Mike Motz, Sidney Sun -Telegraph
Sidney's Red Raider Boys Basketball team ended their season on Wednesday, March 8 by losing in the first round to the NSAA Class C1 State Basketball Tournament, at the Devaney Center, in Lincoln. 20-and-6 Sidney had the misfortune, as the number 8 seed, of drawing defending C1 State Champion and number one seed Ashland-Greenwood with a 24-and-2 season record. The Bluejays were well-known as a very technically solid team with a ferocious defense, and the Red Raiders would need to play their best game to get past this challenge.
Prior to the game, Sidney Head Coach Austin Lewis said "We need to limit them to one shot and take good shots ourselves." His team would need to play really well to keep up with Ashland-Greenwood. Lewis did predict half of that equation correctly.
After winning the tip-off, Sidney had their first try on offense that ended with a missed three point shot by junior Isak Doty. The Bluejays rebounded the ball and took it back for a quick two points. After Sidney turned over the ball, they got it right back causing a turnover of their own.
Sophomore Landon Riddle tried to cut through the paint for a score but the pass to him was deflected and stolen by the Bluejays, who traveled up the court for another two points. Sidney then got on the board with a layup by senior Jaeden Dillehay. Sidney then turned the ball over again against the Bluejay's pressure, and were then down 2-to-7. The first period was a defensive struggle the whole way, with Sidney having difficulty getting shots off, while limiting the Bluejays to just one shot on offense with their strong defensive play. Lewis freely substituted from early on to get different looks and change up their sets, but the story of the game was already being written. Sidney struggled to get shots off and missed, while the Bluejays were making the most of their one-shot and done offense. At the end of the first period, Sidney found themselves in a 13-to-4 hole.
Sidney tried to cut into the lead in the second quarter, with senior Micah Schneider firing off three point shots that missed. Additionally, the Sidney boys were not getting many second chance opportunities, and when they did, the ball refused to fall through the hoop. Again, the Red Raider defense did a great job limiting the Bluejay's scoring opportunities, but the Ashland-Greenwood boys were getting the ball to fall more consistently and were able to get inside and score in the paint. About halfway through the second period, Sidney starting senior Jacob Dowse picked up his third foul, putting him on the bench for the rest of the half and taking away a big Sidney scoring threat and inside defender. Sidney had trouble getting inside for easy points while the Bluejays were able to consistently drive the lane and cash in on high-percentage shots. Sidney went into the halftime break down 27-to-10.
The Red Raiders have been a team all season that would go on runs and put up big scoring numbers, especially in the third quarter, and they needed a big run to start the second half to get back into the game. It did not happen.
The Bluejays picked up were they left off to start the second half, moving their offense well and getting good looks while totally shutting down the Sidney offense. Sidney scored one point early in the third period on a Jacob Dowse free throw, but that was all they would score in the quarter, and they trailed 41-to-11 going into the final period.
Sidney was forced to fire off three point shots, in the fourth quarter, to have any chance of getting within striking distance, and a few three point buckets by Doty and Dillehay brought them to the 20 point mark. But the Bluejays had no let down on offense and continued to beat the Raiders inside to keep their lead. Sidney did outscore Ashland-Greenwood 17-to-11 in the fourth quarter, but that was after the Bluejays had cleared their benches and the game was out of reach for Sidney. The Red Raiders fell by a final score of 52-to-28, ending their season with a 20-and-7 record. Dillehay led Sidney with 13 points, followed by Doty with 12 and Dowse was held to just one point on a free-throw conversion in the loss.
Ashland-Greenwood would go on to face the undefeated Ogallala team in the semi-finals, and held the Indians to just 20 points in a 50-to-20 win. They then moved on the the championship game and defeated Auburn 54-to-24 for their second consecutive State Title.
Sidney had a fine season, compiling their best record since 2016 and a State Tournament appearance. But they, like many other western and panhandle teams, need to figure out how to match up effectively against the elite teams of the east.