SALINA — The Concordia Panthers had the misfortune of running up against a Clay Center team that was seemingly angered about being relegated to the consolation bracket of the Salina Invitational Tournament.
After losing to eventual runner-up Salina Central in the opening round, the Tigers bounced back to beat their next two opponents by a combined 70 points, including a 58-30 win over Concordia in the fifth-place game on Saturday afternoon.
Concordia (2-10) posted its second win in three games by defeating Sacred Heart in the consolation semifinals on Wednesday, but couldn’t keep pace with North Central Kansas League rival Clay Center.
“I consider them to be the best team in our League. They are right up there with Wamego,” Concordia coach Michael Wahlmeier said of the Tigers, “They have a lot of good players, a lot of weapons.”
Salina South beat Salina Central 41-35 in the championship game of the tournament. Andover knocked off Abilene 62-37 in the third-place game, and Sacred Heart edged Smoky Valley 35-31 in the seventh-place game.
Macy Franson and Holly Cooper knocked down three-point shots as Clay Center got out to a 10-4 lead in the game.
Tristen Leiszler, who hit five threes in the win over Sacred Heart, connected on her first to get Concordia within three points, 10-7, with 3:20 to play in the first quarter.
Scoring five straight points, the Tigers opened up a 15-7 cushion.
Nikki Blankenbeckley hit a jumper, and the Panthers trailed 15-9 with 1:10 to play in the first period.
Macey Diekmann scored the final four points in the quarter, and first two of the second.
A follow by Franson upped Clay Center’s lead to 23-9 before Jennifer Boley scored inside for Concordia.
The Panthers would manage just three free throws the rest of the way in the first half, and trailed 32-14.
“They are pretty good defensively, and we could never get into a rhythm offensively and get anything going,” Wahlmeier said.
Two baskets by Molly Adams in the first minute of the second half got Concordia within 14 points, 32-18.
Franson hit from eight feet and Alyx Bloom got a steal and a layup to put Clay Center on top 36-18.
Bloom led all scorers with 14 points.
A short bank shot by Megan James left the Panthers trailing 36-20 with 3:45 remaining in the third quarter.
Concordia would not score again until a three by Leiszler with three minutes gone by in the final period.
Aided by 12 Panther turnovers in the second half, the Tigers went on an 18-0 run to open up a 54-30 advantage before the three by Leiszler.
“There were a lot of times we let them have easy baskets,” Wahlmeier said.
James led the way for Concordia with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Leiszler hit 3 of 10 three-point attempts in scoring nine points. She set a tournament record with nine threes.
Adams finished with six points.
The Panthers were 11 of 38 from the field for 29 percent and 5 of 10 from the line.
Franson scored 13 points for Clay Center.
Diekmann hit five of seven field goal attempts in scoring 10 points for the Tigers.
Clay Center had nine players score in the game.
The Tigers hit 25 of 58 field goal attempts for 43 percent and six of nine free throws for 67 percent.
Concordia is off until playing a League game at Abilene on Friday night.
“We will get ready for Abilene,” Wahlmeier said.
The Cowgirls defeated the Panthers 56-50 in the opening round of the tournament.
Lambert 0-0-3 0, Adams 2-2-1 6, Blankenbeckley 1-0-2 2, Boley 1-1-0 3, Leiszler 3-0-0 9, James 4-2-1 10. Totals: 10-5-7 30.
CLAY CENTER (58)
Williams 3-1-0 7, Bohnenblust 0-0-2 0, Franson 5-2-3 13, Cooper 2-0-2 5, Folks 1-0-02, Bloom 6-2-0 14, Edmundson 2-0-2 4, Hammel 1-0-0 2, Jones 0-1-0 1, Ebert 0-0-1 0, Diekmann 5-0-1 10. Totals: 25-6-11 58.