After playing evenly for the first eight minutes, the Abilene Cowboys put some distance between themselves and the Clay Center Tigers before having to regroup and hold off a Tiger rally late in the game.
The Tigers who have only two wins on the season had ‘upset’ on their minds as they shot up threes and fought hard in a 52-45 Cowboy win Monday night in Abilene.
With the game tied at 9-9 after the first period, the Cowboys jumped out on the Tigers as senior captain Travis Beetch scored 12 of his game high 19 points leading the way. Beetch jump-started the Cowboys on an 8-0 run to open the second quarter with a nice lay in following an Avery Bryson assist. The two exchanged touches on the next Cowboy possession and then sophomore Kaleb Becker and junior Grant Heintz added baskets as Abilene pulled ahead 17-9 leading to a Clay Center time out.
After the time out and Clay Center’s fourth trey of the game, Becker had a bucket and then guided Beetch to another score. Heintz made two charity tosses and then Beetch hit back-to-back threes and the Cowboys were up 13 at 29-16. Becker and Beetch finished the Cowboy scoring in the final minute as the Cowboys went to half time leading 33-20.
“We didn’t have a great performance tonight,” Abilene head coach Terry Taylor said. “We were solid through three quarters and then kind of relaxed a little but a win is a win.”
Both teams struggled to score in the third period but the Cowboys had a one-point advantage added to its lead going into the fourth up 41-27.
“We had a nice lead there in the third quarter and we subbed in some players and we didn’t play with the same intensity to begin the fourth quarter,” Taylor said. “Our starters came back but we had lost a little bit of the edge we had. Clay Center made a couple of shots and their kids don’t quit. I told their coach they are so much better fundamentally than they were a year ago. They take care of the ball and they play together and they were getting good shots tonight. If they continue to shoot threes they are going to hang around with people. That’s what happened tonight.”
Abilene senior Jayshaun Jones opened the Cowboy fourth with a neat reverse layup but then the Tigers ran off an 11-2 run to cut into the Cowboy lead at 38-45. Following a Cowboy time out, Becker and Beetch had three-point plays and Abilene was back up by 11 at 51-40. Over the remaining minute and a half of action the Cowboys scored one of four free throws while the Tigers drew closer with a jumper and their eighth three pointer of the game.
Becker finished with 14 for the Cowboys while Clay Center senior Cooper Glavan and junior Witt Williams shot in nine points each to lead the Tigers.
Abilene improves to 8-5 on the year and will travel to Marysville on Friday looking for a win against the Bulldogs. A win Friday would bump the Cowboys into the NCKL lead as both team sit with one loss. Abilene’s lose in league play was to Marysville at home and the Bulldogs lost to Concordia on the road before the holiday break.
“I told the kids that if we want to be league champs then we must win Friday night,” Taylor said. “That’s just the way it is. Can’t let them have a game up on us with just a couple to play. Get a win up there and then we have to take care of business the rest of the way. It is huge for us.”
Contact Ron Preston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abilene 52, Clay Center 45
Clay Center 9 11 7 17 – 45
Abilene 9 24 8 11 – 52
Clay Center (2-11) – Lee 7, Floresch 6, Glavan 9, Glaves 2, Pfizenmaier 6, Frederick 6, Williams 9. Totals: 10 (8) 1-1 45.
Abilene (8-5) – Jones 2, Coup 8, Stuber 1, Bryson 2, Beetch 19, Becker 14, Davis 2, Heintz 4. Totals: 15 (5) 7-11 52.