Abilene senior Beth Holmes scored the first five points of the game in Abilene’s 41-40 season opening thriller Friday night over Smoky Valley.
Those points were important to the win in head coach Mike Liby’s debut as the leader of the Cowgirls. But probably the defining moment by Holmes came with time running out in the final seconds of the game. With Abilene trailing by two at 38-40, Holmes drove for a layup and was fouled as the bucket counted. Holmes stepped to the free-throw line with 34.2 seconds left in the contest to swish the game winner and give her Cowgirl team a thrilling season opening victory.
“We have been drilling, drilling if anything we have been drilling on defense,” Abilene head coach Mike Liby said. “Because we know that is what is going to make our offense. It paid off throughout the game but the last 16 seconds were really special.”
Holmes and sophomore Jenna Hayes led all scorers with 15 points as Abilene moved to 1-0 on the year. Both returners off last year’s team, Holmes and Hayes amped up their offensive performance and enabled the Cowgirls to rejoice with the win. Both shooters had two of Abilene’s five three-point baskets.
“Jenna got smarter as the game went on after getting a couple of fouls early,” coach Liby said. “But, she didn’t get frustrated. She played smart and we worked it out.”
The Cowgirls started the fourth quarter tied with the Lady Vikings at 30-30. The score went back and forth through out the period as the Vikings went ahead by three after a trey by junior Kerrington Haxton. Hayes popped in a jumper and then hit one of two free throws for a 33-33 tie midway through the period.
Holmes gave the Cowgirls the lead with her second trey of the game at the 3:05 mark and then hit two charity tosses for a 38-35 advantage. Haxton made two from the stripe to bring the Vikings within one at 37-38.
Abilene missed a couple of free throws at the 1:12 mark and then after a Smoky Valley time out, junior McKinley Johnson sank a shot from behind the arc. That trey gave Smoky Valley the 40-38 advantage with 51.5 seconds remaining.
Abilene coach Liby called a quick time out and then with 34.2 left Holmes scored her old fashion three-point play that would prove to be the game winner.
Smoky Valley quickly drove the ball to mid court and then called a time out with just 27 seconds showing on the clock. Abilene’s defense had been tenacious all night but really forced the Lady Vikings to panic and get off a bad outside shot at the buzzer that was short of the goal and it was grabbed by Abilene’s Abi Lillard as the horn sounded.
Lillard led the Cowgirls with five rebounds and she scored six points on offense. Junior Allison Liby was also strong on the boards with four boards and she popped in a career high five points. Hayes, Holmes and senior Hannah Snowball were all active under the backboard for Abilene as their defensive rebounds added to the Cowgirls offense on the other end of the court.
Coach Liby used 10 Cowgirls in the win and he considered this a team win.
“We had a large group get in,” coach Liby said. “We tried to keep our troupe fresh. I am really proud of all of them. It was a team win.”
The Cowgirls (1-0) travel to Rock Creek Tuesday before coming home on Friday for a contest with Augusta. The Lady Mustangs fell 29-17 to Clay Center in their opener on Friday.
“For the first game out, I thought our play was OK,” the coach said. “I’ll take it. I thought our offensive and defensive side was good. I am excited to build on this going forward.”
Contact Ron Preston at email@example.com.
Abilene Cowgirls 41,
Smoky Valley 40
Smoky Valley 10 5 15 10 – 40
Abilene 8 13 9 11 - 41
Smoky Valley – Van Der Wege 3, Brumbaugh 12, Priddy 10, Haxton 8, Johnson 3, Ryan 4.
Abilene – Beth Holmes 15, Abi Lillard 6, Jenna Hayes 15, Allison Liby 5.
Three-pointers: Smoky Valley (8) – Van DerWege 1, Brumbaugh 4, Haxton 2, Johnson 1. Abilene (5) – Holmes 2, Hayes 2, Liby 1.