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High school basketball returns: Western Conference Tourney preview

High school basketball returns: Western Conference Tourney preview

It’s the return of high school basketball at KNEB this week with the Western Conference Tournament to open up the season for many area teams.

Games take place Thursday night at Scottsbluff, Gering, and Mitchell high schools with action shifting on Friday and Saturday to WNCC and Scottsbluff HS.

At KNEB tomorrow we’ll have four games. Jeff Kelley will be at SHS for the Gering girls and boys doubleheader. The girls play Sidney at 4 o’clock followed up by the boys game against the Denver School of Science and Technology Conservatory Green. Coverage on KNEB AM 960, 100.3 FM, and starts at 3:45.

I’ll have coverage from Mitchell HS for the Scottsbluff boys and girls games. The Bearcat boys play at 5:30 against Chadron and then the Lady Bearcats open with DSST Conservatory Green. Coverage on 101.7 The Trail will start at approximately 5:15.

Other first round games from the boys side: Sterling vs. Mitchell and Sidney vs. Alliance.

Other first round games from the girls bracket: Chadron vs. Alliance and Mitchell vs. Sterling.

On Friday we’ll have a quadruple-header on KNEB AM 960, 100.3 FM, and

Saturday all four games from WNCC’s Cougar Palace will air on

Let’s take a look at some of the storylines for both brackets heading into the season.

Boys Bracket

Scottsbluff – To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man. Point being, until someone is able to beat Scottsbluff, they remain the measuring stick for every boys program in the region. It’s pretty simple…Connor McCracken and Jasiya DeOllos will lead the way on most nights and Coach Scott Gullion says they’ll get plenty of help from guys like Jack Darnell, Sam Clarkson, Sabastian Harsh, Harold Baez,  Chance Parker, and Dawson Mohr. Also look for Quentin Scott to have carve out a role…Scottsbluff got a delayed start to the season with most of their core guys playing in the football state title game just last week…After a one year absence the Cats hope to make a return trip to Lincoln for the state tournament.

Gering- It’s a year of transition as Randy Plummer retired and Rick Winkler has been tabbed the interim coach for this season…The top two returners are seniors Xavier Horst and Riley Schilz. Juniors Bryce Sherrell and Kolten Ebbers are in line for heavy minutes and possible breakout seasons. Henry Alvarez is a 6’5 Senior transfer from out of state and he’ll be an immediate contributor.

Alliance – Michael Baker has been coaching this group of kids for quite a while up at Alliance. Mason Hiemstra is a big time scorer and competitor in the back court along with junior Joel Baker. Baker had some offseason back surgery and hopes to be up to full speed early on. Add in the likes of Reece Jensen, Corbin Stark, Brayden Palmer, and Trevor Dubray and you can see the nucleus of a team that should be pretty good.

Sidney – The Red Raiders suffered some serious graduation losses with Jake Burke, Mitch Porter, John Smith, and Connor Dormann all moving on. That leaves guard Arik Doty as the top returner (he’s a good one). Austin Lewis is a great coach (beat Scottsbluff twice last season) and will get the most of the talent on hand.

Chadron – Mitch Barry takes over for Eric Calkins as head coach. Cooper Huesman is a do it all type who’s 6’4 and can really shoot the basketball.

Mitchell – This could be Jayson Gregory’s best team yet at Mitchell. The Tigers just missed out on what would have been a surprise trip to Lincoln last season and they return Blake Thyne, Keaton Reichert, Jonathan Pieper. I’ve heard some really glowing reports on freshman guard Austin Thyne, who should be an immediate contributor at a guard spot.

Girls Bracket

Mitchell – It’s the same story as the boys side. Mitchell’s reign in the region continues until someone else proves their up to the task. The Lady Tigers didn’t lose their first game of the season last year until the second round of the state tournament, cleaning up locally against Sidney, Scottsbluff, and Gering…Shawn Harvey becomes their third coach in as many seasons. He’s got some big time seniors in UNLV recruit Keyana Wilfred along with Kenzey Kanno (CSC for golf), and Annabelle Gillen…Mitchell adds to the mix this season Kanno’s younger sister, Jaden, who’s a transfer from Morrill…The big loss is Jori Peters, who took her point guard skills to Chadron State.

Sidney – All Tyler Shaw does with the Lady Raiders is win. Like, every season. They are a defense first program and they figure out the offense as they go. Shaw returns a load of talent this season; Janay Brauer, Mattie Johnson, Katelyn Sylvester, and Meaghan Ross were all starters last season…providing depth will be Kendra Nesbitt, Nicole Birner, Jaylee Shaw, and Allison Nesbitt, just to name a few…Sidney was a Class B State Tournament team last season and they no doubt have those same expectations coming into the 2018-2019 season.

Scottsbluff -The Lady Bearcats have a chance to be “dangerous”, that according to head coach David Bollish. The junior scoring tandem of Yarra Garcia and Aubrey Krentz is back and better than ever plus Makenzie Dunkel transferred to Scottsbluff from Gering for her senior year of school and sports. She recently signed with Chadron State and should be  force on the block who will set the tone with toughness for this very deep team…Kieyerah Twombly, Emma Herman, Jamisyn Howard, Cali Wright, Izzy Wright, and Emma Foote will all get minutes…The Lady Bearcats will venture to Gillette for the REMAX Tournament in week two of the season as they continue to play toughen up the schedule.

Gering – Steve Land is back in charge of Gering girls basketball, replacing Adam Freeburg (now boys assistant). Land held this job previously for 14 seasons and led the Gering girls to a state title game appearance in 2003…Kelly Snelling has committed to play at McCook Community College and she’ll team with Paige Lopez in the backcourt once again this year after combining to score around 22 points a game last season…In the frontcourt you’ll have Arianna Mitchell, Olivia Schaub, Jenna Balthzor, and Kelsey Bohnsack as top options.

Alliance – Alliance Schools Superintendent, Troy Unzicker, will be the girls basketball coach this season…Blythe Boness and Ryley Rolls return as key players from last year’s 15-10 team…volleyball stars Emersen Cyza and Jordan Hopp will be major contributors this season as will Shelbi Mills, Janaye Shoemaker, and Megan Oligmuller.

Chadron – John McLain returns four starters from last year’s team that went 11-10.  Eight players total come back that were letter winners from a season ago.

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