Abilene’s Jenna Hayes (4) puts up a jump shot during first half action against Salina South Thursday at the SIT in Salina. South edged the Cowgirls 44-40.

SALINA – The Salina South Lady Cougars were able to get nine three-point baskets to fall as they edged the Abilene Cowgirls 44-40 in the opening round of the Salina Invitational Tournament Thursday night at South High School.

The Cougars ripped the nets with seven first-half treys that gave them enough cushion to hold off the hustling Cowgirls. Salina had four treys in a row over a period of time in the opening period as it built a 14-7 lead after one.

“Defense tonight was a lot better,” Abilene head coach Mike Liby said. “The girls stepped it up tonight and everybody had a pretty good game.”

Abilene senior Beth Holmes had back-to-back baskets to get the Cowgirls rolling in the second period, as Abilene was able to stay up with the Cougars in the second quarter. Holmes drove to the basket a third time in the quarter and junior Abi Lillard had a bucket and a pair of free throws and sophomore Jenna Hayes popped in a bucket as the Cowgirls came clawing back into the game down just two 17-19 at the 4:08 mark. The Lady Cougars bookended two treys around a layup and they took a 28-19 lead at intermission.

Just when the Cowgirls were making a third period run at South to get within four points, Salina sophomore guard Kylie Arnold drained a pair of long shots to push the lead back to 38-29 headed to the fourth.

Abilene got a scoring surge midway through the final eight minutes that excited the crowd, as the Cowgirls got within two before the Cougars added some cushion. Holmes sank a three followed by free throws from Hayes and a nice bucket by sophomore Joy Clemence and the Cowgirls were down just five at 36-41 with just over a minute to play.

Holmes put in a couple of free throws and a jumper following Arnold’s two free throws that kept within three. Her final shot came with just 10.2 seconds showing as she drove the lane for a layup. Following a time out by both squads, Abilene had to foul to stop the clock and Arnold connected on one of two from the line for the Cougar win.

“I was proud of the team as we came back,” coach Liby said. “They hit seven threes in the first half. We knew they could hit threes. We also knew they could drive the basket. We tried to prevent the drives and stay close and they hit about everything they threw up in that first half. Didn’t hit them in the second half. We won the second half and I am proud of them. They persevered through it.”

Holmes led all scorers with 17 points while Lillard finished with 12 for the Cowgirls. Hayes added six but she owned the boards for Abilene with 13 big rebounds. Lillard finished with seven rebounds.

Sophomore Sydney Peterson led the Cougars with 12 points and Arnold added 10. Senior Lauren Raubenstine finished with nine for South.

The Cowgirls (3-5) will play Andover at 3 p.m. Friday at Salina Central High School.

Contact Ron Preston at sports@abilene-rc.com.

Scoring Summary:

Salina South 44, Abilene 40

Abilene 7 12 10 11 – 40

South 14 14 10 6 – 44

Abilene (3-5) – Holmes 17, Vopat 1, Lillard 12, Hayes 6, Liby 2, Clemence 2. Totals: 14 91) 9-11 40.

Salina South – Weis 5, Raubenstine 9, Peterson 12, Arnold 10, Hamel 3, Maxton 5. Totals: 4 (9) 9-14 44.

Contact Ron Preston at sports@abilene-rc.com.

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