Staff Photographer

Kearney High’s Jack Johnson, rights, goes to the basket against Bellevue West defender John Shanklin during Saturday's game at Kearney High. Bellevue West defeated the Bearcats 58-56.

KEARNEY — David Nuor’s 3-pointer was just a little bit long, but the Bellevue West junior’s shot caught enough of the back of the rim to bounce a little farther away from the basket.

There, 6-foot-8 center John Shanklin waited. He soared high enough to tip the ball soon enough to beat the buzzer.

And the Kearney High Bearcats.

Shanklin’s tip-in spoiled a comeback by the Bearcats, who trailed by 12 early in the second half Saturday night at KHS. The Bearcats rallied to lead by four midway through the fourth quarter before the Thunderbirds scored a last-second win for the second-straight year.

“Anytime you allow a team to get that kind of jump in the first half and get a little confidence, it’s tough to change the mojo at halftime,” KHS coach Drake Beranek said. “Our guys did a great job with that. We came in there and challenged them a little bit and they accepted the challenge. ... You can’t fault our efforts. Our kids compete hard.”

The Bearcats, who scored 21 points in the first half, matched that in the third quarter to get back in the game. Seth Stroh, who finished with a team-high 14 points, scored 11 of those in the second half. Collin Murray scored nine of his 12 after intermission. And Preston Pearson scored eight of his 10 in the second half.

Kearney’s other double-figure scorer, Jack Johnson, was the main weapon in the first half, scoring eight of his 13 before the break.

“We left a lot of layups on the table in the first half. I thought we did a better job of moving it and handling their pressure in the second half, which allowed us to score a little more,” Beranek said.

Kearney’s other advantage in the second half was the absence of Bellevue West’s Louis Fidler. He scored 15 points in the first half and finished with 21. But he sat out much of the fourth quarter and fouled out with more than two minutes left when the game was tied.

The Thunderbirds, preseason No. 2 in Omaha World-Herald ratings, also played without injured all-state guard Chucky Hepburn.

“Obviously, he probably helps them a little bit, but if he would have played we probably would have played a little bit better game to start off. We want to play everybody’s best team,” Beranek said. “They’re still a good team without him.”

They showed that as Louis Fidler finished with 21, Franklin Fidler with 11 and Shanklin with 11.

Shanklin tied the score at 56 with a layup with just more than a minute left. Then the Thunderbirds got the ball back after a Kearney turnover and ran off the last 45 seconds of the game.

Nuor, who had made two 3-pointers earlier in the game took his shot from the top of the key and left just enough time for Shanklin’s tip-in.

n Bell. West 58, KHS 56

Score by Quarters

Bell. West (5-1)9 22 17 10 — 58

KHS (3-2)9 12 22 13 — 56

BELLEVUE WEST — Louis Fidler 21, Franklin Fidler 11, John Shanklin 11, Nate Glantz 8, David Nuor 7,

KEARNEY — Seth Stroh 14, Jack Johnson 13, Colin Murray 12, Preston Pearson 10, Nate Jacobsen 4, Easton Bruce 3.