WAMEGO — Facing undefeated and Class 3A No. 3 Sabetha at home, the Wamego boys’ basketball team knew it was going to have its hands full Friday.
Facing a 13-point halftime deficit, the Red Raiders were able to claw their way back into the game in the second half, but eventually fell, 67-52.
Behind the hot shooting of Jared Ayers and Trenton York, the Red Raiders got within six points multiple times against Sabetha. Even though Wamego was unable to come away with the victory, head coach Troy Hemphill applauded his team after the game.
“I thought we played with great effort,” Hemphill said. “I thought we did a pretty good job defensively. Sabetha hit a lot of shots that put us in a hole…I really have no complaints.”
Because of early foul trouble to post Eli Miller, who finished with 14 points, Hemphill was forced to play small. It was during this stretch that Sabetha took control with a 19-9 run through the second quarter. Kyler Alderson filled in for Miller in the middle of the Wamego defense.
With Sabetha on its run, Hemphill was forced to put Miller back in the game in order to shore up the Wamego defense.
“That’s why we put him back in the game because we felt like the game was slipping away from us,” Hemphill said. “That’s just the nature of our team.”
Miller played smart down the stretch and rewarded Hemphill’s trust, even though the coach’s hand might have been forced, by picking up one foul the rest of the game.
“The two fouls he got were just unfortunate,” Hemphill said. “I didn’t think they were lazy. Just happens sometime. I thought he played really smart the second half and gave us a chance to win the game.”
York finished the night with a team-high 15 points on five 3s, while Ayres added 14 with four 3s. Several shots from the two shooters were halfway down before bouncing out.
“When you get down like that, you have to do just about everything perfect to win the game,” Hemphill said. “We just couldn’t quite get over the hump.”
Those near makes were a microcosm of a game that was close, but stayed out of reach for the Red Raiders. Wamego did inch back in the game in the third quarter. The comeback forced Hemphill to shorten his bench.
Jacob Frey led Sabetha with 15 points, with two other players in double figures. It was the team’s balanced effort and timely shooting that kept the Bluejays in command.