Hot-shooting Mustangs topple Panthers, 77-60

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SALINA — Salina Central hit the Concordia Panthers with the double whammy.
The Mustangs scored 30 points in the paint and connected on 9 of 21 three-point attempts on their way to a 77-60 victory over the Panthers in the semifinals of the Salina Invitational Tournament Thursday night at the Bicentennial Center.
Jordan McNelly, a 6-3 junior, scored 12 of  his 22 points in the paint.
Treyton Hines and Brayden Neuschafer combined to knock down seven three-point shots in scoring 18 and 16 points respectively.
“They are a good team. They pose a lot of problems for an opposing team to try to stop,”  Concordia coach Michael Roe said. “They can score inside. They have some guys who can knock it down from outside. It is a very tough team to defend.”
Concordia (8-3) will play North Central Kansas League rival Abilene (8-3) in the third-place game at 3:45 p.m. Saturday.
Abilene lost to Salina South 60-54.
Salina Central (7-4) takes on Salina South (6-5) in the championship game on Saturday night.
In the consolation bracket, Andover defeated Smoky Valley 66-37 and Sacred Heart got past Clay Center, 48-39.
Concordia scored the first five points of the game on a basket by Cooper Holmes and a three-point shot by Kaleb Pounds.
Central would pull within a point, 9-8, on a follow by Tanner Robl.
A bucket by Cooper Holmes and a three-point shot by Grant Holmes gave Concordia its biggest lead, 14-8.
Max Kuhn hit two free throws, and then the Mustangs got a layup by Vance Johnson and a follow by McNelly following Panther turnovers, and the game was tied at 14-14 heading into the second quarter.
Hines buried his first three, and Central had its first lead of the game, 17-14, with 6:17 to play in the first half.
Grant Holmes scored on a drive and Cooper Holmes got a stickback to put Concordia back on top, 18-17.
Cooper Holmes led all scorers with 24 points. He hit 10 of 18 field goal attempts and four of four free throws.
Grant Holmes was 6 of 14 from the floor and six of six from the line in scoring 19 points. He also pulled down nine rebounds.
Four straight points by McNelly put the Mustangs on top to stay, 21-18.
Leading 25-22, the Mustangs got consecutive threes by Neuschafer and Kuhn to open up a 31-22 advantage.
Pounds hit a three and Grant Holmes made two free throws to get the Panthers within four points.
Neuschafer was fouled on a three-point attempt with one second on the clock. The freshman made all three free throws to give Central a 34-27 cushion.
“We didn't play smart at he end. We fouled the three-point shooter and kind of lost momentum going into the half,” Roe said.
It was a 38-31 game in the third quarter when Central scored seven points in 1:09 to open up a 45-31 advantage.
Concordia got a layup by Christian Wetter and a two free throws by Cooper Holmes to make it 45-35, but Neuschafer hit a three.
Cooper Holmes scored four points in 20 seconds, but a three-point play by Hines put the Mustangs up 51-39.
“It seemed like every time we would get a basket they would come down and get a three-point play. They would either get a bucket and a foul or hit a three-point shot,” Roe said.
Gilberth Garcia made a layup for Concordia, and the Mustangs answered with a three by Neuschafer and two free throws by Johnson, and led 56-41 heading into the fourth quarter.
Central hit a sizzling 81 percent (13-16) from the field in the second half.
Concordia got as close as 10 points, 62-52, when Pounds drilled a three with 6:00 to play.
Scoring seven points in 1:04, the Mustangs seized control, 69-52.
The Panthers got no closer than 15 points after that.
“It is always good when you get to play a high quality opponent and see where you are at and see where you need to get better, and work on that,” Roe said.
Pounds scored nine points and handed out four assists for Concordia.
The Panthers were 22 of 45 from the field for 49 percent and made 12 of 13 free throws for 92 percent.
The hot shooting Mustangs connected on 26 of 44 field goal attempts for 59 percent and 16 of 19 free throws for 84 percent.

SALINA CENTRAL (77)
Kuhn 2-2-1 8, Neuschafer 4-5-3 16, Johnson 1-2-2 4, Allen 2-3-3 7, Robl 1-0-3 2, Hines 6-2-0 18, Gardner 0-0-1 0, McNelly 10-2-3 22. Totals: 26-16-16 77.
CONCORDIA (60)
Coppoc 0-2-2 2, Pounds 3-0-3 9, Garcia 1-0-2 2, Wetter 2-0-0 4, Bechard 0-0-2 0, G. Holmes 6-6-4 19, C. Holmes 10-4-3 24.

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