SALINA — The Concordia Panthers have suffered their share of disappointment as a higher seed in the Salina Invitational Tournament each of the past two seasons.
Top-seeded Concordia was upset by Clay Center last year, and the second-seeded Panthers were beaten by Salina South in the opening round the prior season.
Concordia, the top seed in the tournament this year, bucked that trend by knocking off eighth-seeded Smoky Valley 69-38 in the tournament opener Tuesday night at Salina Central High School.
The Panthers, who had beaten Smoky Valley 69-41 earlier in the season, shook off a slow start, built a 34-21 halftime lead and then pulled away in the second half.
"We didn't take them lightly," Concordia coach Michael Roe said, "I thought we had good intentions. Just because your intentions are good doesn't mean your execution is. We came out in the second half and played a much better game."
Concordia (8-2) will play fourth-seeded Salina Central (6-4) in the semifinals at 6:30 Thursday night at the Bicentennial Center.
Salina Center downed Andover 62-58 in the opening round Tuesday night.
Andover (4-6) plays Smoky Valley (0-10) at 3 p.m. Thursday in the consolation bracket.
Second-seeded Abilene defeated seventh-seeded Clay Center 73-33, and sixth-seeded Salina South beat third-seeded Sacred Heart, 62-47.
Abilene (8-2) plays Salina South (5-5) in the semifinals at 8:15 p.m. Thursday.
Clay Center and Sacred Heart will meet in the consolation bracket at 4:45 p.m. Thursday.
Kaleb Pounds knocked down a quick three-point shot, and Concordia would not trail in the game.
Smoky Valley got an offensive rebound and stickback by Diego Gonzalez.
The Panthers answered with a three-point play by Gilberth Garcia, a basket by Pounds and a layup by Cooper Holmes to open up a 10-2 advantage with just under four minutes to play in the first quarter.
Hampered by turnovers, the Panthers would score just two more points in the period.
Concordia turned the ball over six times in the first quarter, and 10 times in the first half.
Getting five points from Alec Schneider and a three-point shot by Trey Schneider, the Vikings closed the gap to 12-10 heading into the second quarter.
Smoky Valley, shooting 14 percent on the season from three-point range, connected on four of its first six attempts.
"They don't shoot well from three-point range, but they do have good shooters," Roe said.
A three-point play by Grant Holmes started a 13-0 Concordia run to open the second quarter that made it a 25-12 game.
Smoky Valley would get as close as 10 points, 31-21, when Trey Schneider hit a three with 1:25 to play in the half.
Grant Holmes knocked down a three with time running out in the half to put Concordia on top, 34-21. The 6-4 senior was 6 of 13 from the field and seven of nine from the free throw line in scoring 22 points. He also had six rebounds, five steals and two assists.
Smoky Valley scored the first two points of the second half on a basket by Cole Norberg.
Four straight points by Cooper Holmes and a bucket by Grant Holmes extended Concordia's lead to 40-23.
Cooper Holmes, a 6-4 sophomore, led all scorers with 23 points. He hit 9 of 19 field goal attempts and five of nine free throws and had 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots.
Trey Schneider hit a three and Greg Elvin scored inside to get Smoky Valley within 12 points, 40-28.
Cooper Holmes scored the next six points, and the Panthers led 46-28.
"We got the ball inside on offense," Roe said.
Grant Holmes and Ian Nordell hit one free throw each to put Concordia on top 48-28 heading into the final eight minutes.
Smoky Valley got as close as 17 points, 49-32.
Grant Holmes made two threes during a 10-0 Concordia spurt that made it a 59-32 game.
The Panthers then coasted to the win to set up the showdown with Salina Central.
"Central will provide a big challenge for us. They are a team that shoots the ball well from the outside," Roe said, "I do think we matchup well with them. They are a resilient team. They have a lot of fight in them and it should be a good game."
Pounds finished with nine points, four rebounds, two assists and three steals for Concordia.
Concordia hit 22 of 48 field goal attempts for 46 percent from the field and 21 of 34 from the free throw line for 62 percent.
Trey Schneider paced Smoky Valley with 11 points.
Alec Schneider scored 10 points for the Vikings.
SMOKY VALLEY (38)
Schrag 0-0-1 0, Norberg 3-1-5 7, Hansen 0-2-3 2, A. Schneider 4-0-4 10, Gonzales 2-0-3 4, T. Schneider 3-3-2 11, Elvin 1-2-5 4. Totals: 13-8-23 38.
Coppoc 1-0-3 2, Pounds 3-2-3 9, Garcia 1-3-0 5, Streeter 0-2-0 2, Wetter 0-0-1 0, Bechard 1-1-2 3, G. Holmes 6-7-3 22, Nordell 1-1-0 3, C. Holmes 9-5-1 23. Totals: 22-21-13 69.