The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Stephen McKay
Sports Writer 

2015 Nebraska Class B State Tournament: Red Raiders poised for title shot

Sidney: Playing for first state basketball crown since 1981

 

Donna Wiedeburg / Special To The Sun-Telegraph

Sidney High's Tyler Wintholz drives to the basket for two of his game-high 19 points against Beatrice during Friday's state semifinal victory.

LINCOLN, Neb. – Sidney High School is in the state finals.

The No. 3-seeded Red Raiders (22-4) burst onto the state scene today by repulsing a late comeback attempt by the No. 2 Beatrice (21-2) Orangemen to reach the finals of the NSAA Class B Boys' State Basketball Championships on Friday afternoon with a 51-48 victory at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

The Raiders will meet No. 4 Elkhorn South (20-5) for the title. Elkhorn South beat top-seeded Gretna 59-58 in the other semifinal on Friday. The championship game is scheduled for Noon MDT (1 p.m. CDT) at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday.

Despite earning a third seed after an outstanding season that has now produced 22 wins, there was a fair argument that the Raiders were a legitimate underdog coming into state. They opened up against their own district champion Scottsbluff – a team that had already beaten Sidney on two of three occasions this season.

Additionally, the Bearcats were ranked third in Nebraska Class B by the Omaha World Herald on the eve of the tournament, while the Raiders were 7th. Beatrice was second ranked behind only Gretna.

Sidney is also ranked 29th in enrollment among Class B schools with 255 while Scotsbluff (613) is 6th and Beatrice (485) 13th.

But none of that mattered to the Raiders.

Sidney spent almost the entire game in the lead before Ty Bardsley of Beatrice drained a 3-pointer and was followed by a Heath Hovendick deuce for a 49-48 lead with one minute to go in the game. Sidney never wavered, however, as Cutter O'Connell took a feed from Jake Heeren and put in the go-ahead bucket.

"That was a set play," said O'Connell of his go-ahead basket. "Jake (Heeren) set me up. Jake set me up really well. That was a set back door. They deny really hard so we put in a play today to kind of help us with that pressure and it worked out."

Heeren then finished the game the way Sidney had played it from the opening tip. Calm and sure, he drained a pair of free throws with 7.3 seconds left to secure the win.

Tyler Wintholz, who led the Raiders in scoring with 19 points, was nearly unstoppable at times in the paint.

"One minute doesn't define the whole game," said Wintholz of Beatrice taking a late lead. "We played our hearts out the whole game, so that one minute didn't stop us at all."

The Raiders got off to a quick start after Wintholz converted a Lane Harvey pass and Jared Ross made it 4-0. From there the Raiders never trailed in the opening 31 minutes of the contest.

The Raiders held their biggest lead in the first quarter at five points courtesy of another Wintholz layup in the waining moments. On this occasion, Wintholz benefitted from a Brady Radcliffe pass.

Harvey was sure from the line to open the second quarter when he dropped in a pair of free throws. In that second period, the Orangemen managed to cut the gap to a single bucket after Bardsley dropped in a deuce to make it 16-14 with 3:23 left until the halftime horn.

Donna Wiedeburg - For The Sun-Telegraph

The Red Raiders' Jared Ross gets a putback against Beatrice on Friday.

Sidney, however, responded with a 6-0 run on two layups by Wintholz and another by Harvey in between.

In the middle of those buckets, Ross was busy, too. He not only assisted on Wintholz's opening bucket of the run, but he made two rejections in the defensive end which brought everyone in the crowd wearing red to their feet.

In the third quarter, Beatrice managed to cut the Raiders deficit to two at 26-24, but Sidney ended the frame with a six-point edge, 32-26. Early in the final frame, Sidney led by eight before Beatrice ran off six straight. Harvey put a stop to it with a driving, spinning move through the lane.

Later, Ross brought the large Sidney contingent to its feet in a deafening roar when he slammed home a dunk.

In addition to the 19 by points by Wintholz, O'Connell added 10 and Harvey eight.

 

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