Christmas came early this year for the Alliance High Bulldogs. The varsity boys basketball team surged in the third quarter to come from behind and beat Scottsbluff 60-50 Thursday night at home. Hundreds of fans filled the stands to watch Alliance break a 25-game losing streak against their district rival.

AHS Head Coach Michael Baker was also at the helm when the Bulldogs last knocked off the Bearcats 63-56 at home Jan. 22, 2010.

“It was a very emotional victory for our boys,” Baker said of Thursday’s win, “to prove it. They knew they could do it, but they had to prove it for themselves.” He noted the team fed off the energy the crowd borught.

Winning three of their last four games, the Bulldogs looked to continue the momentum before the Christmas break moratorium. Scottsbluff prevailed in their first meeting this season, 54-36, during the Western Conference tournament.

This time Alliance paced the Bearcats in a tight first quarter to hold a 19-17 lead. Scottsbluff outscored the Bulldogs 13-8 in the second and held a one-possession advantage at halftime, 30-27.

Alliance owned the third quarter, again posting 19 points while the defense stymied Scottsbluff, holding the visitors to seven. The starting five — Corbin Stark, Joel Baker, Reece Jensen, Mason Hiemstra and Bradyn Palmer — returned to the court for Alliance.

Baker gave credit to the whole team for rebounding. He said the three seniors (Hiemstra, Jensen and Stark) were outstanding, “Reece played hard nosed defense on their top scorer, Mason played like an all state performer, and when Corbin plays like he did we have an opportunity to be a special team.”

Baker said Palmer was outstanding in the middle, rebounded and controlled the lane while making shots down the stretch.

On their second possession of the third, the Bulldogs were persistent keeping the possession alive with two offensive rebounds. Stark passed to Hiemstra outside as the senior hit a trey and knotted the score at 30-30. The Bearcats missed a three-point shot on the other end and were the last to touch the ball. Alliance slowed the tempo as Hiemstra walked the ball up court. He hit again from long range with 12 points so far in the contest as AHS opened a 6-0 run.

Palmer snagged the rebound as the Bearcats missed a shot. Hiemstra kept up the rhythm, sinking another trey, to build a 36-30 lead. The Bearcats responded with a three-pointer. Baker worked against a double team on the next possession losing the ball. The Bearcats picked it up and made a quick layup to pull within a point at 5:05 on the clock.

The Bulldogs tightened their defense and scored on four consecutive possessions in less than two minutes. After the Bearcats lost the ball out of bounds, Palmer split the defense driving to the hoop. He was fouled while sinking the bucket and converted on the old-fashioned three-point play from the line. Palmer garnered a defensive board to put the ball back in Alliance’s hands. Stark scored back-to-back baskets as the Bulldogs refused to offer the visitors a second look on defense. AHS junior Trevor DuBray scored with an assist from Hiemstra creating a double-digit lead, 46-35, and capping a 19-5 Bulldog run. The visitors took time out with 3:00 left in the quarter and managed one more basket before the buzzer.

Alliance refused to let their rivals cut into a three-possession lead in the fourth, outlasting the Bearcats 14-13 in the final eight minutes. Scottsbluff could not find a comeback route and surrendered their first loss to the Bulldogs since the 2009-10 season.

Baker said the first meeting with Scottsbluff in 2018 was like a practice game with the Bulldogs knowing what they could do to adjust. “I had a feeling our boys were not going to be denied,” he said, adding they played a complete game, in comparison to Dec. 14 when St. Thomas More came back in the fourth during a contest dominated by the Bulldogs.

With a few days off the Bulldogs improve to 5-2 and host Olerichs, S.D., Dec. 28 and Bridgeport Dec. 29 (both at 7 p.m.), Baker said, “It’s a huge boost of confidence to beat a nemesis, a rival that’s had our number for eight years. Sky’s the limit, they know what they can do.”

Scoring by quarters

Scottsbluff     7    13    7    13 – 50

Alliance    19    8    19    14 — 60

Individual scoring

Scottsbluff — Scott 2, Harsh 6, DeOllos 16, Baez 3, McCracken 8, Darnell 2, Parker 6, Mohr 7

Alliance — DuBray 9, Stark 9, Baker 5, Jensen 2, Hiemstra 22, Palmer 13

Other stats - Hiemstra - 13 rebounds

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