SEWARD — When Scottsbluff needed a bucket, junior Jasiya DeOllos delivered. Not just once, but twice.
Two mid-range jumpers — and a staunch second-half defensive effort — was just enough as the No. 10 Bearcats downed No. 9 Seward 57-49 to clinch a boys state tournament berth at Seward High Monday.
“That’s just practice,” said DeOllos, who scored 13 points for Scottsbluff. “I felt comfortable taking those shots. With my extended hours in the gym, it just felt like second nature. It really felt good seeing them go in.”
The two jumpers gave the Bearcats breathing room when they were only up by one point with 7:45 left in regulation.
Seward had climbed back into the game, after trailing 43-34 through three quarters, despite making only one field goal up to that point in the second half.
The Bluejays made seven free throws and Nate Lliteras hit a three-pointer, three of his team-high 13 points, to cut the Scottsbluff lead down to one.
Despite the free-throw line prowess from the Bluejays, their offensive woes eventually caught up and the DeOllos jumpers were the catalyst to the Seward loss.
“It’s amazing with the kind of shooting night we had that we were as close as we were,” Seward head coach Mark Cidlik said. “We had looks and we just could not capitalize on anything. There were several trips where it looked like it was going down and it didn’t.”
Scottsbluff built the nine-point lead with a 26-6 run from late in the second quarter until the end of the third.
Bearcat coach Scott Gullion pointed to his team’s focus and toughness as the main reasons for the run.
“The second half, I thought we were just that much tougher on getting through screens and making shots difficult on them,” Gullion said. “We also rebounded the heck out of the basketball.”
Seward used free throws to get back in the game, and outside of the two DeOllos jumpers in the fourth quarter, the Bearcats used free throws of their own to pull away.
Scottsbluff hit eight of 10 free throws in the last minute of regulation to seal its eighth trip to Lincoln in the last nine seasons.
Harold Baez hit five of those eight free throws as he scored a game-high 14 points.
“That’s the best we’ve shot free throws the whole year,” Gullion said. “We were just able to knock them down when they really counted.”
The Bearcats came up one game short last year, losing to Crete in last year’s B-7 district final 45-42 on their home floor.
DeOllos said this time around, especially after last year, it’s a little sweeter.
“This one gives a lot of motivation to us,” he said. “We still need to go get a couple at state.”