By Jordan Huether
The Gordon-Rushville boys basketball team has established their dominance of the Western Trails Conference after winning their third straight conference title on a one-point come-from-behind thriller Saturday evening at the Cougar Palace in Scottsbluff. After blowing out Hemingford by 28 points in last year’s championship game, the Mustangs had to fight to the end to pull off a 45-44 win over Bridgeport to extend their streak to three.
The Mustangs entered the tournament as the top seed, receiving a first-round bye to advance directly to the semifinals Friday at WNCC in Scottsbluff where they faced the Mitchell Tigers. After getting off to a very slow start, scoring only 2 points in the first quarter, the Mustangs found their rhythm and never looked back. The Tigers held a three-point advantage going into the half, but the Mustangs came out on fire in the second half, outscoring Mitchell 36-15 to take a 51-33 victory.
The win advanced the Mustangs to the WTC Championship Saturday night, where they faced a tough Bridgeport Bulldogs team in a rematch of the 2016 championship game. The Bulldogs held the advantage in the first half, outscoring the Mustangs 23-17, but an 18-point third quarter performance by the Mustangs put them up by one with only the final quarter to go. The two teams battled back and forth through the fourth quarter with each team adding ten points to their total, giving the Mustangs the one-point edge they needed to pull off the victory and secure their third straight WTC title.
Jared Nelson led the Mustangs in scoring Friday night with 20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Korby Campbell added 8 points and 6 rebounds. Dylan Schwarting also scored 8 and pulled in 2 rebounds. Trace Beguin scored 5, Brady Bohlender 4, and Carson Hinn, Morgan Hurlburt and Corbin Bailey each added 2.
Nelson again led all scorers Saturday night with 14, followed by Campbell with 9, Hurlburt 7, Beguin 5, Hinn, Bohlender and Schwarting with 3, and Corbin Bailey with 1.
Campbell pulled in 9 rebounds on the night, followed by Beguin and Schwarting with 4 each.
The Mustangs look to carry their momentum into the final weeks of the season as they again face the Bulldogs this Friday – this time at home – before hitting the road for away games at Morrill and Valentine to wrap up the regular season.
The Mustangs then enter subdistrict play February 20.