CLAY CENTER – The Abilene Cowboys securely grabbed at least a share of the North Central Kansas League crown Friday night with a thundering 59-30 win over Clay Center on the road.
The Cowboys (12-6) have one loss in league play as they prepare for the final NCKL game of 2019-2020 against Chapman Tuesday night in Abilene. Marysville (13-4) is 8-2 with games against Concordia and Wamego to be played this week.
Abilene senior Travis Beetch scored six of the Cowboy 10-point first quarter on his way to a game high 16 points as the Cowboys took a 10-8 lead to the second period. The Cowboys were near perfect at the free-throw line at Clay Center as Beetch went six for six, all in the first half. Abilene added nine points to its lead by besting the Tigers 14-5 in the second and they took a 24-13 lead to the locker rooms at the break.
“Tonight was very important for us because you give away half the league crown if you lose,” Abilene head coach Terry Taylor said. “We told the kids they get half of it with a win tonight. We had to respect Clay Center and they are playing so much better than they were earlier in the year. Their last two games were a two-point loss to Marysville last Friday and a four-point loss to Wamego on Tuesday. They had my attention. I watched a lot of film on them. I was impressed.
“In the first quarter it was tough to score as both teams were playing great defense. It was a knockdown drag out in that period. We get a little space in the second quarter and we started putting things together in the second half and I think they kind of got a little tired and missed some shots. We had some run outs and executed a few plays pretty well. It was a really solid third quarter and early fourth quarter for us. We dominated the ballgame then.”
Junior Avery Bryson got the Cowboys rolling to open the third quarter while sophomore Kaleb Becker scored three field goals in a row following a Beetch basket and Abilene led by 15 at 37-22 with just over a minute to play in the third period. Junior Blaise McVan topped off the quarter with his first three of the game with 22 seconds showing on the clock.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Cowboys as they rattled off a six point unanswered run to begin the final eight minutes. Beetch added a jumper to score in all four quarters to go along with baskets by Bryson and junior post Grant Heintz.
Abilene junior Kaden Coup gave the Cowboys its largest lead of the night with a steal and layup with just two minutes remaining in the game at 52-22. Junior Kieryan Anderson got a nice inside bucket to fall and senior Matt Davis added his second basket of the quarter while McVan gave the Cowboys a 31-point lead 59-28 with a trey at 22.2 seconds remaining.
Clay Center’s Morgan Siebold closed the gap to 29 with a game-ending jumper for the Tigers.
“I thought our kids played our ‘shell’ defense tonight very well,” Taylor said. “For the most part we didn’t give them easy looks. We tried to limit their penetration. The whole focus defensively for us was to keep them in front of us. We didn’t want them to break us down on the dribble and kick it out to an important three-point shooter. I am very pleased with our kid’s effort. This performance was a great effort.”
Beetch finished with 16 to lead all scorers while Becker added 14 and Bryson had nine for the Cowboys. Clay Center junior Witt Williams led the Tigers with nine points.
Abilene improves to 12-6 and goes to 8-1 in the conference with one league game remaining on Tuesday against Chapman and a final home contest Thursday for a re-match with Hays High. Clay Center falls to 4-15 and they host Concordia on Tuesday to wrap the regular season.
“It’s senior night on Tuesday against Chapman,” Taylor said. “It’s always a good night to recognize those kids and their parents. Travis (Beetch), Jayshaun (Jones) and Matt (Davis) will be recognized and we usually play pretty well on senior night.”
Contact Ron Preston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The top four teams in each half of the Class 4A two divisions will host Sub-State action beginning the first of March. If the tournaments started tomorrow, the host schools in the West would be Augusta (14-4), Clearwater (13-5), Andale (12-6) and Abilene (12-6). Buhler, who has been playing pretty good basketball as of late, sits at 11-7 with two games remaining.
Augusta 14-4 must play McPherson and Winfield this week and they would then host either Clay Center or Holton (4-13) with the other game being between Mulvane 8-9 and Wamego 8-11.
Clearwater 13-5 has games on its schedule against Mulvane and Wichita Collegiate to close out the regular season. As the number two seed, Clearwater would play number 15 seed Holton or Clay Center while Nickerson (9-10) would face off against number 10 Chapman (7-11)
Andale and Abilene sit at 12-6 with Andale to play Rose Hill and Wellington this week while Abilene has Chapman and Hays at home. If the seedings remained as they are, Andale would probably play number 14 El Dorado (5-14) while Rose Hill (9-9) takes on Ulysses (7-12).
At the number four, the Cowboys would host number 13 Circle (5-13). Buhler at the number five would match against number 12 Wellington (6-12).
Several teams have two games remaining on the schedule through Thursday and the final seedings may be altered slightly come Saturday morning when brackets will be announced.
Abilene 59, Clay Center 30
Abilene 10 14 16 19 – 59
Clay Center 8 5 9 8 – 30
Abilene (12-6) – Coup 2, McVan 8, Bryson 9, Beetch 16, Becker 14, Davis 4, Heintz 4, Anderson 2. Totals: 21 (3) 8-9 59.
Clay Center – Floersch 3, Glaves 1, Pfizenmaier 3, Frederick 8, Williams 9, DeMars 2, Rosenow 2, Siebold 2. Totals: 5 (5) 5-10 30.