McCook girls come close to first win; Bison boys third in Kansas tourney
COLBY, Kan. -- The McCook High School girls were literally just seconds away from their first victory of the season Saturday, Jan. 23.
The Bison girls watched a big slip away, and Wichita South claimed a 54-51 victory in the seventh-place final of the annual Orange and Black Classic at the Colby, Kan., High School gym.
McCook suffered a 68-26 loss to Scott City, Kan. in consolation semifinal action Friday, Jan. 22, to drop the Bison girls into Saturday's seventh-place final.
Head coach Jeff Ellis and his McCook squad has not won a game in 19 starts this season. But the Bison were probably just a rebound away, perhaps a basket away from a win Saturday against the Kansas Class 6 A team from Wichita.
"We did better tonight that we did in that Hastings game at home (a 57-42 loss Jan. 15)," Coach Ellis said. "We kind of dealt with the pressure a little bit better tonight. The Hastings game, in the middle of the fourth quarter is when things kind of started go south for us. Tonight we were right there until the final buzzer.
"Gosh darn it, a couple rebounds, two possessions in that game right there at the end cost us the ball game. You don't want to dwell on those things but when you're that close and you're looking for that first win. It's the things that we've talked about in the locker room at halftime and before our games, that rebounding has to be a constant for us. We got caught standing around a couple times and they got crucial rebounds."
McCook led most of the way
The McCook girls accomplished something Saturday that hasn't happened for them all season -- hold the lead throughout most of the contest.
Gretchen Sehnert hit a shot from the lane with 35 seconds left in the first half, and Emilyne Nichols hit one of two free throws a few seconds later to give the Bison a 27-24 halftime edge.
Sehnert's 3-pointer to start the third quarter boosted McCook to a six-point lead. The Bison led 37-30 late in the third period on a pair of free throws by Becky Goodenberger.
Wichita South hit a basket to tie the score at 50-50.
Wichita stole the ball and had a shot under the basket. The ball came free, and a wild scramble for possession ensued. Several McCook players appeared to get their hands on the ball but couldn't gain control. The ball was tipped out to a wide-open Wichita South player, who knocked down the 3-pointer for a 53-50 South lead with 16 seconds left.
Brooks was fouled, and she hit one of two free throws to get McCook within 53-51 with 11 seconds left. South then missed the front end of a bones after the Bison got a quick foul. Morgan Chitwood grabbed the rebound, and Ellis got a timeout with seven ticks left.
South stole a long McCook inbound pass, and the Titans hit one of two free throws after McCook fouled with two seconds to go for the final margin.
Bison free throw woes
Free throw shooting hampered the Bison hopes Saturday. McCook made 11 of 20 charity shots -- including a 5-for-10 effort in the fourth quarter. Wichita South was 14 of 27 at the line.
In Friday's loss to Scott City, McCook fell behind 18-5 after one quarter and trailed 36-11 at halftime. Sehnert topped the Bison with 7 points, while Brooks, Morgan Schaeffer and Kelsey Pohl added 4 points each.
The Bison girls, 0-19, travel to Lexington Friday, Jan. 29.
Deserved to win
Ellis said his team deserved to get that first win Saturday.
"It was a fun ball game today, it really was," he said. "The girls were into it, I was into it, and that's how it needs to be and that's how it should be. The more and more this happens for us, the better and better we're going to be and the stronger we're going to get as a team. It's unfortunate for these girls that we didn't get this win tonight, because they played their tails off. They did everything that we wanted them to do to get it, we just came up short."
BISON BOYS HOLD ON FOR THIRD PLACE
COLBY, Kan. -- The McCook High School boys earned their highest finish at the tough Orange and Black Classic tournament in head coach Tim Garcia's tenure. But it wasn't easy.
The Bison watched a huge lead evaporate Saturday, Jan.23, in the consolation finals against Ulysses, Kan. After a dismal fourth quarter at the free throw line, McCook held on for a 47-44 win in the third-place game at the Colby Community Center.
After an impressive opening-round win Thursday over Wichita South, the Bison floundered Friday in the semifinals against Liberal, Kan. McCook played strong defense against Liberal, but the shots wouldn't fall for the Bison in a 39-26 loss.
Garcia's squad came out of the gate strong Saturday, showing no ill effects from Friday's sluggish performance. The Bison stretched a 11-6 first-quarter lead to 25-12 at halftime. Dustin Parde's 3-point shot from the top of the key gave McCook its biggest lead at 32-14 early in the third quarter. But Ulysses rallied and eventually got within two points late in the final period before the Bison closed out the win.
McCook didn't make a free throw in the final period before Parde made one of two shots at the line with 10 seconds remaining for a 47-44 Bison lead. Ulysses missed a long shot just before the buzzer.
The Bison hit five of seven free throws in the first three quarters of the contest before the last-period meltdown.
"I don't know what happens," senior Mark Nichols said of his team's woes at the charity stripe. "In the fourth quarter of big games like this, I think everyone gets nervous. We all need to relax and just focus on hitting them, because we can -- we're capable of it."
Coach Garcia said his team was shooting 70 percent at the line early in the season, but the Bison have slipped in recent games.
The McCook coach will also be concerned about his team's output in the fourth quarter of their last two tournament games at Colby. In Friday's game against Liberal, the Bison were outscored 12-2. In Saturday's contest, McCook held a 10-point lead with just over two minutes remaining before Ulysses staged a furious comeback.
"Typically we're a pretty darn good fourth quarter team," Garcia said. "Coming into this tournament we were averaging outscoring our opponents in the fourth quarter -- the first quarter is the quarter that we were down.
"Right now it's all about confidence and making our free throws and taking care of the ball. We took care of the ball OK (Saturday), but we had a couple turnovers in the fourth quarter that we shouldn't have."
The Bison, 12-5, visit Lexington Friday, Jan. 29.
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