Panthers shake off slow start cruise to win over Tigers

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It took the Concordia Panthers a while to knock off the rust.
Returning to action for the first time since a win over Abilene on Dec. 20, the Panthers led winless Clay Center by just three points six minutes into the second quarter.
Concordia scored the final seven points of the first half to go up 26-16, and then gradually pulled away in the second half to a 63-41 North Central Kansas League victory over the Tigers Tuesday night in the Concordia Junior-Senior High School gymnasium.
"It was a good game for us to get back into the swing of things," Concordia coach Michael Roe said, "Find out what we can and can't do. I think we learned a lot throughout the game."
Concordia, ranked fourth in Class 4A-II, has now won five straight games since dropping its season opener to Beloit, and is 5-1 overall and 3-0 in league play.
Clay Center falls to 0-6 overall and 0-3 in the NCKL.
Grant Holmes scored the first four points of the game, and Concordia would never trail.
Holmes finished with 22 points. He hit 6 of 11 field goal attempts and all eight of his free throws.
The Panthers had an 11-6 lead heading into the second quarter.
A jumper by Gilberth Garcia upped the lead to 13-6.
Holmes had a breakaway when an intentional foul was called.
After Holmes made the two free throws, Garcia scored on a follow, and the Panthers led 17-6.
Garcia finished with a career high 12 points. He was three of four from the floor and six of eight from the line and also had seven rebounds.
"Gil played a great game. It seemed like he was everywhere tonight," Roe said, "I think his energy helped us, and that is something he is going to give every night."
Clay Center wouldn't go away quietly.
The Tigers put together a 10-2 run to close the gap to 19-16.
Concordia would score the final seven points of the first half.
A shot by Christian Wetter as time ran out gave the Panthers a 26-16 advantage.
Wetter came off the bench to score seven points.
"We knew coming in we weren't going to blow them out in the first quarter, and we just have to keep building on it and building on it," Roe said.
Leading 30-19 in the third quarter, the Panthers got two free throws by Garcia, a free throw by Kaleb Pounds and a basket on a drive by Ethan Bechard to extend the lead to 35-19.
It was a 45-29 Panther lead when Cooper Holmes connected on a halfcourt shot as time ran out in the third period to make it 48-29.
Clay Center would get no closer than 17 points over the final eight minutes.
"You come back after a two-week layoff and you forget what won you some games, and it takes a while to get back to it," Roe said.
Cooper Holmes finished with 15 points and nine rebounds.
Concordia hit 22 of 42 field goal attempts for 52 percent and 15 of 24 free throws for 63 percent.
Lane Liby led Clay Center with 12 points.
Concordia plays a league game at Wamego on Friday night.

CLAY CENTER (41)
Liby 4-2-1 12, Wilson 2-0-3 5, Carlson 1-0-1 2, Moon 1-1-1 3, Richardson 1-0-0 2, Burch 0-0-2 0, Hamel 1-1-3 3, Ford 2-1-4 5, Hammel 2-4-2 9. Totals: 14-9-17 41.
CONCORDIA (63)
Coppoc 1-0-2 2, Pounds 1-1-1 3, Garcia 3-6-3 12, Wetter 3-0-0 7, Bechard 1-0-3 2, G. Holmes 6-8-2 22, C. Holmes 7-0-3 15. Totals: 22-15-14 63.

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