WAMEGO — Packed to the brim, Wamego and Rock Creek fans squeezed into the gym at Wamego High School expecting a shootout, and that’s exactly what they got.
Rock Creek ran away from Wamego, 75-64, in a game that was much closer down the stretch than the score indicated.
Down 17 points entering the fourth quarter, the Red Raiders rallied behind big shots from Jared Ayres and Kyler Alderson. Ayres (19) and Alderson (12) combined for 31 of Wamego’s 64 points, with 22 points coming in the second half.
Wamego closed the 17-point gap down to four points with a 15-2 scoring burst.
“We got scared — we panicked, I guess,” Rock Creek head coach Mike Johnston said. “It was a great learning lesson for us.”
It seemed like the Red Raiders were ready to seize momentum, but a defensive miscue gave Rock Creek senior guard Ryan Schneider an open look from 3. With a flick of the wrist, Schneider put the Mustangs back up by seven.
“That’s a great shot for us when he shoots the ball from the outside,” Johnston said about Schneider’s trey. Schneider also hit key free throws down the stretch to keep Rock Creek comfortably in the lead.
While the 15-2 run was positive, Wamego coach Troy Hemphill wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort.
“The run is all well and good, but we can’t be in that situation,” he said. “We just got beat most of the game. First half, we just got manhandled.”
As Wamego battled foul trouble between its five starters, Rock Creek pounded the ball inside to James Garcia and Carson Becker.
Becker led the way for the Mustangs with 25 points. Garcia added 11.
Becker shrugged off the personal accolades and directed the attention toward his floormates.
“My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball,” the sophomore said.
Hemphill was very complimentary of Rock Creek’s young center.
“He’s a very good player,” Hemphill said. “He’s fundamentally sound and when he gets it around the basket, he finishes. He and Schneider were by far the two best players in the game tonight.”
Alderson sat out the entire second quarter before re-entering in the third quarter. And upon his re-entrance, Wamego peeled off a 9-0 run.
The tightly-contested game did get chippy with two different Rock Creek players — Garcia and Jackson Goodmiller — whistled for technical fouls throughout the course of the contest.
Rock Creek seized the game from the opening tip and lead 18-14 after the first quarter. That lead was extended to 16 points after Rock Creek outscored Wamego 20-8 in the second quarter.
Able to break Wamego’s pressure, Rock Creek’s offense flowed up court with long outlet passes and ended with Mustang layups.
The Mustangs would not score less than 18 points in a quarter.
Wamego will play a league game against Concordia on Tuesday. Coach Hemphill hopes this loss will provide a wake-up call for his squad who lost eight seniors off last year’s team.
Rock Creek hosts Riley County.