Lady Raiders Return To State Tournament
Power Past Alliance In District Final
March 2, 2023
Mike Motz, Sidney Sun-Telegraph
In what was the final home game of the season for Sidney's Lady Raider Girls Basketball, the team sailed past Alliance Saturday afternoon at the Cabela's Athletic Center to take the B-3 District Crown and secure their place at the NSAA State Tournament. The Lady Raiders earned the No. 3 seed, and will face No. 6 seed Beatrice at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday, March 2, at 7:45 p.m. CT, 6:45 p.m. MT.
Although the Lady Raiders sailed through their season with only one loss, they had to face rival Scottsbluff in the finals of the B-8 Subdistrict tournament, and for the fourth time in a row, lost to the Lady Bearcats at Sidney High School. Sidney started the game last Tuesday, February 14, playing well, but after building a 13-to-11 lead after the first period, found themselves behind about halfway through the second period. Scottsbluff did a great job on defense, aggressively pressuring the Lady Raiders and effectively blocking the paint with 6' 1" junior Paige Horne. The Lady Bearcats ended up taking a 27-to-25 lead into the halftime break.
Scottsbluff extended their lead early in the third period, but Sidney fought back and tied the game late in the third period at 37-to-37 when sophomore Carli Black hit a fade-away jump shot. But the Lady Raiders could not score any more points in the period, and trailed 43-to-37 at the end of the third period. Sidney pulled to within one point early in the fourth quarter when senior Reese Riddle hit a three point shot to close the gap to 43-to-42, and it was starting to look like Scottsbluff would not be able to hold their lead. The Lady Raiders hung around, but were ineffective around the basket and the Scottsbluff defense created turnovers and forced bad passes. In the final minutes, the Scottsbluff team hit their free throws to extend their narrow lead, and took away a 57-to-46 victory. Although the girls were despondent after losing to their rivals, who they had easily beaten twice earlier in the season, they knew that their strong record would secure them a home court District Final game, regardless of the outcome of the game. Senior Reese Riddle led the Lady Raiders with 19 points followed by sophomore Jordan DeNovellis with 12 points. Paige Horn led the Lady Bearcats with 12 points.
Sidney then drew Alliance as their opponent in the district Final game on Saturday afternoon, another well-known opponent that Sidney had easily beaten twice earlier in the season. However, Saturday's District final match started with sloppy offensive performances by both teams, as the defenses prevented good looks at the basket and generated turnovers, while both teams kept missing easy scoring opportunities. The Lady Raiders appeared tight and slightly out of sync, firing off passes that missed the mark and trying too hard to pass the ball inside only to have the Lady Bulldogs grab it or knock it away. The low-scoring first period ended with the Lady Raiders leading 11-to-9.
This style of play continued into the second period, with Sidney missing easy scoring chances while the Lady Bulldogs kept turning the ball over. Both teams drew a good amount of fouls, but Sidney finally seemed to relax and get settled in during the last half of the period. Sidney's four point lead expanded to seven when junior Karsyn Leeling buried a three-point shot as time expired in the half to give the Lady Raiders a 22-to-15 lead at the break. Both teams played solid defense in the first half, but Sidney's offense was just a little better. However, with the amount of opportunities they had and with so many missed shots, Sidney should have been ahead by 20 points at this stage of the contest.
The third period did not start any better for Sidney as Alliance was able to manage four points in the early going while the Lady Raiders were stuck on 22 points. Finally, at about 3:30 of the third period, Sidney scored their first points of the second half when sophomore Kayla Westby drained a three-point shot to give Sidney a 25-to-19 advantage. Sidney's other problem was their inability to convert free-throws, with their usually steady shooters unable to cash in at the charity stripe. However, as the period wound down, Riddle, then Westby, then junior Chloe Ahrens, senior Rheagan Stanley and sophomore Jordan DeNovellis were able to convert field goals and pulled away, leading the Alliance girls 35-to-21 at the end of the period.
Alliance tried to rally and go on a run, but the Sidney defense held firm, and the Lady Raiders started to convert more effectively, and pulled away. Senior Rheagan Stanley sealed away the win when she converted six free throws in a row in the final minutes to give Sidney the 45-to-27 victory, and the B-3 District Championship. Stanley led the way with 11 points in a game that featured the Sidney defense, while the offense managed to be just good enough to win.
As girls celebrated their victory, it was clear that this team is not satisfied with just a District Title, but look to make some noise in Class B at the State Tournament. The have a relatively familiar opponent in Beatrice, a team Sidney has faced in District Finals and in the State Tournament. The Lady Orange go into the tournament with a 17-and-4, with some good wins over some tough teams. The team has good size and is coached well, but overall this is a team that Sidney should beat if they play under control and get their shots to fall. The Lady Raiders need to control the game with their effective and patient passing game, and lock down Beatrice with their aggressive defense. This looks to be the best chance a Lady Raider team has to get past the quarterfinals in the NSAA Tournament since their talented 2019 team lost to Elkhorn South in the first round.