Upsets were the call of order on the final night of the Abilene Class 4A sub-state as the McPherson Lady Pups, the No. 2 seed entering the tournament, upset the top-seeded Hesston Lady Swathers and the Abilene Cowboys, the No. 3 seed entering the tournament, also upset the top-seeded Hesston Swathers.
While the games were upsets according to the seeds, the Abilene Cowboys were at the Class 4A state tournament in 2012 while the McPherson Lady Pups are the defending Class 4A state champion.
"It was our best performance all year," Abilene Cowboy coach Terry Taylor said of his team’s 19th victory of the season.
The McPherson Lady Pups won the girls’ sub-state championship game 35-26 over Hesston while the Abilene Cowboys, the host of the tournament, won the boys’ sub-state championship game 70-33 over the Hesston Swathers.
"All the girls played such hard defense," McPherson coach Chris Strathman said. "We tried to limit them to just one shot as much as we could … our girls just competed. We got down by one or two, but we just kept our composure. They had been in that spot before and they kept their composure and built back up and got a lead and were able to run some clock."
In the girls contest to open the evening McPherson scored the game’s first five points and pretty much led throughout the game.
The lead, which was relinquished in the third quarter, was never more than that early 5-0 lead until the game’s final minute when McPherson pushed the game to its final 35-26 margin.
McPherson led 7-2 after the first quarter, Hesston came back to knot the score 13-13 at intermission and the Swathers opened the second half by scoring 4 of the first 5 points for their first lead of the game.
That lead changed hands one more time 1:13 later when McPherson surged back in front and never trailed again. The Lady Bullpups led 23-20 going into the final period and played steady offense and defense in the final minutes to secure a return trip to the Class 4A state tournament next week in Salina.
"They really honored the scouting report very well on things that Hesston was running," Stathan said. "Things that they were going to try and do I thought our girls were really locked in. I thought it was great."
Katelyn Loecker led McPherson with 18 points while Abby Pederson added 10 points for the Lady Pups, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Hesston did not have any player score in double digits and was led by Caylee Richardson, Ashley Weaver, Cami Richardson and Kelsy Unruh, who scored six points each in the defeat.
Abilene books return trip to Salina
In the boys’ championship game Abilene scored the game’s first 6 points, keeping Hesston off the board until the 5:23 mark and the Cowboys did not trail throughout the contest.
"We had a group of guys that wanted to win really badly and came out relaxed and focused and they weren’t near as nervous against McPherson," Taylor said.
The Cowboys outscored Hesston in all four quarters of the game as they led 17-6 after the first quarter, 38-15 at intermission, 60-24 going into the fourth quarter, which was played with a running clock and outscored the Swathers 10-9 in the final period.
"Tonight we played for four quarters," Taylor said. "That is the first time all year we have done that for four quarters. Give our seniors some credit they were our leaders tonight. When you make some shots early in the game your confidence goes up. We involved everybody. It wasn’t just Andy Wilson, we had Matt Barlow making threes, Keil Kelly scoring inside, Jake scoring, all those kids just contributed. Tanner Hoekman comes in, you just name them all."
Andy Wilson led Abilene in scoring with 20 points while Jacob Harms added 13 and Matthew Barlow scored 12 for the Cowboys who had 10 different players score points in the victory.
Hesston was led by Ryan Schadler’s 13 points while Tyler McGartney added 10 for the Swathers.
"We kept the pedal down and just kept chopping wood like we say," Taylor said. "I think Hesston was nervous early, they appeared to be nervous. They were tight and that is not a good time to be tight in the sub-state finals. You bury yourself early and you just can’t recover. We didn’t allow them to recover."
Taylor earned his 500th career victory in the sub-state opening round victory over Buhler, but Taylor feels as though his 501st victory was better than his 500th or 502nd.
"Still 501 was special because it was McPherson," Taylor said of Thursday’s victory over McPherson in the sub-state semifinals. "We really felt we had a better team tonight, if we just went out and played our game we would be OK and we were."
As for the State Tournament?
We will just try to improve on things we didn’t do well tonight," Taylor said of practice next week. "We will find out tomorrow morning who we play in the first round. We are probably going to be a fourth or fifth seed in the tournament and that is a good position to be in."