to pull away.
Coach Yilk said Sidney did not hit a 3-point shot in Monday's contest in more than 20 attempts. He was also surprised by his team's margin of victory. The Bison beat host Sidney, 47-36, in a regular-season contest Jan. 5.
"That was totally unexpected in terms of the point differential," Yilk said. "Also, the fact that they didn't hit a single 'three' the entire game kind of blew me away. I didn't realize until after the game that they were 0-for-20 something from the 3-point line. That's a big part of their offense, and when they're not hitting threes that's to our favor."
During a phone interview from Scottsbluff late Monday night, the Bison coach didn't have game statistics in hand. But he said his team shot over 50 percent from the floor against Sidney.
Yilk also said the McCook defensive effort was a key to victory.
"Give credit to our kids in terms of their defense," he said. "We did a lot of good things as far as contesting their shots. We out-rebounded them. Those are all big, key stats for us in terms of getting a win."
McCook had five players score in double figures, led by Mack Alspaugh with 16 points. Austin Cherry had 15 points, Zayne Gillen added 13 points. Sean Backer had 12 points and Cody Wudtke had 10. Lucas Post also chipped in 8 points for the Bison.
Sidney was led by Lane Harvey with 8 points.
THERE ARE SIX Class B boys district tournaments being contested this week across the state. The six district champions plus two wild-card teams will compete at the Class B state tournament at Lincoln March 7-9. The wild card teams will be the two highest ranked teams in the Nebraska School Activities Association power point standings after district champions are determined.
After Monday's Class B boys district semifinal action at six sites around the state, Scottsbluff was second in the NSAA Class B power points with an average of 43.9600. McCook was fourth at 43.5000, just behind Elkhorn South (18-5) at 43.6957. Elkhorn South led the power point standings entering Monday's action, but the Storm was upset by Gretna, 55-50, in the B-2 District semifinals at Omaha Northwest Monday night.
Ralston (19-5) moved into the top spot with an average of 44.0417. The Rams ended Omaha Skutt Catholic's season Monday with a 49-40 decision in the B-2 District semifinal Monday. Ralston will face Gretna Tuesday for the state meet berth from the B-2 District.
McCook would be rooting for Ralston to win, freeing up another wild card berth for state. The results of several other Class B district finals Tuesday will also have an effect on the wild-card situation for McCook and several other teams.
Forget all the mathematical possibilities for the Bison's wild card chances. Coach Yilk and his team is focusing on beating Scottsbluff, winning the B-6 District title and qualifying for state -- thus eliminating any wild-card implications for McCook.
"The big thing here is, we've got to go one game at a time, take care of our business (Tuesday) night," Yilk said. "We're going to do whatever we can to try and cut down the nets and win the district championship. I know Scottsbluff feels the same way. We've just got to be in control of our own destiny. We can't rely on anybody else in this situation -- we've just got to take care of ourselves."
THE FIRST-YEAR McCook head coach took a preview look at his team's Tuesday's district final against the Bearcats.
"It's going to come down to who's getting the key defensive stops and who's going to hit big-time buckets," Yilk said. "It's just going to go back and forth. Both teams are going to go on runs, and it's going to be important that we answer every time. Hopefully take our chances with them not hitting as many 'threes' as they have been hitting here lately."
While Scottsbluff will have the "home-court" advantage playing at the WNCC gym, Coach Yilk knows his team will be ready to battle.
"We'll play anybody anywhere," he said.
Hopefully for the Bison that includes games in Lincoln next week.
CLASS B-6 BOYS DISTRICT BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
Saturday-Tuesday, Feb. 23-26, At Cougar Palace
Western Nebraska C.C., Scottsbluff
(Team's district seed, won-loss record in parenthesis)
Saturday, Feb. 23 1st-Round Results
Alliance 77, Gering 76 (2 OT)
Monday, Feb. 25 Semifinal Results
Scottsbluff 74, Alliance 55
McCook 75, Sidney 36
Tuesday, Feb. 26 Finals
Scottsbluff (#1, 20-5) vs McCook (#2, 18-6), 8 p.m. CST
Scottsbluff-McCook winner qualifies for Class B Boys State Tournament at Lincoln March 7-9