Wildcat rally falls just short in sub-state title game against Atchison
After narrowly missing out on a match-up at the midseason Tonganoxie Invitational basketball tournament, it seemed like the Holton and Atchison boys were on a collision course when it came to sub-state competition.
The fifth and eighth-ranked teams in Class 4A-DII, respectively, met in Saturday’s sub-state championship game in Hoyt and left it all on the line with the Redmen getting just a little more in the end to advance to the state tournament with a 67-63 victory.
Atchison’s Adam Smith landed the opening salvo, draining a three right away to put his team ahead, but Trey Tanking answered with four quick points for Holton that sparked a 13-0 run and put the Wildcats ahead 16-8 after one quarter of play.
Holton coach Ryan Noel noted his team came out focused and he said that actually may have come from a pre-game discussion of the challenges and tough possessions Atchison could create for his team in the game.
“Maybe that’s why we were loose, we’d just talked about accepting that we were going to make some mistakes,” Noel said. “They’re a good ball club. They’re going to get us into some things that we may struggle with, but we just had to keep clawing away.”
After Tanking’s early outburst, Beecher went into attack mode in the second quarter. While Atchison’s Wykeen Gill responded with some big threes, undersized Holton forwards Indie Allen and Nils Bergsten continued to help HHS maintain its advantage by locking down the post on the defensive end.
“They play hard. They practice really hard. They just go hard every day. They’re so likeable to have on the team because they’re going to give it everything they’ve got,” Noel said.
Holton seemed to get sped up on offense late in the second quarter and while Noel noted his team needs to push the pace, it also is what Atchison wants to do on the defensive end and helped the Redmen close the gap to two points, 27-25, going into halftime.
“We have to play fast a little bit, yet we still have to find good shots,” Noel said. “By and large, I think we played fast at times and it helped us and I think some times it hurt us a little bit.”
What hurt Holton in the third quarter was some let-up in the interior defense as RaShaun Chambers got loose and scored nine of his 12 points in that period.
Bergsten seemed to help Holton get that edge back with less than two minutes left in the period, collecting two key offensive rebounds and drawing two fouls, but his two free throws couldn’t get the game back within single digits as the Redmen took a 48-38 lead into the fourth quarter.
While Gill hit some big shots in that stretch as well, the Redmen also get key contributions from Smith and reserve guard Tyler DeSilva, but that was a risk Noel said he was willing to take.
“We were willing to let that happen. Really, we knew that he’s (Gill) their player and we wanted to really limit him in the first half and I think we did that and their other kids hit some shots. That’s a spot where we had to gamble a little bit and see what happened.” Noel said.
Those guards also made some free throws down the stretch, which was key with Atchison getting into the double bonus early in the fourth quarter. Missing some front ends left the door open for Holton, though, and the Wildcats wouldn’t go down without a fight.
A minute into the fourth quarter, Beecher hit a three to bring the Wildcats within seven points and halfway through the period Tanking sank two free throws that were followed by another three from Beecher that got Holton within three points.
That was as close as Holton would get until the very end, though, as Tanking and Beecher continued to make baskets for Holton when the team needed them, but Atchison answered with a basket or two free throws each time.
“We just never really quite got it back. We chipped away close, but then they’d get to the free throw line down on their end or maybe we’d give up an extra rebound,” Noel said. “They’re a good team. They’re a tough ball club and they played hard defensively. We just couldn’t ever really quite cut it to where it was a manageable, one-possession game.”
Defensively, the Wildcats just couldn’t get enough stops in the end and while Allen hit a last-ditch three for Holton it was too little, too late as the team’s comeback effort fell just a little short.
Allen is part of a strong senior class that included Bergsten, Tanking, Cole Lehwald, Parker Sides and 1,000-point scorer Beecher (who got over that mark with 23 points Saturday) and Noel said they will be missed next season as the Wildcats try to improve on a 15-7 overall record.
March 7, 2015
HHS: Beecher 7 (4) 5-6 23, Tanking 7 (3) 2-2 19, Allen 4 (1) 1-3 10, Patch 3 (1) 0-1 7, Bergsten 0 2-4 2, Wright 1 0-0 2. Totals- 22 (9) 10-16 63.
Atch.: Gill 7 (3) 8-9 25, Smith 3 (2) 9-11 17, Chambers 5 2-3 12, Rawls 1 2-7 4, Helms 1 (1) 1-4 4, De Silva 1 (1) 0-0 3, Bateman 1 0-0 2. Totals- 19 (7) 22-34 67.
Rebounding: HHS- 26 (Allen 8, Beecher 7, Bergsten 6); Atch.- 22 (Chambers 8, Gill 4, Helms 4).
Assists: HHS- 11 (Tanking 5, Beecher 3, Patch 3); Atch.- 8 (Gill 3).
Turnovers: HHS- 9; Atch.- 9.