SCOTTSBLUFF — Alliance advances as a wildcard team to the B2 District Final game today at 1 p.m. (CT) versus No. 2 seed and host Omaha Skutt Catholic. The No. 15 Alliance High School boys basketball team has had three days to prepare since a subdistrict loss to Sidney, 51-38, Tuesday at Scottsbluff High School. Skutt is 22-3 having downed Ralston 70-30 then Omaha Roncalli Catholic, 67-48, to win the B2 subdistrict.

Subdistrict champions automatically advance to this weekend’s district finals. Other top teams receive wildcard bids. The Sidney Red Raiders are peaking, with momentum building. Sidney won the B8 title Wednesday over Scottsbluff 65-61. Gering lost to Scottsbluff in the opening game, 60-50. To cap off the regular season, the Red Raiders downed the Bulldogs in the AHS gym 67-56.

This year’s schedule pitted the Bulldogs and Red Raiders against each other within a week during February. Alliance had the challenge of working to modify their game to achieve a different result.

Alliance played Sidney close to start the game. The Bulldogs trailed 7-5 when Sidney’s Connor Dormann scored a 3-pointer. Mason Hiemstra went up to answer for AHS though his three was blocked. Sidney snagged the ball, going coast-to-coast for the score. At 1:56 left in the quarter, the Bulldogs called time out.

Nobody had a clear shot for about a minute as players blocked, knocked the ball away and stole the ball. Reece Jensen fouled to send Dorman to the line. He missed both tries and Sidney had the rebound. Hiemstra had the board on a missed trey. Jensen was fouled driving to the hoop. He hit both ends of the 2-2. Alliance pulled within five, 12-7, at the end of one.

The deficit expanded from two possessions for the Bulldogs to 25-13 at halftime. Sidney posted a 13-0 run to start the second quarter, leading 23-7. Bulldog defenders stemmed the tide for the 3:30 minutes until half. Alliance outscored Sidney 6-2 run and looked to keep chipping into the lead in the third. Jensen took the ball inside, splitting the defenders for the first Alliance points of the second quarter. Sidney turned the ball over a few times including a traveling call and a steal Joel Baker tuned into a quick basket.

Unfortunately for Alliance, the positive final minutes of the second quarter were not replicated after the teams came out of the locker rooms. Sidney outscored Alliance 16-9  and led by as many as 20 in the third frame. The Bulldogs came up empty with the inside game. The offensive production was from three baskets beyond the arc.

Caden Dean worked to be a spark for the AHS offense in the opening seconds of the fourth. He picked a Red Raider’s pocket and the Bulldogs worked the offense. Braydn Palmer missed a hook shot, got the rebound and put it in, the score was 41-24. Alliance tried a repeat with Hiemstra taking the steal. Sidney stole it back and Arik Doty hit a trey to lead 44-24. Alliance moved closer to the lead yet not quite within striking distance. Hiemstra, one of the Bulldogs’ main scorers, left the game with five minutes to play and six points on his fifth foul. Sidney’s lead and Alliance’s relatively low number of team fouls did not put the Red Raiders in the 1-1 until Owen Shelmadine fouled Doty at 1:02. He missed and Alliance grabbed the rebound. Konnor Farritor went to the hoop for Alliance. His shot missed. Baker got the rebound and scored to bring Alliance within three possessions, 47-38, with :44 to go.

The Bulldogs needed the ball in their hands and to keep Sidney from scoring. Instead via a lane violation Sidney went 4-4 from the line and squashed a final AHS attempt on what appeared to be a blocked shot by Baker. Alliance shot 50 percent of their free throws (4 of 8), compared to 8 of 11 for Sidney.

Alliance brings a 13-10 record to today’s game with a ticket to Lincoln on the line.