HAYS — It looks so easy.
The free-throw line is just 15 feet away from the basket. There are no hands in the face or players yelling. Yet, basketball games can be won or lost at the charity stripe.
Such was the case Tuesday night when the Cowgirls and Coach Janelle Geist traveled to Hays to face her alma mater in Thomas More Prep.
With 8-for-8 free-throw shooting in the first half and 4-for-5 in the last quarter, Abilene came away with a 45-38 win on the long Tuesday night road trip.
Though TMP’s record was just 1-6 going into the non-conference game, the tight game didn’t surprise Geist.
“You look. They lost two games in overtime,” she said. “They had faced some teams that were some pretty good teams. I was cautiously optimistic. I knew they were going to be a well-coached team because the girl that coached them (Rose McFarland) graduated from college the year I came in.
“We played basketball for the same college,” she added. “We both had the same coach in college and I knew that she had a great knowledge of the game and would have a good team.”
Abilene scored 13 points from the free-throw line while TMP scored just three.
Abilene’s Kiley Crider, who scored a dozen points, was 5-for-5 from the free-throw line in the first quarter of play. In the third quarter it was Belle Barbieri that came through, scoring nine of her 13 points that period.
And while Carly Gassman scored just four points in her second game back, she made a big contribution to the win.
“Carly came in and had a good night again,” Geist said. “Not as many points but good defense and she had some steals.”
Geist, a graduate of Thomas More Prep, has a lot of ties to the school.
“I still have a lot of family here,” she said. “My mother lives here and I have three brothers living in Hays. The last few years that we played, one of the girls that I played basketball in high school with, one of her daughters is my daughter’s Jessica’s age. The other one is a senior this year. We’re seeing our daughters on the court and it seems like it hasn’t been that long we were out on the court together.
“Tonight Courtney and Heather (Ruder) guarded each other all night. You play basketball and it takes a special place in your heart. It really hasn’t changed much but that competitive edge, I want to win anyway.”
Ruder led TMP with a game-high 16-points.
“She is really a nice athlete,” Geist said of Ruder. “Her sport is track and she has committed to K-State to run track. She has one cross country championship and an individual state championship in track.”
Abilene, 7-1, is on the road again Friday night at Clay Center in a North Central Kansas League game. The Tigers lost to the No. 1 ranked Class 4A Wamego Red Raiders by just two points, 50-48.
“They have two great guards and they are well coached, too,” she said. “They don’t make a lot of mistakes. We are going to see a big spread out zone just like we saw against Marysville.”
Clay Center’s Alyx Bloom leads the NCKL in scoring averaging 14.5 points per game and teammate Macy Franson is the second leading scorer averaging 14.2 points per game.
The Cowgirls, 6-1, lost their first game of the season against the Marysville Bulldogs last week.
“We have to have a plan to fall back on,” Geist said.
Abilene 45, TMP 38
Abilene 14 8 14 9 — 45
TMP 11 6 16 5 — 38
Abilene—Gassman 4, Geist 3, Guy 5, Sexton 2, Crider 12, Barbieri 13, Taylor 6.
TMP-Marian—Schuckman 8, Ruder 16, Gottschalk 2, M.Pfeifer 2, A.Pfeifer 6, Younie 4.