It’s hard to say what was more impressive Friday night: Scottsbluff’s 28-point outburst in the second quarter, including a whopping seven 3-pointers, or Cheyenne East’s rally, which trimmed a 22-point deficit down to just one point late in the fourth quarter.
All that really mattered to Bearcat fans, though, was that Scottsbluff came up big at the end to hold off the vexatious Thunderbirds 71-68 at Scottsbluff High School gymnasium.
“We shot lights out in the first half, but then in the second half they turned around and did the same thing to us. So it was kind of a game of two halves,” Scottsbluff senior Michael Hadden said. “But we held on at the end, and that’s what good teams do.”
Scottsbluff might not have been able to prevail at the end if it weren’t for the spectacular performance of Hadden, who sank an array of inside and outside shots while erupting for a game-high 32 points. His big night included hitting a 3-pointer from well beyond the half-court line, a shot that gave Scottsbluff a 44-26 halftime advantage.
But while Hadden was nearly unstoppable Friday night, he wasn’t about to take the credit for Scottsbluff’s third straight victory.
“So many other guys stepped up, too,” he said. “I got my opportunities when they came, but other guys were knocking down shots, too, and that’s why we won tonight.”
Hadden was particularly effective down the stretch, tallying 11 points in the fourth quarter. He nailed all four of his free-throw attempts in the last 29 seconds, helping the Class B No. 2-rated Bearcats (Omaha World-Herald) improve their season record to 11-2.
Hadden, who finished the game 8 of 9 from the free-throw line, went to the line with 29.2 ticks left on the clock and with the Bearcats clinging to just a 67-66 lead. He calmly sank both shots go give his team a three-point cushion, but Cheyenne East answered moments later with a bucket to cut it to 69-68. The Thunderbirds fouled Hadden again with 6.5 seconds left, and the Bearcat standout drilled both of his charity tosses once again to keep his team in front by three.
“Free throws is something that we practice all the time, and it’s something that I take pride in,” Hadden said. “Anytime I step up to the line, I want to knock them down.”
Cheyenne East had a chance to send the game into overtime, but the Thunderbirds’ off-balanced 3-point attempt bounced off the rim as time expired.
“Anytime a team has a last-second shot [attempt], crazy things can happen. You see it all the time,” Hadden said. “So, when we saw it go off the rim and knew that we had the ‘W’, it was pretty relieving.”
Credit Cheyenne East for even getting into position to tie, and possibly win, the game at the end. The Thunderbirds looked like they were going to get blown away in the first half, especially when Scottsbluff pieced together a nifty 28-16 second-quarter run. Four Bearcats hit at least one 3-pointer during the second-quarter flurry. In fact, Scottsbluff had a stretch in the second quarter where it canned seven straight 3-pointers, the final one a bomb by Dillon Hernandez that gave the Bearcats their biggest lead of the game, 40-18, with about 4 minutes left before halftime.
“We’re a great-shooting team, and tonight everyone was on at the same time,” Hadden said. “Guys were spreading the floor and knocking down shots. It’s a lot of fun when you get on a run like that.”
Unfortunately for the Bearcats, Cheyenne East made a nice run of its own in the second half to make the game tight at the end.
“I didn’t think our defense was that bad; they just started knocking down shots,” Hadden said. “Also, they got some offensive rebounds in the second half, and we didn’t get as many in the second half. Loose balls also started going their way, and they just kind of got the momentum going.”
At least Hadden and his teammates were still smiling after the game, thanks to their perseverance in the final minutes.
“Anytime you can get a win against a Cheyenne school, it’s a good win,” he said. “They always come ready to play.”
Scottsbluff will try to make it four wins in a row today when it travels to play Cheyenne Central. Tip off is slated for 5 p.m. in Cheyenne.
Although the Bearcats had to work extra hard in the second half Friday to pull out the win, Hadden said Scottsbluff will be ready to battle hard again less than 24 hours later.
“We played enough guys, so I think we’ll be all right,” he said. “We just need to bring the same energy. Central is another good team, so we’re going to have to play really well to get the win.”
In addition to Hadden’s scoring output, two other Bearcats scored in double digits. Jackson Hinze and Tyler Mickey both hit three 3-pointers and ended with 11 points.
Scottsbluff (11-2) ................. 16 28 13 14—71
Cheyenne East (3-9) ................ 10 16 22 19—68
S: Jackson Hinze 11, Dillon Hernandez 6, Tyler Mickey 11, Matthew Mickey 2, Matthew Klein 6, Michael Hadden 32, Austin Clarkson 3.
C: Clint Jaure 3, Quinton Pope 19, Cameron Johnson 14, Dixon Maggard 6, Ryan Cook 19, Tyler Lambert 4, Brandon Fullmer 3.