CHS girls surge past Clay Center, 57-49

CLAY CENTER — An offensive surge in the second quarter and clutch free throw shooting in the second half propelled the Concordia Panthers to a 57-49 North Central Kansas League victory over Clay Center on Tuesday night.
Trailing 22-9 at the end of the first quarter, the Panthers outscored the Tigers 22-3 in the second period to take a 31-25 halftime lead.
Concordia knocked down 14 of 16 free throws in the second half, including 8 of 10 in the final 2:16, to secure a second win in as many nights.
The Panthers downed Pike Valley in a makeup game on Monday night, and will wrap up the regular season with a makeup game at Abilene on Thursday.
Clay Center, which had defeated Concordia 47-35 earlier in the season, jumped out to a  20-6 lead in the game.
“If I knew we would never have to worry about it again,” Concordia coach Michael Wahlmeier said of the slow start, “It was the same thing when we played Clay Center the first time. These girls know each other so well, so I don't know if it was nerves or what.”
Tristen Leiszler knocked down a three-point shot, and Concordia trailed 20-9.
A basket by Macey Dieckman gave the Tigers the 22-9 advantage.
Megan James sandwiched  a pair of baskets around another three by Leiszler in the first two minutes of the second quarter, and Concordia trailed 22-16.
Emily Ebert scored to put Clay Center up 24-16.
Concordia, now 12-7 overall and 5-4 in the NCKL, got a three-point play by Jordan Eshbaugh and consecutive threes by Leiszler to take its first lead, 25-24, with 1:50 remaining in the first half.
Leiszler was five of seven from three-point range in scoring 29 points. She hit 9 of 10 free throws.
Baskets by James and Eshbaugh pushed the Panthers' lead to 29-24.
Eshbaugh finished with 11 points.
Allie Wright made one of two free throws for Clay Center.
A pair of free throws by Eshbaugh in the final seconds of the half gave Concordia a 31-25 cushion.
“It was all effort. I felt we were standing around in the first quarter and not doing our jobs. We made some defensive adjustments that helped in the second quarter. The girls all decided to play and play together,” Wahlmeier said.
Molly Adams scored the first two points of the second half, and the Panthers led 33-25.
Clay Center, 6-14 overall and 3-7 in the league, would battle back to within four points, 41-37, heading into the final period.
Courtney Hammel hit three of four free throws early in the fourth quarter to close the gap to one point, 41-40.
Eshbaugh scored inside to make it 43-40.
Macy Franson went one of two from the line, and Clay Center trailed just 43-41.
Leiszler hit a jumper and Adams scored inside to extend Concordia's lead to 47-41.
Two free throws by Jordynn Gumm and two more by Leiszler gave the Panthers their biggest lead at 51-41.
Concordia would go 8 of 10 from the line down the stretch to offset a pair of three-point baskets by Clay Center's Lorren Williams.
“We will take that any day,” Wahlmeier said of the free throw shooting, “That was good to see.”
Adams and James scored six points each for Concordia.
Williams and Dieckman led Clay Center with 12 points each. Franson added 10 points.
Following the game at Abilene, the Panthers will have a week off  before hosting the Class 4A-II sub-state tournament.
“It is one of those things we want to go into it and still polish up some things. I wasn't excited about a long layoff, so that is good,” Wahlmeier said.

Gumm 0-02-1 2, Lambert 0-3-2 3, Collins 0-0-2 0, Eshbaugh 4-3-3 11, Adams 30-4 6, Leiszler 8-9-1 29, Boley 0-0-1 0, James 3-0-0 6. Totals: 18-17-14 57.
Williams 3-3-1 12, Franson 3-2-2 10, Wright 0-0-3 0, Bohnenblust 2-1-2 5, Edmundson 1-0-4 3, Hammel 1-3-1 5, Ebert 1-0-3 2, Dieckman 6-0-4 12. Totals: 17-9-20 49.


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