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Wamego boys take down Clay Center, 68-53

By Maria McIlwain

Wamego head boys basketball coach Troy Hemphill thinks the best is yet to come for his team.

But Tuesday night’s product was pretty good, too.

Three Red Raiders (5-0) finished in double figures as Wamego beat Clay Center, 68-53.

Wamego led by as much as 22 during the game, but the Red Raiders weren’t always so dominant. They had a rough start to the first quarter and found themselves down by six early on.

But Wamego battled to take the lead and never let go.

Dillon Blain came alive in the second quarter, scoring eight points in the frame. The senior finished with 26 points, leading all scorers.

“Dillon’s just a fantastic offensive player,”Hemphill said. “He can get to the basket, he makes shots and he kind of sensed that we were struggling, and he took it upon himself and he did a lot of things on his own.”

Sean Nordberg recorded 17 points, while Matt Keller added 11.

“(Nordberg) wasn’t getting a lot of stuff easy tonight, he had to earn a lot of it,” Hemphill said. “But Sean’s averaging 20 points per game, so I wasn’t surprised. And I thought Matt Keller did a nice job of getting the ball to the hole.”

Clay Center began chipping at Wamego’s lead in the third quarter, but a 6-0 run helped the Red Raiders pull away.

Hemphill credited the Tigers’ tenacious play throughout the game. Anthony Atkinson-Enneking led Clay Center with 18 points, and Parker Folks also finished in double figures with 16.

Hemphill felt his team had earlier opportunities to put the game away, but Clay Center took advantage of Wamego’s missed chances.

“We couldn’t seem to hit key shots when we really needed to put them away,” Hemphill said. “That’s a credit to Clay Center, I thought they played well, and that was really not one of our better games offensively.”

He added that he expected a battle from Clay Center.

“When kids are playing hard, sometimes bodies collide together,” Hemphill said. “I thought the officials did a great job of recognizing when kids are hustling and rewarding the defense and all of that. I appreciate when the ball is going up and down the floor and kids are hustling, diving after that. I’d much rather do that than watch kids shoot free throws.”

He added that the Red Raiders perimeter defense as well as 3-point shooting needed to improve. Wamego made just three 3-pointers Tuesday night, two by Blain and one by Keller.

“(We) have to shoot it better from the perimeter, our perimeter defense needs to be better,” Hemphill said. “There are times where we need to make two or three passes. We tend to break down pretty early in our offense.”

But he feels some of that will come with experience.

“Most of our guys, except for Sean and Dillon, are still pretty new,” Hemphill said. “Most of them are still new as far as being main guys on our team, and I think it’s going to take a little longer for them to get comfortable. But I think we have the pieces, and when we put it all together, we’ll be pretty good.”

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