CHS boys down Clay Center 65-49 to earn first trip to state since 1999

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It has been a long time coming for the Concordia Panthers.
Concordia had not made a state tournament appearance since 1999, but the Panthers ended that drought by defeating Clay Center 65-49 in the Class 4A-Division II sub-state championship game Saturday night in the Concordia Junior-Senior High School gymnasium.
It will be the fourth trip to state for Concordia, with the first three coming in 1984, 1993 and then 1999.
The Panthers (18-4) will be the number 3 seed, and will play 6-seeded Girard at 8:15 p.m. on Thursday at Hartman Arena in Park City.
“I don’t think they know the time frame of Concordia’s last trip to state. I do know they are proud of what they have accomplished this year and they are proud to represent the town in Wichita. They are a great group of kids. They play hard and they are fun to coach,” Concordia coach Michael Roe said.
The Panthers went into a sub-state in which Clay Center, at 3-17, was the number two seed, as a heavy favorite, and did what they needed to do to extend their season.
Concordia blasted Smoky Valley 69-41 in the semifinals, and then knocked off Clay Center for the third time this season.
“I think we came in prepared to do the things we needed to do,” Roe said.
The Panthers had beaten Clay Center by an average of 25 points in the first two meetings, and didn’t give the Tigers much hope in the third.
The game was tied at 2-2 when Concordia scored 11 points in 1:19 to open up a 13-2 lead.
Konnor Hamel scored inside for the Tigers, but the Panthers responded with a three by Kaleb Pounds to make it 16-4.
“I thought we did a good job of coming out and stepping on them, and then didn’t keep it going,” Roe said.
A basket by Darius Ford made it a 16-6 game.
Cooper Holmes hit a three and then two free throws to put Concordia on top, 21-6.
Clay Center scored the final two points of the first period and the first two of the second, and trailed 21-10.
Four straight points by Pounds extended the Panthers’  lead to 26-12.
Lane Liby hit two free throws for Clay Center.
Grant Holmes made two free throws, and Cooper Holmes buried a jumper to make it a 30-12 game.
Hitting 4 of 10 field goal attempts and all 10 of his free throws, Grant Holmes scored 18 points. He also pulled down eight rebounds.
Cooper Holmes led the Panthers with 19 points and grabbed six boards.
Concordia would score just four points over the next 4:34, but Clay Center could get no closer than 34-18.
A jumper by Pounds in the final seconds of the first half gave Concordia a 36-18 advantage.
Pounds scored 13 points, all in the first half.
Concordia opened the second half with an 8-2 spurt to push the lead to 44-20.
Clay Center outscored the Panthers 9-4 over the next three minutes to close the gap to 48-29.
“I thought the second half was a little bit sloppy,” Roe said.
Baskets by Ian Nordell and Grant Holmes gave the Panthers a 52-29 cushion heading into the fourth quarter.
The Tigers went on a 10-3 spurt to start the final period, but  could get no closer than 55-39.
“They played well. You have to give your opponent credit when they do good things, and I thought they played a good game,” Roe said.
Hitting four of six free throws in a span of 57 seconds, Concordia upped the lead to 59-39.
Clay Center hit a pair of threes down the stretch, but could get no closer than 16 points.
“This time of year it doesn’t matter what you look like as long as you win. It wasn’t our greatest effort, but we will take it and we have another game to play,” Roe said.
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Hamel led Clay Center with 12 points. Liby scored nine.
The Panthers will now look to become the first Concordia team to win a game in the state tournament. The three previous teams were beaten in the first round.
“We knew getting to state was a goal, but it wasn’t the final goal. We are looking to win a state championship,” Grant Holmes said, “It starts Monday, and we look forward to going down and trying to win three games.”

CLAY CENTER (49)
Liby 1-6-1 9, Penner 0-0-1 0, Wallace 3-0-2 8, Wilson 2-0-5 5, Moon 2-1-0 5, Richardson 2-0-1 4, Hamel 6-0-3 12, Ford 3-0-5 6. Totals: 19-7-18 49.
CONCORDIA (65)
Coppoc 1-0-0 2, Pounds 5-0-4 13, Garcia 1-3-1 5, Wetter 1-0-1 2, Bechard 2-0-3 4, G. Holmes 4-10-2 18, Nordell 1-0-2 2, C. Holmes 6-6-2 18.

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