Wildcat Nils Bergsten (shown above, middle) cuts to the basket for an easy two points in the second half of Friday's league battle against Sabetha. Bergsten picked a good time to have a career-high 16 points, but it still wasn't quite enough as Sabetha weathered Holton's late rally and held on for a 55-52 victory.

Holton boys get close late, but come up short on the road against Sabetha

We’re not winning these games, but we’re clawing back and giving ourselves a chance being in them and I think that’s important when you talk about late in the season,” Noel said. “It’s games like this that will be big for our basketball team, knowing that we may be down, but we’re not out.”


From the opening moments of Friday’s league match-up between the Holton and Sabetha boys, it looked like fans might be in for a shoot-out befitting a game between the second-ranked team in Class 3A and the eighth-ranked team in Class 4A-DII.

The teams traded threes on their opening possessions and while the Wildcats quickly cooled off offensively, the team found some deep reserves and nearly negated those struggles before its fourth-quarter rally fell short in a 55-52 loss to the Blue Jays on the road.

“Unfortunately, there are so many possessions that you look back at that you’d like to have back in close games. I think we’re 0-3 right now and probably lost by less than 10 points in all three of them,” HHS coach Ryan Noel said.

While Holton’s string of misfortune in close games persisted, the team didn’t help itself early on thanks to some shooting woes and defensive issues.

Sabetha’s height advantage was a factor in Holton’s offensive struggles in the first quarter as the Wildcats tried to attack the rim only to have Blue Jays’ Calder Keehn and Brock Frey block several shots right under the basket.

After the Wildcats jumped out to a 4-3 lead, the Blue Jays answered with a 6-0 run of their own and while Garett Beecher’s second three of the first quarter helped Holton stay close, host Sabetha still managed to go up 14-9 by the end of the first quarter.

Throughout the night, Holton was able to create some turnovers, but the team could not convert on the other end, an issue that started early in the first half.

Sabetha’s Kegan Schumann than nailed a three-pointer to open the second quarter, highlighting the varied ways in which the Blue Jays are a match-up nightmare. Holton had a little more movement on the offensive end in the second quarter, but still the team found itself down 29-19 at the half and Noel attributed a lot of that to the Wildcats’ defense on Friday night.

“We’re better defensively than we played in the first half and that’s one of the things we talked about at halftime pretty extensively,” Noel said. “A dismal shooting night, you’re going to have those, but defense has to show up every night and we weren’t there at all in the first half.”

The second half was a different story and that size mismatch wasn’t as big a factor as Noel noted forwards Indie Allen and Nils Bergsten held their own on both ends, but especially on defense, guarding some guys with length and versatility that put them out of position.

Still, Allen again led the Wildcats with eight rebounds and Bergsten finished with a career-high 16 points, going to work in the post to help in the team’s comeback effort. That is pretty much where all of team’s two-point field goals came from in a rough first half and the Wildcats were able to exploit that a little more in the second half thanks to ball movement.

“Ball movement creates good shots. Ball movement creates open shots. Ball movement creates success for our team and without it, we are going to struggle a little bit to shoot the ball at a high percentage,” Noel said.

After Sabetha got up by 11, Beecher hit a key three with three minutes left in the third to make it an eight-point game, but Parker Sides had to hit two crucial free throws at the end of the period just so the Wildcats could end it where they began, trailing by 10 points.

Bryson Patch then came off the bench to start the fourth quarter and quickly scored five points to cut the deficit in half. While Frey answered with a three-pointer for Sabetha with just over three minutes left in the game, Trey Tanking had an answer for the Wildcats as he found his shooting touch in crunch time.

With 2:23 left in the game, Tanking hit a three to get the Wildcats within four points and then with just over 30 seconds left, Tanking struck again to get his team within three, 50-27.

Holton had to foul down the stretch and while Sabetha made eight of 10 free throws in the final minute and half, those two misses were enough to leave the door open for the Wildcats.

Parker Sides, who made some clutch free throws in the second half and held Frey in check late, got one final look to tie the game, but his final shot hit off the front of the rim and allowed the Blue Jays to survive with a 55-52 win on their home court.

“I was really pleased with our effort late and, you know, we had them in some tough spots on some inbounds plays. I thought they handled the situation very well, especially there late when we were out of timeouts,” Noel said. “We just played aggressively with a sense of urgency that wasn’t there in the first half.”

“We can’t have a first half like that and expect to be in those ball games. We scored 19 points in the first half and 20 in the fourth quarter,” Noel added. “We have to play with a sense of urgency. We have to be aggressive offensively. We know that we’re going to get some shots. We’re going to get some looks, but we have to create them by moving the ball and attacking the rim.”

Holton did that basically with pure effort in the second half and while six of 21 shooting on two-point field goals in the first half may have doomed HHS, the Wildcats still nearly found a way to pull off the win. It may be disheartening and frustrating in the moment, but Noel knows his team may be building up some good experience as the postseason draws near.

“We’re not winning these games, but we’re clawing back and giving ourselves a chance being in them and I think that’s important when you talk about late in the season,” Noel said. “It’s games like this that will be big for our basketball team, knowing that we may be down, but we’re not out.”

There is still a long ways to go in league competition as well, so while Holton (7-6) may be down, the team is definitely not out and will try to bounce back against Perry-Lecompton on Tuesday with games starting at 4:30 p.m. in Perry.

Jan. 30, 2015

HHS:  9-10-13-20—52

Sab.:  14-15-13-13—55

Individual statistics:

HHS:  Beecher 6 (3) 2-2 17, Bergsten 7 2-3 16, Tanking 3 (2) 0-0 8, Sides 2 0-0 4, Patch 2 1-1 5, Allen 1 0-0 2. Totals- 21 (5) 5-6 52.

Sab.:  Schumann 9 (4) 3-4 22, Frey 4 (3) 2-4 16, Russell 2 (1) 2-2 7, Kirwan 2 0-0 4, Cox 1 0-0 2, Keehn 1 0-0 2, Plattner 0 2-2 2. Totals- 19 (8) 9-12 55.

Team statistics:

Rebounding:  HHS- 24 (Allen 8, Beecher 5, Tanking 5); Sab.- 17 (Frey 9, Keehn 3, Plattner 2).

Assists:  HHS- 12 (Tanking 7, Beecher 2); Sab.- 10 (Keehn 4, Frey 3, Plattner 3).

Turnovers:  HHS- 10; Sab.- 11.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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