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Lady Raiders Tear Through Western Conference Tournament

SCOTTSBLUFF--The Cougar Palace at WNCC in Scottsbluff was the setting on Saturday for the finals matchups that had both the Sidney teams face off against rival Scottsbluff for championship honors in the Western Conference Tournament. Both teams breezed past their earlier round opponents, but in the finals games, there were two very different results.

The Lady Raiders had no trouble getting past first round opponent Mitchell at Gering on January 25 by a score of 80-to-14. The Sidney girls followed that performance up with a 56-to-41 win against Gering at Scottsbluff High School on Friday. On Saturday, the Lady Raiders then had their finals showdown with a talented Scottsbluff team, but the Sidney girls showed themselves to be the class of the Panhandle with a convincing win, 51-to-43.

The contest started as a low-scoring affair, with both defenses playing well, preventing the opposing offenses from going on any significant runs. Sidney was able to open a 10-to-2 lead, but the Scottsbluff girls battled back to narrow the score to 10-to-7 at the end of the first period. Scottsbluff started the second period hot, connecting on a field goal and then a three-point shot to take a 12-to-10 lead, but Sidney senior Karsyn Leeling tied the game at 12-to-12 with a layup, and junior Kayla Westby put Sidney in the lead by burying a three-point shot. The Lady Raiders never trailed after taking the lead, and continued to score. Westby connected on two more three-point attempts in the period, and the Lady Raiders took a 26-to-18 lead into the intermission.

Sidney's defense put the clamps down on the Lady Bearcats in the third period, giving the Scottsbluff girls no good looks and challenging every shot. Sidney did a great job in the paint, dominating the action and capitalizing on second and third chance scoring opportunities. Scottsbluff started to force long-range shots with little effect, and only a controversial three point shot that appeared to be launched after the buzzer kept Scottsbluff from being down by 21 points going into the final frame.

The fourth quarter was a different story, however, as Sidney could not get the ball to fall through the hoop. Scottsbluff chipped away at the lead, but elected not to press while Sidney's offense faltered. Sidney earned their first points of the quarter with 2:05 left in the game, moving the score to 47-to-35. Scottsbluff started to press late, but it was too late to make up the deficit, and Sidney scored enough to hold off the late rally, taking the victory 51-to-43. Westby led the Sidney scoring with 12 points, and junior Ryan Dillehay had 11 points in the win, which keeps Sidney undefeated at 18-and-0 and ranked number 1 in Class C1.

For the Red Raider boys team, they too had an easy path to the finals game, cruising past Alliance 72-to-41 on January 25 at Gering High School, and then notching a 66-to-53 win over North Platte at Scottsbluff High School on January 26. Saturday's matchup had them facing off with the 13-and-4 Scottsbluff Bearcats at WNCC. Scottsbluff started hot, opening a 17-to-9 lead before Sidney chipped away to narrow the lead to 19-to-14 at the end of the first period. The Bearcats capitalized on some three point connections early, while the Red Raiders had difficulty making their shots. In the second quarter, Sidney was able to get settled and started to score, but multiple misses at the free throw line would foreshadow a problem that would prove to be the difference in the game.

Sophomore Keian Kaiser had a tremendous game, driving the offense and establishing his presence under the boards. Sidney's athleticism helped them nibble away at the Scottsbluff lead, and at the half, the Raider were up by a score of 31-to-29. More importantly, the Red Raider defense kept Scottsbluff's sensational sophomore Nate Kelley scoreless through the half. The second half opened with Sidney extending their lead to five points after senior Isak Doty buried a deep three-point shot, but the Bearcats fought back, eventually tying the game at 38-to-38. Kelley started to get involved with the Bearcat offense, and both teams battled through the rest of the third quarter. The frame ended with Scottsbluff holding a 45-to-43 lead. It was Scottsbluff, however, that played the better fourth quarter, capitalizing on second chance points and stifling the Sidney offense. Kelley scored the majority of his 17 total points down the stretch, hitting shots at crucial times to stem potential Sidney rallies. Sidney's futility at the free throw line turned out to be the difference maker, as they struggled to connect from the charity stripe. The Scottsbluff offense continued to score and weathered a few Sidney attempts to chop down the lead, while the Raiders fell behind. Scottsbluff took the victory with a 7-point, 67-to-60 victory.

Kaiser had a tremendous game with a double-double, scoring 24 points and snatching 10 rebounds. However, he had great difficulty at the free throw line. That difficulty seemed to be contagious, as the Sidney team as a whole struggled with their free throws. The Red Raiders will get a chance to avenge this loss on Saturday, as the Raider teams host the Bearcat teams at the Cabela's Athletic Center. Prior to those matchups, the Raider teams travel to Gering on Friday to battle against the Bulldog teams.


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