Free throws sink Central in loss to Scottsbluff

Jan. 14—CHEYENNE — Sometimes, something as simple as free throws can win or lose a game for the team. On Friday night, Cheyenne Central found out the hard way.

Central's poor shooting from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter cost it the game, falling 61-58 to visiting Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

"Free throws are a mental thing and we sometimes stepped up to the line wishing they would go in," Central coach Glenn Kirkbride said. "We have good enough shooters to be able to (convert) our goal, and we didn't tonight. It cost us the game."

The Indians got off to a rough start to begin the game. Their defense, which is heavily predicated on on a three-quarter court trap system, was picked apart by Scottsbluff's offense. This led to a lot of uncontested layups and deep shots that helped the Bearcats build an early lead.

Their offense, meanwhile, struggled to keep up with the heavy ball-pressure system Scottsbluff ran. Central was forced into five first-quarter turnovers and also struggled to score from the field.

The Bearcats jumped out to an 11-point lead early into the second quarter, seizing all momentum in the game. But senior Morgan Kirkbride kept the Indians afloat, scoring eight second-quarter points to keep the game from getting out of hand.

Her efforts paid off and with just under two minutes remaining in the half, Central went on a 8-0 run, capped off by a buzzer beating half-court heave by Izzy Kelly, to tie the game at 32-32 heading into halftime.

"It was great that we got to tie up the game," Kelly said. "We just needed some momentum to come back in the second half and get back up."

Central carried that momentum into the second half, jumping out to a five-point lead at the 4:08 mark of the third quarter.

It extended that lead seven with less than two minutes to play in the third. However, Scottsbluff closed things out on a 5-0 run to cut the lead to two heading into the fourth.

In the fourth quarter, things started to quickly go south for the Indians. Central had 16 opportunities from the line in the fourth quarter, but converted just five of them. Kelly said the team takes a lot of pride in its free throw shooting, and said Friday's performance, particularly in the fourth quarter, was unacceptable.

"We work really hard on free throws in practice," the sophomore said. "We should be knocking those down and it would have helped us a lot in the fourth quarter and end of the game."

While Central was struggling to get things going, Payton Burda nearly single-handedly got the Bearcats out in front. The senior scored nine of her team-high 16 points in the final frame to get Scottsbluff back out in front.

Despite the poor percentage from the line, the Indians still had a chance to come out on top. However, it was not meant to be. Kelly and Madisyn Baillie both had opportunities from beyond the arc come up short in the dying seconds of the game.

Kelly and Kirkbride finished the game with 37 of the team's 58 points. With Baillie suffering an injury late in the first quarter, the two needed to step up to fill the offensive shoes. Karson Tempel did what she could as well, finishing with 11 points

Losses like the one Central suffered have a tendency to stick around with a team. However, Kirkbride said the upcoming conference schedule should take care of most of the lingering effects from this game

"We are 8-3 at this point, and we are happy at the situation we put ourselves in," Kirkbride said. "We would love to have that one, but you learn from them all, and we are going to try to get better."

SCOTTSBLUFF 61, CENTRAL 58

Scottsbluff...... 21 10 11 17—61

Cheyenne Central...... 13 19 13 13—58

Scottsbluff: Home 11, Spady 0, Kelley 16, Burda 16, Laucomer 12, Willats 2, West 2, Gurrola 2.

Cheyenne Central: Baillie 7, Gerig 1, Kirkbride 19, Gillam 0, Brendel 0, Wade 2, Tempel 11, Newton 0, Kelly 18.

Matt Atencio covers Laramie County prep sports for WyoSports. He can be reached at matencio@wyosports.net. Follow him on Twitter at @MattAtencio5.