By RON PRESTON
It came down to the fourth quarter of the game, but the Abilene Cowboys upped their intensity on both ends of the court and defeated the Hays High Indians, 62-44.
At the end of three periods the Cowboys led by one 41-40, but outscored the Indians 21-4 in the final eight minutes to up their record to 15-3 going into a North Central Kansas League matchup against Clay Center Thursday night in the Abilene gym.
The game started with both teams being physical and fighting for rebounds and lost the services of Keil Kelly within the first minute of play. It appeared Kelly had sprained an ankle and was not able to return.
Abilene’s bench depth played a key role in this game.
“Our depth played well off the bench. Tanner Hoekman, Keynan Anderson and Marcus Gonzales all played several minutes because we lost Keil, a starter, in the first minute,” stated Coach Terry Taylor.
“Those guys gave us several minutes and they played well,” he added.
Andy Wilson scored 8 of his game high 19 points in the first quarter with a pair of threes from the corner of the baseline, and a layup with an assist from Matthew Barlow.
The Cowboys led by seven at the end of the first period 17-10 with a Marcus Gonzales trey with time running out in the quarter.
The second quarter began slowly for both teams as nearly two minutes had been played before Derek Bixenman hit a corner try to cut the lead to 4 points.
Abilene answered with a traditional three-point play by Jacob Harms after a well executed inbounds play under the Cowboy basket and then hit his free throw attempt after being fouled while shooting.
This would stretch the lead back to seven, 20-13.
Anderson hit a put back bucket for the Cowboys at the 4:14 mark to make the lead 22-13, Cowboys.
The Indians closed within five points following two inside buckets and a last second trey by Nicholas Petz to end the half at 28-23, Cowboys.
Hays made things interesting in the third quarter by closing the Cowboy lead to 32-29 following another Petz trey at the 4:59 mark of the period. The Cowboys used two inside buckets by Harms and another well executed in bounds bucket by Wilson followed by a Gonzales basket to widen the lead to 39-31 at the 2:06 mark in the period.
Following the time out, Hays got two treys from Petz and another trey from Isaiah Nunnery to cut the Cowboy lead to one, 41-40, after three quarters.
Abilene began the fourth quarter with a quick basket by Jesse Patrick off of a Barlow assist and a Wilson jumper to get the lead to 45-41 before Hays called time out at the 6:01 mark. Following the time out, Gonzales hit a pair of free throws for the Cowboys and then Hays would call time out again at the 4:51 mark following two straight Indian turnovers.
Abilene would continue to stretch the lead after this time out by Hays with another traditional three-point play by Harms, a pair of free throws each from Wilson and Barlow to make it a 54-41 Cowboy lead.
Barlow got a fast break layup assist from Wilson and Patrick hit a pair of free throws at the 1:50 mark to make the score 58-41, Cowboys.
Following a technical foul on the Hays bench, Wilson hit two free throws with 1:02 left to play.
Cash Hobson made a bucket for Hays and Lane Clark added a free throw with 12.8 seconds left in the game. The Cowboys got the ball down the floor and Ethan Hodges drained a trey from the corner at the buzzer to end the game 62-44
“This was a good team victory tonight. The kids really felt good about themselves tonight when they walked off the floor,” commented coach Taylor.
“There is good feeling right now by our kids; they gave a good effort tonight. They played hard and played together as a team,” Taylor said.
“These kids are competitors; they knew they didn’t play well at Wamego. They didn’t attack off the dribble, tonight they did.”
“This is my sixth year here and we have not beaten Hays here. We have had some really good games, some close games. One went into overtime and some lost by a point or two. We pointed at this game on Friday when we walked off the court at Wamego on Friday and really put in the effort in getting ready for this game,” he said.
“Playing a team like Hays this late in the season helps us prepare for the Sub State. We knew they were going to be one of our toughest opponents all year, because they have good three point shooters, good inside men and so much depth that they just keep running new players at you,” coach Taylor said.
“I believe our last home loss on this court was to Hays about two years ago. So that’s been 22 straight games that we have won at home and if we can get one against Clay Center on Thursday, then we go into Sub State and see how many more we can add to the streak,” Taylor said.
Next up for the Cowboys is their final regular season home contest against NCKL foe Clay Center. It will also be senior night for the Cowboys.
Abilene 62, Hays 44
Hays (11-6) 10 13 17 4-44
Abilene (15-3) 17 11 13 21-62
Hays: Niernberger 2, Petz 12, Nunnery 3, Hobson 2, Deterding 2, Clark 6, Downing 3, Parker 5, Bixenman 3, Gonzales 2, Werth 4.
Abilene: Barlow 4, Wilson 19, Anderson 7, Patrick 5, Gonzales 8, Harms 16, Hodges 3.