HAYS — Basketball coaches don’t like looking too far down the road.
But the Abilene Cowboy fans are anticipating another look at the Concordia Panthers, possibly next week.
The team that handed Abilene its only loss of the season, 62-61, will be on the other side of the bracket in the Salina Invitational Tournament that starts next week at the Bicentennial Center in Salina.
First, there’s a little bit of basketball yet to be played before that possible rematch.
Tuesday night, the Cowboys made a long road trip to Hays to play Thomas More Prep and according to Coach Terry Taylor, the 68-43 non-conference win wasn’t as impressive as the score.
“It was a tough atmosphere,” Taylor said. “There was not a pep band and a long way for Abilene people to travel as well. We just didn’t play with a whole lot of intensity or emotion. At times we traded baskets.”
However, Abilene outscored TMP in all four quarters. Abilene led 21-10 at the end of the first quarter and 43-27 at halftime.
“TMP is a young team, experience-wise,” he said. “I think Coach (Joe) Hertel was pleased with his kids. They came out and battled us, especially in the second quarter. They scored 17 points on us. We had a nice first quarter and I think we relaxed a little in the second. We missed some shots and didn’t shoot well tonight.”
The Cowboys led 21-10 at the end of the first quarter. Thomas More Prep’s Camoron Fouts scored 10 of his 14 points in the second quarter.
Abilene played all 13 players and 10 put points on the scoreboard.
“Some kids that don’t get a lot of minutes got some time tonight,” he said.
Andy Wilson led the team in scoring with 18 points, 15 of those in the first half. Jacob Harms scored a dozen and Matthew Barlow score 11, nine of which came in the first half.
Before the Salina Invitational Tournament, the Cowboys travel to Clay Center on Friday for a North Central Kansas League contest.
“They are struggling this year,” Taylor said of the Tigers. “They’ve won one game against Riley County this year. Our kids see Clay Center as a rivalry just over football, I think. A number of their players play football and of course a number of ours play football.
“There will be a better crowd Friday night,” he added. “Clay Center always has some activity going on when we play them. They have a way of filling the stands. I expect a big crowd on Friday night. The kids respond to that really well.”
On Wednesday afternoon Abilene will find out the bracket for the SIT.
“There is a possibility we could play Clay Center again on Tuesday,” Taylor said. “When you play them twice back-to-back you want to send a message.
“We’re going to have two, possibly three tough games (next week),” he said. “We could play Salina South or Clay Center the first game. Salina South at Salina South on Tuesday, if we draw them that will be a challenge. They have only won one game but they are a 5A school and they play good people. I’m comfortable playing them. I think it will make us a better team.
“On Thursday and Saturday we’ll play two more good teams, whether it’s Andover or Concordia. We are going to have to play two good teams at least, maybe three.
“Our kids will be anxious to step on the floor with them,” he said of Concordia. “We will be on opposing sides of the bracket (in the SIT). We both have one loss and one will be seated No. 1, the other No. 2. Since they beat us, they could be seated No. 1 and we could be seated No. 2.”
Abilene 68, TMP 43
Abilene 21 22 10 15—68
TMP 10 17 8 8—43
Abilene—Barlow 11, Wilson 18, Anderson 2, Hoeckman 2, Kelly 9, Patrick 4, Gonzales 3, Barbieri 3, Harms 12, Witt 4.
TMP-Marian—Unrein 3, Zimmerman 1, M.Megaffin 3, Schippers 7, Fouts 14, Mayorga 6, Gottschalk 9.