CHADRON — Scottsbluff’s desperation 3-point shot from the top of the key swirled in and out of the basket here Friday night as the buzzer was about to sound and the Chadron Cardinals upset the Bearcats 56-55 in a Western Conference matchup.
The Cardinals are now 5-1 and the Bearcats 6-1.
The game was a thriller all the way. Neither team ever led by more than three points in the first half, when Scottsbluff went to the locker room with a 26-25 lead, thanks to a 3-pointer by Jackson Hinze with 1:35 to play in the half.
The third period was a big one for the Cardinals. They scored seven of the first 10 points to go on top 36-32 and never trailed the rest of the way as they kept the visitors off-guard with their quickness and scrappiness.
Chadron stretched the advantage to 47-36 with a minute to play in the third period, but Scottsbluff tallied the final four points of the quarter to cut the difference o 47-40 heading in the final period.
The fourth frame began with 5-foot-8 senior Vonsihn Sayaloune sinking a 3-pointer from the corner after spending much of the third stanza on the bench with three fouls.
Sayaloune’s trey put Chadron back up by 10, but Scottsbluff scored the next six points. There would be no more breathing room for the Cardinals.
A 3-pointer by Scottsbluff’s Trent Harris with 2:02 to play slashed Chadron’s lead to 54-51. The Cards retaliated with a driving layup by Jackson Dickerson.
After Chadron missed a free throw with a minute to play and the Bearcats grabbed the rebound, Scottsbluff’s deadeye free throw shooter, Dru Kuxhausen, hit two to cut the difference to 56-53 with 46 seconds remaining.
Next, the Bearcats double-teamed a Chadron ball-handler, forced a loose ball at midcourt and Kuxhausen cashed in the chips on a layup with 35 second remaining to make the score the final 56-55.
Despite the lack of points, there was still plenty of tension remaining.
A Chadron player was fouled and missed another free throw just five seconds later. The Bearcats again got the rebound, but after working the ball around, missed a shot at about the 10 second mark.
A Scottsbluff player got the rebound, but the Cardinals’ defense kept the Bearcats from getting a “good” shot and Harris was finally forced to fling up an off-balance attempt from the top of the key. The ball hit the rim and seemed likely to fall thought the nets, but it swirled out.
Chadron got this rebound, but there wouldn’t have been enough time for another shot even if the Bearcats had grabbed it.
“I’m really happy for our kids,” said Chadron coach Eric Calkins. “We don’t have much size (no starter over 6-1), but they’re competitive and know how to be relaxed, but still play hard. We lost to Sidney 51-49 in the Western Conference Tournament and remember how much that hurt. Tonight, we got to find out how nice it is to win a game like this.
“Everybody knows Scottsbluff has an outstanding team,” Calkins added. “Now we’ll have to get fired up again for tomorrow night (tonight) and play hard again or Gering will knock us off.”
Kuxhausen, who was eight-of-eight from the free throw line, finished with a game-high 18 points while Harris tallied 16. The 6-6 Austin Clarkson chipped in seven, neither he nor the 6-8 Walker who was limited to five points, was able to dominate on the inside despite their height advantage.
Chadron got a dozen points from both Taylor Wild and Sayaloune, 10 from Jayden Stack, eight from Keenan Johnson and seven from Dickerson.
Calkins said the sophomores Marcus Fernandez and Michael Gieseler gave the Cardinals some “big minutes” in the second period after Johnson and Sayaloune were called for their second fouls and went to the bench. Fernandez sank a pair of mid-range jumpers and Gieseler swished a 3-pointer while also helping with the ball handling and pressure defense that the Cards used to keep the Bearcats from getting many open looks or work the ball inside.
Scottsbluff...................14 15 11 15 — 55
Chadron......................11 17 19 9 — 56
S: Dru Kuxhausen 18, Trent Harris 16, Austin Clarkson 7, Jackson Hinze 5, Landon Walker 5, Dillon Hernandez 4.
C: Taylor Wild 12, Vonsihn Sayaloune 12, Jayden Stack 10, Keenan Johnson 8, Jackson Dickerson 7, Marcus Fernandez 4, Michael Gieseler 3.
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