By RON PRESTON
It was like night and day for the Abilene Cowgirls in the come –from - behind victory over Concordia, 47-45 in front of home court faithful fans Friday.
“It was definitely a tale of two halves tonight,” Abilene head Coach Janelle Geist said following the North Central Kansas League basketball game.
“Team foul trouble in the first half caused four of the big varsity players sitting for the entire second quarter and some of the first. It was, just can we survive the first half, go down and get into the half time with the smallest deficit as possible, and I knew the varsity players could chip away at that lead,” she added.
Concordia jumped out to an early lead against the Cowgirls and forced them to apply pressure defense.
The pressure defense caused the early foul trouble for the Cowgirls as most of the starters set out as coach Geist mentioned.
Playing without their leading scorer in freshman Belle Barbieri, who was out of town and unable to play Friday, coach Geist had to call on her bench to play most of the first half.
Mallory Olberding, Kristy Wilson, Mikaela Anderes and Taylor Thompson came off the bench and helped the Cowgirls chip away at the Panther lead.
The Lady Panthers led 11-7 at the end of the first quarter and stretched the lead to 30 – 16 late in the second quarter.
Courtney Geist hit a trey at the end of the quarter to make the half time score 30-19 in favor of the Panthers.
The second half belonged to the Cowgirls, especially when Kiley Crider stepped up to lead the team in scoring. She scored 15 of her game high 21 points in the final two periods.
“Momentum swung our way in the second half. We fought hard. Our press defense helped us get back into the game. Kiley is just a great player. She stepped up and took charge when we needed it,” said a relieved coach Geist following the game.
Even though seniors Carly Gassman and Gracie Sexton were held scoreless by the Panthers, they helped provide the momentum swing in the second half with steals on defense, rebounding on both ends of the court and timely assists to Crider under the basket.
“They were looking for Kiley, Carly and Gracie, they had great games. That is what you want to see senior players do, look for the open man and know where people are on the floor,” Geist added.
The Cowgirls played aggressive defense and were led in scoring by Crider and Geist in the third quarter to cut the deficit to five points, 40-35, to start the final quarter.
The Cowgirls kept chipping away at the lead and Crider hit an old fashion three point play with a basket and free throw at the 2:50 mark of the final period to give the Cowgirls their first lead of the game 43-41.
Abilene’s defense stiffened and held the Lady Panthers to just 5 points in the fourth quarter while the Cowgirls offense put in 12, 9 by Crider.
With the game tied at 45-45 with 27.1 seconds remaining Geist hit a jumper from the top of the key to provide the winning margin, 47 – 45.
“Courtney had some big shots tonight for us,” coach Geist added.
The Cowgirls pressed the Lady Panthers the final seconds of the game and forced an errant shot to maintain the victory.
They are now 9-4 and now turn their attention to hosting Wamego on Tuesday night. Abilene 47, Concordia 45
Concordia 11 19 10 5 - 45
Abilene 7 12 16 12 – 47
Concordia: M. Lambert 5, Adams 6, Blankenbeckley 8, Leiszler 9, James 17
Abilene: Geist 15, Olberding 2, Guy 2, Crider 21, Thompson 2, Taylor 5
Abilene JV. 49, Concordia 40
Concordia 11 10 5 14 - 40
Abilene 10 12 8 19 - 49
Concordia: Shamburg 9, Lambert 5, Adams 12, Mendenhall 1, Nelson 2, Boley 11
Abilene: Olberding 2, Wilson 7, Barrett 11, Wirtz 2, Anderes 6,
Thompson, Schardein 2, Collette 3, Dalton 2.