After playing sluggishly in the first quarter in the season opener Friday night against Smoky Valley, the Abilene Cowboys dominated defensively to wear down the visiting team and won its home opener 62-44.
The Vikings came out shooting the three-ball to begin the season against the Cowboys as they took a 20-14 lead after the first period. In fact the first four baskets by Smoky Valley were threes by senior Cade Schneider. The 6-3 Schneider was on fire and went on to lead the Vikings in scoring with 18 points, all on three-pointers.
Following the break in periods, the Cowboy defense stifled the Vikings offensively for the remainder of the half. Abilene held Smoky Valley to two-second period baskets that included a three-pointer by Schneider.
Schneider and his teammates went 9-13 a year ago after losing to Thomas Moore Prep in the finals of the Class 3A sub-state. They had upset the number two-ranked Phillipsburg in their opening game at sub-state.
“It was pretty wild there in the first quarter,” Abilene head coach Terry Taylor said. “That Schneider kid was on fire. We were decent offensively in the first quarter but we were still behind. Smoky Valley has a much improved team over the last several years. That’s the best Smoky Valley team that I can remember in a long time. They got a little tired there at the end. They are young and will be good again next year.”
Abilene senior Travis Beetch got the Cowboys rolling with a layup off an assist from junior Avery Bryson. From there the Cowboys went on an 11-0 run to lead 25-20 at the 2:49 mark. Junior Kieryan Anderson gave the Cowboys the lead for good with just over a minute to play in the half with a nice two-pointer following a tie by the Vikings. Anderson played in his first varsity action for the Cowboys. Anderson’s bucket made the score 27-25 and then sophomore Kaleb Becker and junior Blaise McVan added jumpers to send the Cowboys to break with a 31-25 lead.
McVan opened the second half scoring for the Cowboys with swishing three from the left corner to put Abilene up by seven at 34-27. Bryson kept the Abilene lead at five or six with a nice bucket until the end of the quarter. Bryson, 6-3 forward, finished off the third quarter with a crowd roaring three-pointer from deep at the buzzer. He had scored the last six Abilene points of the period and his trey gave the Cowboys a 10-point advantage at 48-38 heading to the fourth quarter.
“We kept running fresh bodies in and wore them down,” Taylor said. “Our kids were playing so hard tonight. I am really pleased with our effort. We had a lot if intensity. We weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but this was a good opening win at home.”
Abilene nearly took a 20-point lead late in the game as they scored eight of 10 from the free-throw line to get their opening win. The Cowboys literally wore the Vikings down in the second half, as coach Taylor was able to run five fresh athletic bodies into the lineup about every three minutes. Defensively, Abilene held Schneider to two third-quarter treys and then scoreless in the fourth.
“This was a good first win for our guys,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t easy. We will probably have more just like that. A lot of things to feel good about. Encouraging sign that we have potential to be a pretty good team.”
The Cowboys (1-0) will now travel to Rock Creek on Tuesday to play the Mustangs that were 67-35 winners over Clay Center on Friday night.
“We saw a lot of zone defense tonight,” Taylor said. “I expect a lot of man on Tuesday at Rock Creek. We will have to do a little work against a man defense to get ready for that and they really do a good job of fanning you to the baseline and then trying to take charge on you when you think you have a lineup. We will have to be a little bit more disciplined than we were a couple of times tonight. It will be a challenging game.”
Contact Ron Preston at email@example.com.
Abilene varsity 62,
Smoky Valley 44
Smoky Valley 20 5 13 6 - 44
Abilene 14 17 17 14 – 62
Smoky Valley – Kennedy 3, Rauchholz 2, Lysell-Stewart 4, Heline 2, Schneider 18, Heble 2, Lucas 9, Bengston 4.
Abilene – Jayshaun Jones 2, Kaden Coup 2, Josh Stuber 6, Blaise McVan 8, Avery Bryson 8, Travis Beetch 14, Kaleb Becker 12, Matt Davis 2, Grant Heintz 4, Kieryan Anderson 4.
Three-point baskets: Smoky Valley (7) – Schneider 6, Lucas 1. Abilene (5) – McVan 2, Bryson 1, Beetch 1, Becker 1.