Tigers pull away from Panthers for 49-37 win

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CLAY CENTER — In a matchup of familiar foes, the Clay Center Tigers pulled away in the second half to a 49-37 win over Concordia in the opening round of the Class 4A girls’ sub-state basketball tournament Tuesday night.
It was the fourth meeting of the season between the North Central Kansas League rivals.
Clay Center won the first two matchups by a combined 50 points, before slipping past Concordia 58-53 in the final game of the regular season.
The second-seededTigers then ended the Panthers’ season in the opening round of sub-state.
Concordia finished up 3-18.
“We were right there. We have been in just about every game,” Concordia coach Michael Wahlmeier said, “They have been doing the things we have asked them to do and that is all you can ask.”
Concordia was right there against the Tigers when Megan James scored 45 seconds into the second half to make it a 28-24 game.
The Panthers would then go nearly 10 minutes without a field goal.
Clay Center (18-3) got three-point baskets by Holly Cooper and Alyssa Steppe and three free throws by Alyxis Bloom during a 9-2 spurt that extended the lead to 37-26.
“Their man pressure was bothering us a little bit,” Wahlmeier said, “We weren’t moving on offense. When we were moving it, we were scoring pretty well.”
James made one of two free throws, and Concordia trailed 37-27 heading into the fourth quarter.
Macey Dieckmann scored the first four points of the final period to push the lead to 41-27.
James hit one of two free throws, but the Tigers answered with a three by Steppe to make it 43-28.
A basket by James ended Concordia’s lengthy field goal drought.
Clay Center got a steal and a layup by Macy Franson and a three-point shot by Bloom to take its biggest lead at 49-30 with 3:14 to play.
The Panthers didn’t go away quietly.
Two free throws by James, a three-point play by Nikki Blankenbeckley and a basket by Molly Adams closed the gap to 12 points, 49-37.
“They were playing hard right up to the end,” Wahlmeier said.
Neither team would score the final 1:02, and Clay Center advanced to the sub-state semifinals.
The Tigers will play third-seeded McPherson Friday night in Abilene.
McPherson rolled past Chapman, 69-14.
Top-seeded Hesston downed Smoky Valley 60-20, and Abilene knocked off Buhler, 54-48.
Hesston and Abilene meet in the other semifinal.
Tristen Leiszler knocked down a pair of three-point shots as Concordia got out to a 6-4 lead on Clay Center.
The Tigers switched from a zone defense to a box-and-one with Bloom guarding Leiszler. She would not score again in the game, but the Panthers were able to get the ball inside to Adams.
Adams scored 9 of 11 Concordia points during one stretch, and finished the game with 12.
“We did a good job of looking for her,” Wahlmeier said.
There were nine lead changes and three ties in the first seven minutes.
Trailing 14-12, Clay Center got back-to-back baskets by Dieckmann.
Adams made one of two free throws, but Bloom buried a three with time running out in the first quarter to put the Tigers up 19-15.
Bloom tossed in 18 points in the game.
A follow by Adams got Concordia within two points, 19-17, but Bloom hit another three.
Blankenbeckley answered with a three and James hit from eight feet to pull Concordia even at 22-22 with 4:07 to play in the second period.
The Panthers would not score again in the half.
Clay Center scored six points in the final 3:29 to go up 28-22 at halftime.
James, who led Concordia with 13 points, scored the first two of the second half to pull the Panthers within four, but that is as close as they would get.
Blankenbeckley had six points and five steals for Concordia.
Leiszler finished with six points, and Katie Lambert grabbed five rebounds.
Franson and Steppe scored eight points each for Clay Center.

K. Lambert 0-0-2 0, M. Lambert 0-0-2 0, Adams 5-2-3 12, Blankenbeckley 2-1-1 6, Leiszler 2-0-0 6, James 3-7-3 13. Totals: 12-10-11 37.
Williams 0-0-3 0, Bohenblust 0-0-1 0, Franson 3-2-3 9, Cooper 2-0-1 5, Folks 0-0-2 0, Steppe 3-0-1 9, Bloom 4-7-1 18, Ebert 0-0-1 0, Dieckmann 3-2-3 8. Totals: 15-11-16 49.


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