By RON PRESTON
SALINA – Sometimes in sports you take a win and move on regardless of how easy it is, or not so easy, pretty or not so pretty, as was the case of the Abilene Cowboys first-round game in the Class 4A State Tournament against the Independence Bulldogs.
The Cowboys (20-4) came away with a win, 51-45, over the Bulldogs, a team they have not played since 1966, which enables them to advance to the semifinals Friday night against Topeka –Highland Park (23-0) at 8:15 p.m. in the Bicentennial Center.
“Good to get a win, kind of ugly, but we’ll come back on Friday and see what happens,” commented Coach Terry Taylor following the game Wednesday.
Senior point guard Matthew Barlow got the Cowboys off to a quick 5-0 lead within the first full minute of the game.
Barlow opened with a trey from the top of the key and then followed with a steal and layup basket at the 7:02 mark in the first period.
Keil Kelly shot a jumper with 5:25 remaining, and Andy Wilson followed on the very next play with a driving layup off another Bulldog turnover to take a 9-1 lead with just over five minutes left to play in the quarter.
Following an Independence time out, the Bulldogs rattled off 5-quick points of their own on an inside shot by Heath Hoffmeister and then followed that play with a trey on their next possession.
Barlow followed with his second trey of the quarter and Jesse Patrick hit an inside shot off the glass to stretch the Cowboy lead to 14-8 with 2:23 remaining in the first.
The Cowboys took a first-quarter lead, 18-12, following a jumper by Barlow and two free throws by Marcus Gonzales as the quarter came to an end.
The second quarter saw the Bulldogs go on a 7-0 run to take their first lead in the game at the 4:50 mark 19-18.
The Cowboys did not score in the second quarter until three minutes were off the clock and Wilson hit a pair of free throws to retake the lead, 20-19.
The final three minutes of the first half saw Wilson hit two treys and a pair of free throws for the Cowboys while the Bulldogs were keeping close with a Alex Steinle offensive rebound put back basket, a pair of free throws from Hoffmeister and jumper at the buzzer from Tate Turner to close the Cowboy lead to 28-26 at halftime.
“Matthew played well for us tonight, especially in the first half. He shot the ball well early and handled the ball pretty well for us,” commented coach Taylor on the play of his senior point guard.
Barlow ended the game with 10 assists and 10 points which were key to the Cowboy win.
Following the intermission, the Cowboys used an 8-0 run of their own to stretch their lead to 34-26 with almost three minutes off the clock.
Jacob Harms got his first bucket of the night off a Patrick assist, followed by two baskets by Patrick, the second of which was off a Wilson pass inside to him at the glass.
“Their bigs were good players, active on put back shots. We weren’t very active on the offensive glass tonight,’ said coach Taylor.
“We didn’t do a good job of finding Jake tonight, he had only one or two touches in the first half and ended the game with just 2 points scored,” Taylor added.
The end of the third quarter saw Kelly getting an inside shot with an assist from Gonzales and then Gonzales hitting a pair of free throws with 2:31 left on the clock.
Abilene held Independence to just 5 points in the third period.
The Cowboys took their largest lead of the game 41-28 following a Wilson trey with 47.9 seconds remaining.
Hoffmeister ended the quarter with a traditional three-point play off another offensive rebound put back shot and free throw to make the score Cowboys 41-31.
The Bulldogs got as close as three points in the fourth quarter as they continued to take advantage of the offensive glass and make second chance baskets to narrow the Cowboy lead.
The keys to the Cowboy in were probably two fold. First, the Bulldogs had 27 turnovers in the game and they were only 8-for-17 from the free throw line for 47.1 percent shooting.
Kelly ended the scoring for the Cowboys with two inside shots off assists from Patrick and Wilson.
Wilson put in the final point by making the first of a pair of free throws with 16.7 seconds remaining to end the game 51-45.
“Jesse Patrick finished some plays in the second half for us very well tonight, offensively got the ball to the hole a couple of times and that was big for him to do that for us,” said Taylor.
“I am just pleased the kids found a way to win and to hang in there and advance to the semifinals,” Taylor added.
Even though Harms was limited to 2 points he did end the game with 6 rebounds and 6 blocked shots.
“Highland Park is obviously a very talented team with a lot of quickness and good shooters and that’s going to be a big test for us,” concluded coach Taylor.
Abilene 51, Independence 45
Independence (18-6)12 14 5 14 - 45
Abilene (20-4) 18 1013 10- 51
Independence: Johnson 1, Turner 14, Hoffmeister 17, Steinie 13.
Abilene: Barlow 10, Wilson 19, Kelly 8, Patrick 8, Gonzales 4, Harms 2.
First round games:
Ottawa (23-0) defeated Garnett-Anderson Co. (17-7) 76-44
Andale (21-2) defeated Kansas City-Piper (17-6) 54-52
Topeka-Highland Park (23-0) defeated Winfield (14-10) 65-49