Bulldogs Roll Past Sidney, Host St. Thomas More
By JOHN E. WEARE
Alliance shut down the Red Raiders early, playing scoreless defense well into the second quarter of a 58-23 win at home Saturday. The AHS varsity boys surged against a familiar rival the day after a close defeat against St. Thomas More in the first home game of the season.
On Nov. 29, the Bulldogs saw Sidney to open the Western Conference Tournament on neutral ground at WNCC in Scottsbluff. Defense also set up a decisive win for Alliance then as they held Sidney to 20 points after the opening period. Points were scarce to start the game Saturday, for both teams. Alliance played tough, making sure nothing fell for Sidney. The Bulldog offense, in turn, was held to eight points in the first eight minutes after scoring 26 to open the previous meeting.
Alliance 8 22 23 5 – 58
Sidney 0 4 8 11 – 23
Alliance kept a lid on the basket until halfway through the second frame. The Red Raiders put four points on the board before the buzzer yet could not slow the warmed-up Bulldog shooters. Alliance tallied 22 points in the quarter and controlled the rest of the contest.
After the game, regarding the early shutout, AHS Head Coach Michael Baker said the Red Raider’s best player, and only returning starter, was taken out of the lineup with an injury, and another key player was hurt. “I was just really pleased after a tough loss like last night (Friday) you could tell if a team is ready based on (the way they respond). And our guys were focused … they played very well in spite of that. And that’s what a coach looks for.”
Baker said his team did everything they wanted to offensively, pleased with a surge in the middle quarters for 45-points. Bringing speed often used in transition, the Bulldogs instead set up outside the arc to bombard the visitors. “We like to get the ball in the lane whether it’s our quick guys driving to the basket or passing in to our post players,” he said. “My experience has always been once you get a lead like that, the jump shots flow pretty smoothly … the game pressure is pretty much gone, our guys can relax …”
An early lead was a common thread both days. Alliance created some distance in the opening minutes versus St. Thomas More with a three pointer from junior Trevor DuBray, to lead 15-8. The visitors responded with a three and opened the second quarter with a bucket. Mason Hiemstra, Alliance’s top scorer this season, scored the next four points down low with quick passes from teammate Joel Baker.
Alliance 15 17 13 5 – 50
STM 11 21 7 17 – 56
Alliance led by as many as 11 points before the teams left the court for the locker rooms knotted at 32-32. The visitors gained ground and ended the second outpacing the Bulldogs 21-17.
St. Thomas More broke the tie by making the front end of a 2-2 opportunity from the line. Reece Jensen scored his varsity points of the season and Alliance led 34-33. The Bulldogs stuck close on defense to limit STM to six more points.
Alliance led 49-43 with 4:10 left in the game. The Rapid City team went on an 11-1 run and tied the score at 50 with 1:30 to play. The Bulldogs could not find success from the field or at the charity stripe with STM scoring the final six points.
“We were the better team for three and a half quarters … unfortunately we didn’t execute offensively late … They were our best shooters taking good shots,” Baker said. “Unfortunately we had a couple breakdowns, their best player took the game over and he made the plays at the end. … A tough learning experience for our guys. I’m most pleased with how they bounced back tonight.”
Alliance took advantage of their speed to lead a game decided late. “(That’s why) we were able to make it so difficult for them to score for three-and-a-half quarters … and I’m not sure if we got tired or just their best guy made a couple plays. (We) had a couple bad bounces. We just needed one more bucket, one more stop there in the late fourth and we probably would have had it.”
A Class C school this year in South Dakota, St. Thomas More has won multiple state titles and is the first out-of-state team Alliance has seen this season. “I told our kids it was one of the best teams in western Nebraska against one of the best teams in western South Dakota and I think it showed. They’ll win a lot of games,” Baker said.
AHS v. STM
Individual scoring — Alliance - DuBray 5, Stark 10, Baker 8, Jensen 2, Hiemstra 25
STM - Glyten 2, Casey 20, Kirsch 23, Wojcik 6, Eastmo 1, Hansen 4
Other AHS stats: rebounds - Palmer 10, Hiemstra 10, Farritor4
AHS v. Sidney
Individual scoring — Alliance - DuBray 5, Stark 7, Baker 11, Kindred 7, Cyza 3, Jensen 11, Clarke 2, Hiemstra 11, Schrawyer 1
Sidney - Burke 14, Lucero 3, Jallen 4, Cutter 2
Other AHS stats: rebounds - Jensen 8, Hiemstra 8, Stark 5; assists - Stark 4, Hiemstra 3