Rock Creek boys’ basketball coach Jim Johnston knew Saturday’s 61-49 loss to Central Heights at the Class 3A tournament would be one that would sting for awhile.
But Johnston said he couldn’t be any more proud of his group after taking fourth at the tournament in Hutchinson.
Johnston said throughout the season, the Mustangs went above and beyond expectations that were set long ago.
“I’m so proud of our kids,” he said. “They exceeded everyone’s expectations because when they were in junior high they weren’t a great team, but they worked their butts off and made themselves better. All these kids are great students and I never had to worry about them, and they are good people and they take care of each other.”
Central Heights came out firing early in the game to lead 19-8 after the first quarter, and outscored the Mustangs 15-6 in the second to lead 34-14 at the break.
Johnston said the early deficit was a combination of things going wrong for his team.
“We didn’t come out shooting the ball well at all and all of our shots were hitting the front of the rim, and they shot the ball extremely well,” he said. “Some of it was them making plays and some of that was us not executing some things defensively.”
The score was 44-24 through the third quarter, and Rock Creek made a run in the fourth quarter to cut the score down to 12 points by the end.
“We made a run there late with some of our younger kids, but they led by a lot at halftime,” Johnston said. “It was a tough day because we didn’t shoot the ball well, and they did. They made plays when they needed to.”
Jacob Miller recorded a double-double for the Mustangs with 10 points and 11 rebounds, while KJ Dobbins scored 10 points.
Sam Leach had 15 points for Central Heights, while Jordan Horstick and Adam Seyler scored 10 points apiece.
Rock Creek entered the tournament at 19-4 on the season and beat Moundridge on Wednesday night, 49-41. The Mustangs went up against No. 1 seed Scott City on Friday and fell 64-49 in game that Johnston said his team never stopped fighting.
The Rock Creek coach said he was proud of the way his team played through adversity throughout the week.
“I know the season didn’t end like we wanted to, but we played hard against Scott City and made a run at them and they were a great team,” Johnston said. “I couldn’t have been more proud of this team for just fighting. It was a privilege to coach this group this season.”
Johnston said in his message to the team after the game that there was a lot to be proud of for this season, especially being the first team from Rock Creek to make a state appearance since 1994.
“To get a medal at state is a special thing because there are very few that get that in their high school career,” he said. “It was emotional for me because I won’t get to coach those seven seniors again. I wouldn’t trade this group for the world — it was just an awesome season.”
The Mustangs finished off the season with a 20-6 record.