By RON PRESTON
The fourth quarter proved to be the downfall for the Abilene Cowgirls Thursday night as they lost their lead and the game to Clay Center, 54-46, in a North Central Kansas League contest.
The Cowgirls only scored 6 points in the final eight minutes, while the Lady Tigers would score 17 points including a perfect 7-7 from the free-throw line.
Clay Center rallied from a three-point deficit at the end of the third quarter and at one point a 9-point Cowgirl lead with 2:28 left to play in the period to trail the Cowgirls by three, 40-37 at the end of three.
The third quarter was also a highlight for the Cowgirls as well.
They took a 25-22 deficit at halftime and lead 36-27 with less than three minutes left in the period.
“At times, I thought that we played our best basketball we have played all year during the third quarter as far as taking care of the basketball, getting the ball passed around and getting some good shots,” Coach Janelle Geist said following the game.
Senior Kiley Crider got the Cowgirls off to a quick lead in the game with a trey from the corner to lead 3-0 on their first offensive possession.
Alyx Bloom would get the Tigers back into the game with a trey followed by a steal and a layup to take a 7-5 lead at the 5:01 mark of the first period.
Bloom would score the next four points in the game to give Clay Center an 11-5 lead with under two minutes to play in the first.
Junior Nichole Taylor hit a jumper and freshman Belle Barbieri put in a bucket at the end of the period for a 14-9, Clay Center lead.
Senior Gracie Sexton hit a trey for the Cowgirls to start off the second quarter followed by two free throws from Taylor and an inside bucket from Barbieri to trim the Clay Center lead to 3 points, 19-16.
Barbieri scored the remaining 8 points for the Cowgirls with two inside shots and 4free throws to trail the Tigers 25-22 at half time.
“Defense we played tonight was the defense that we need to slow down their big scorer, Bloom, who scored 30 points against us the first time we played them,” coach Geist would add.
“We slowed her down some and made some others girls step up to shoot, and then a couple of them did. A couple of other shooters stepped up and we turned the ball over in the fourth quarter too many times,” said Geist.
Taylor led the Cowgirls with six points and some key rebounds in the third period.
“Nichole played a really great game, defensively and scoring. She is really improving and getting ready for next year,” said coach Geist.
The Cowgirls went into the final period with a three point lead 40-37 after outscoring the Tigers 18-12 in the third quarter.
Katie Folks hit a quick trey for the Tigers to tie the game at 40-40.
Sexton answered for the Cowgirls with her second trey of the game to give the Cowgirls a 43-40 lead with less than minute gone in the quarter.
From there, Clay Center’s Alyssa Steppe and Macy Franson took over the scoring for the Tigers as the Cowgirls struggled with turnovers and fouls and the Tigers would soon lead 48-44 with 1:30 left to play.
Barbieri got an inside shot for the final scoring for the Cowgirls to make the score 48-46, Clay Center.
The Cowgirls had to foul to try and get the ball and the Lady Tigers would send Franson and Bloom to the line for 6-6 free throws, making the final 54-46 in favor of the Lady Tigers.
Abilene will take their 9-10 record to Chapman on Tuesday for their final regular season game.
“We will prepare for Chapman and then see what happens for us in the regionals,” concluded coach Geist.
Clay Center 54, Abilene 46
Clay Center 14 11 12 17 -54
Abilene 9 13 18 6 - 46
Clay Center: Williams 3, Bohnenblast 2, Franson 14, Folks 3, Steppe 13, Bloom 17, Dieckmann 2.
Abilene: Gassman 3, Guy 4, Sexton 6, Crider 5, Barbieri 16, Taylor 12.