WAMEGO — The Wamego boys’ basketball team continued it’s midseason turnaround Thursday night with a convincing 65-50 upset of rival Abilene.
With the win, the Red Raiders remain in a tie with Concordia for first place in the North Central Kansas League standings, while knocking the Cowboys a game off the pace.
“First of all, I’m really proud of the kids, because just six days ago they not only beat us, they handled us,” Wamego head coach Troy Hemphill said. “To turn around and play with the energy and mental toughness to play well tonight. I thought we controlled the game from start to finish.”
In a game that was moved from its original Feb. 6 date due to winter weather the Red Raiders (9-9, 7-1 NCKL) rode hot starts to each half and 52 percent shooting from the field — including 6 of 13 from long range to avenge a 63-43 loss to these same Cowboys (11-6, 6-2) last Friday.
“There was no doubt,” Wamego senior Jared Ayers said afterward. “No doubt that we could play with them. We knew we just had to come out and execute a lot better than we did the first time.”
Ayers led four Red Raiders in double figures with 18 points. Fellow senior, Trenton York, scored 15 points and had six assists. Junior Kyler Alderson also scored 15 points, while junior Eli Miller added 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Wamego started the game on back-to-back 3-pointers from Ayers and York — who had 11 first-quarter points.
And when Alderson hit a driving layup in traffic to put the Red Raiders up 8-0 just 90 seconds into the game, Abilene head coach Terry Taylor had seen enough, and called a time out.
Abilene would get off the snide on a floater by Tanner Hockman, and the teams traded baskets before Miller grabbed an offensive rebound and found York for another 3 from the corner to make it 13-4. An Abilene bucket, followed by York’s third bomb of the first quarter gave Wamego a 16-6 lead with 3:25 left in the first.
Wamego extended the lead to as many as 12 points before Hockman completed an old-fashioned three-point play to end the quarter and give the Red Raiders a 20-11 lead.
With York and Miller in foul trouble, the Cowboys went on a 15-2 run of their own to start the second quarter and grabbed their only lead of the game on another driving deuce from Hockman at 27-26 with two minutes to go before the half.
But Wamego got a pair of free throws from Ayers, and York found a cutting Alderson for a lay-in to quickly push the Raiders back in front at 30-27 late in the half.
Wamego got a bizarre twist of help just before the buzzer, as an inside shot by freshman forward Dillon Blain appeared to be blocked, but the referees ruled that the Abilene defender went through the bottom of the rim to knock it away for goaltending.
A furious Taylor stormed the scorer’s table, which resulted in a technical foul.
Wamego led 32-27 at halftime and Ayers made both technical foul shots just prior to the start of the second half.
Three minutes later, Ayers drilled a 3-pointer and was fouled on another, hitting 2 of 3 at the line as the lead grew to 41-29.
York’s fourth trey of the game capped a 16-2 run to start the second half and Wamego had its largest lead of the game at 48-28 with 1:30 left in the third quarter.
A big defensive performance from John Ten Eyck was a major factor, as he neutralized Abilene standout Keil Kelly for much of the game, holding him to just four points.
“I thought he was the star of the game,” Hemphill said.
Despite a furious fourth-quarter press, Abilene wouldn’t get within 10 points of the Red Raiders again, as Alderson helped ice the game by making 6 of 6 from the free-throw line down the stretch.
Wamego has a quick turnaround as it heads north to face Concordia (12-4, 6-1) tonight with a chance to clinch a share of the league title against 4A’s sixth-ranked Panthers.
WAMEGO 65, ABILENE 50
Abilene 11 16 7 16 — 50
Wamego 20 12 18 15 — 65
ABILENE (50) — Hockman 15, Patrick 15, Wilson 10, Kelly 6, Karms 4.
WAMEGO (65) — Ayers 18, Alderson 15, York 15, Miller 13, Blain 4.
3-pointers — Abilene 1 (Patrick), Wamego 6 (York 4, Ayers 2)