After trailing much of the game, Wamego head coach Troy Hemphill switched to a 2-3 zone defense that in all essence shut down the Abilene Cowboy offense and enabled the Red Raiders to get a come from behind win 47-43 Tuesday night in Abilene.
“The momentum in this game swung when coach Hemphill switched to that two-three defense,” Abilene head coach Erik Graefe said. “We couldn’t adjust and that’s mostly on me because we haven’t worked against that zone much in practice. Our guys couldn’t figure it out. We work on man most of the time because of our normal movement of the ball. But we will work on it now because if I’m a coach yet to play us, after seeing this film, we’ll play a two-three against Abilene.”
The Cowboys came out strong right out of the gate as senior Grant Heintz was fed the ball inside the lane for back to back baskets and senior Avery Bryson popped in a trey and then connected on a pretty reverse layup that put the Cowboys up 9-0 with five and a half minutes left in the opening quarter.
Wamego senior Tanner Hecht then got the Red Raiders cooking back to back to back baskets that helped Wamego claw right back in the game. Abilene’s Kaleb Becker and Josh Stuber had jumpers for the Cowboys and Becker followed with a trey to push the Cowboys up by 10 near the end of the quarter.
Becker led the Cowboys in the second quarter with six more points and Abilene took a 24-15 lead to the locker room. Abilene increased its lead to 15 points midway through the third quarter as Becker hit four for four from the line and Stuber, Bryson and Blaise McVan had scoring shots that gave Abilene a 35-20 lead with under three minutes to play in the third period.
Hemphill called a time out and not only did the Red Raiders switch from man defense to the confusing 2-3 zone, Hecht and company started on an aggressive charge to the basket.
Abilene took a 35-27 lead to the final eight minutes but Hecht and junior Ledjor Rowden went on a scoring spree that pulled the Raiders within one at 37-36 with 4:14 remaining. The Cowboys had made just two free throws in the first four minutes of the quarter. Following an Abilene timeout, Heintz slammed home a bucket that put the Cowboys up by three at 39-36 with less than four minutes to play.
Wamego stayed even with the Cowboys and eventually tied the game at 39-39 with 2:38 to play. Stuber gave the Cowboys its last lead of the contest with a layup at the two-minute mark.
“The biggest difference in the game was the switch in defenses,” Graefe said. “It got us out of rhythm and we couldn’t adjust to it. Couldn’t ever get back into it offensively.”
Junior Jacob Fritz came up big for the Red Raiders in the final two-minutes with a jumper to tie and then with 50 seconds left he hit a swishing three that proved to be the dagger to the chest of the Cowboys. Becker’s two free throws brought the Cowboys within one but Fritz sank two charity tosses and Hecht made one of two to end the game and give the Red Raiders the come from behind victory.
“That was a big shot by Fritz and we did everything right in that possession,” Graefe said, “He just hit a good shot. That was huge. When you give away a lead like that it kind of takes the wind out of your sails. We looked awesome in the first half but that zone kind of took away our luster and you have got to credit Wamego for that.”
Hecht led all scorers with 21 to power Wamego while Rowden put in 15 points, 10 in the big fourth quarter. Fritz had nine all in the second half. Becker was tops for the Cowboys with 19 while Stuber had eight and Bryson finished with seven.
Abilene drops to 3-2 with the loss and will travel to Clay Center (1-5) on Friday. Wamego improves to 5-1 and they are 2-1 in conference play.
Contact Ron Preston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wamego 47, Abilene 43
Wamego 9 6 12 20 – 47
Abilene 16 8 11 8 – 43
Wamego (5-1) – Fritz 9, Springer 2, Rowden 15, Hecht 21. Totals: 12 (5) 8-12 47.
Abilene (3-2) – Stuber 8, McVan 3, Bryson 7, Becker 19, Heintz 6. Totals: 13 (3) 8-16 43.