NORTH PLATTE, Neb. -- Scottsbluff brought its lofty No. 2 ranking in Class B, 17-3 record and riding a five-game win streak into the Dawg House on Saturday afternoon to take on North Platte in the final game of the East-West Shootout. Although the Bearcats dominated the opening quarter and led 21-15 at the end of one, the Bulldogs forged back to get their 15th win of the year against just five losses with the 65-45 win.
The turning point in the game came in the second quarter as the Bulldogs held the Bearcats to just five points while putting up18 of their own in collecting their eighth consecutive win.
North Platte's Shane Mauch opened the quarter with an old-fashioned 3-point play on an assist from Luke Wright followed by a Kade Erickson jumper from the left elbow. After the Bearcats Eric Moreno hit a 3, the Bulldogs went on a 13-0 run that would eventually lead to a 33-26 half-time advantage.
Erickson scored on a Drew Callaghan assist to open the run and then came probably the biggest basket of the night for North Platte. Jack Kenny was leading a Bulldogs fast break when he went under the basket, turned and fed Callaghan for a dunk that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
“I can't tell you, looking back, how huge of play that was,” said North Platte coach Matt Kaminski. “It got everybody excited — and it elevated our spirits. That was at the beginning of a super run because our intensity and focus really picked up.”
On Scottsbluff's next possession, the Bulldogs forced a turnover and when Callaghan scored on a put back the Bulldogs had their first lead of the afternoon at 25-24 with 2 minutes, 51 seconds left in the half.
Kenny scored next from 12 feet on a Callaghan assist and on the next trip down the floor hit a step-back 3. Erickson finished the run as he drove the baseline for two.
Scottsbluff coach Tony Siske said his team needed to gamble by taking away the Bulldogs inside game.
“Kenny and Erickson made tough shots for them,' Siske said. “We're pretty undersized, we had to do something to take away the middle and we did a pretty good job for the most part holding Callaghan to five.
“Wright got some on us but I thought we had to start with Callaghan and take him away and force them to shoot 3s and hopefully contest them.”
Both squads traded baskets in the third quarter with the Bulldogs holding a 17-15 edge, but North Platte's defense proved too much for Scottsbluff, holding the Bearcats to just four fourth-quarter points.
“They didn't shoot the ball well tonight,” Kaminski said. “When you hold Scottsbluff to 45 points it says something about your defense.
“They are averaging 63 points a game but we were bothering them a little and getting in their bubble and making it difficult. I thought we did it under control and just gave a super effort.”
Erickson led the Bulldogs with 24 points, hitting on six-of-nine two-point shots and was four-of-seven from behind the arc. Kenny added 16 points for the Bulldogs as he shot a perfect three-for-three on 3s. Wright was the Bulldogs third player in double figures with 11 points and he also grabbed five rebounds.
Although being held to five points, Callaghan led North Platte with 12 rebounds and had two blocked shots.
he Bearcats (17-4) got out to a quick start in quarter one led by 6-foot, 3-inch senior Michael Hadden. Hadden continually took the ball to the hoop forcing the Bulldogs to foul. Hadden scored 13 of his 17 points in the opening quarter, seven from the line.
“That's the way we had to play,” Siske said. “We had to come out and attack them. We got to the free throw line early and couldn't have asked for a better start.
“He's a great player for us, it's his fourth year of varsity basketball,” Siske said of Hadden. “We try to run a lot for him and try to get him the ball in spots where he can be successful. We ask a lot of him and he carried us early but it got a little tougher for him as the game went on.”
Hadden's success in the first quarter forced the Bulldogs to change their defensive strategy.
“I don't think we did a very good job of giving them space,” said Kaminski. “They were getting to the paint and we were reaching and probably shouldn't have.
“Then the kids backed off and contained the dribble very well after the first quarter, rotated well and played good team defense and communicated at a high level.”
With just two games remaining on the Bulldogs regular schedule next weekend, Kaminski likes his team's chances when they work as a unit.
“All six of our guys are playing at a high level and making an impact in the best way they can,” Kaminski said. “The things these kids do individually just make us a great unit.
“They complement each other and are playing well together and we just have to keep it rolling to make a good post-season run.”
North Platte (15-5)................15 18 17 15 — 65
Scottsbluff (17-4)..................21 5 19 4 — 45
NP: (2 pt, 3 pt, ft, pts) Shane Mauch 1, 2, 1/1, 9; Kade Erickson 6, 4, 0/0, 24; Jack Kenny 3, 3, 1/2, 16; Drew Callaghan 2, 0, 1/2, 5; Luke Wright 4, 0, 3/3, 11.
S: Taylor Winkler 1, 1, 0/0, 5; Matthew Mickey 1, 0, 0/0, 2; Matthew Klein 2, 1, 0/0, 7; Eric Moreno 4, 1, 3/3, 14; Michael Hadden 5, 0, 7/7, 17.