The St. Pat’s Irish and Perkins County Plainsmen kicked off day two of the SPVA Basketball Tournament at McDonald-Belton Gymnasium on Thursday and it was the Chase County Longhorns facing the Hershey Panthers in the finally.
The No. 1 seeded and No. 4 state-ranked Irish downing the Plainsmen 53-39 in the early game while Chase County defeated Hershey 47-38 in the second contest.
St. Pat’s (12-2) came out strong against Perkins County in the opening quarter taking a 14-2 lead by the 2 minute, 32 second mark. Mark Mayfield began the scoring down low and then Sean Keenan got loose on a break for a slam to put the Irish up 4-0.
After Alex Johnston grabbed a rebound and scored for Perkins County, the Irish rolled off 10 straight. Mayfield scored again off a Joseph O’Malley assist on an inbounds pass and Keenan also took an assist from O’Malley for a score.
Joseph Clinch received a pass from Keenan on a fast break and then Clinch scored in the paint. Alex Harms ended the run by grabbing a rebound and putting it back for the 12-point lead.
“Our early surge was really important because Perkins County was really game after that initial surge,” said St. Pat’s coach William O’Malley. “We were basically able to maintain that lead. We weren’t able to expand it much but it gave us an advantage.”
The Plainsmen (7-8) closed to within eight at 20-12 with 2:22 to go in the second quarter off buckets by Johnston and Quinton Hite along with a 1-for-2 result from Tim Johnson from the line. The result might have been better if the Plainsmen had finished several scoring attempts.
“The first quarter we missed five or six layups, where we got to the basket and just couldn’t finish,” said Perkins County coach Shawn Cole. “That’s one of the things we talked about, when you get a shot to make a basket you have to put it in the basket. That’s the difference to where we are at and where St. Pat’s is at — those are things we need to get better at.”
After Perkins County closed the lead to eight in the second quarter, the Irish rolled off eight straight with the help of two 3s by Keenan. Harms also picked up a loose ball and went coast-to-coast for the score.
Keenan and Harms led St. Pat’s with 14 points each and Clinch added 13 points.
“They were playing in that zone and I think Sean was really key in bringing them out of the [zone],” O’Malley said. “He’s a confident guy and he stepped into those and made a couple big shots for us.”
The Irish led 42-28 at the end of three quarters, but the Plainsmen still had a run in them. Johnston, Blake Poppe and Hite each scored and when Johnston nailed both of his free throw attempts the score was 46-36 Irish with four and a half minutes to go.
“I thought we did a good job of staying calm and not letting it get too far so we couldn’t come back,” said Cole. “St. Pat’s is a good team and you can’t let them get out like that. Our guys kept playing hard and were able to cut it to eight and then just ran out of energy.”
The Irish hit on 6-of-11 free throws down the stretch holding off the Plainsmen comeback to take the win and move on to the finals against Chase County on Saturday.
“We had a chance to extend the lead early if we had been able to make some free throws,” O’Malley said. “In some of those instances we were trading missed free throws and they were getting in the lane and doing a nice job offensively. They were able to dig into the lead a little bit.”
St. Pat’s (12-2) 18, 10, 14, 11 — 53
Perkins County (7-8) 7, 9, 12, 11 — 39
SP stats: (2 pt, 3 pt, ft, pts) Sean Keenan 4, 2, 0/3, 14; Joseph O’Malley 2, 0, 0/2, 4; Andrew O’Neill 1, 0, 0/0, 2; Joseph Clinch 5, 0, 3/5, 13; Alex Harms 4, 0, 6/9, 14; Mark Mayfield 3, 0, 0/0, 6.
PC stats: Elliot Carlson 1, 2, 1/2, 9; Colton White 3, 0, 0/0, 6; Tim Johnson 0, 0, 1/2, 1; Jake Sexson 1, 0, 0/0, 2; Alex Johnston 5, 0, 0/1, 10; Caleb Breazeale 1, 0, 1/2, 3; Blake Poppe 3, 0, 2/2, 8.
Chase County (6-9) held Hershey without a basket for the first 8-minutes, 48-seconds of the game, but the Panthers and Longhorns were tied 8-8 heading into the second frame.
Chase County coach Carl Zuege was, for the most part, happy with the Longhorns defense.
“They shot a lot of free throws though,” Zuege said. “In our man defense, there is great intensity, there’s good hustle in it, but we have to do some things better fundamentally — keep them off the rim and off the free throw line.
“I thought we kept them away from the rim, but they couldn’t get to the rim because we kept putting them on the line.”
Three of the first four baskets for the Longhorns came on put backs from offensive rebounds.
The first points of the game came when Isaac Sorensen grabbed a rebound and scored and followed it less than a minute later with another put back. After Jeffrey Dickey drove for a score, Justus Wallin ended the first-half scoring with a rebound and basket.
“We’re not a real big team,” Zuege said. “We work pretty hard on crashing to help us offensively with second chances. We were happy with our hustle to the offensive boards.”
Hershey (6-9) struggled from the field with shooting, but turnovers were another problem.
“When we’re averaging over 30 turnovers a game and that makes it tough,” Hershey coach Dustin Jorgenson said. “We’re taking possessions away so we’ve got to shoot at a high percentage, but we’re not taking care of the basketball.”
Josh Connell scored the first basket for the Panthers and a 10-8 lead for Hershey to begin the second quarter, but the Longhorns then went on a 9-2 run taking a 17-12 lead. The teams headed to the lockers at half with Chase County leading 19-15.
Near the end of the third quarter Hershey closed to within four at 31-27 when Dylan Johnson drove to the basket and was fouled. Johnson missed his free throw and the Panthers gave up a fast-break basket to the Longhorns’ Hunter Spady with four seconds remaining. Instead of having a three-point deficit heading into the fourth, the Panthers trailed 33-27.
Free throws, a positive for the Panthers in the opening quarter, let them down as the game progressed. Hershey finished the game going 16-of-32 from the line.
“You’ve got to be able to shoot free throws better than that at this level,” Jorgenson said. “We shot them well the first half, but tired legs and not concentrating, we didn’t shoot them very good the second half.”
But for the Longhorns, free throws were important to their success, as they hit 8-of-10 down the stretch.
“We were happy with the free throw shooting,” Zuege said. “Our kids have done a good job shooting free throws this year [I hate to say that out loud]. We have a lot of confidence we can stick our free throws.”
Even with the loss, Jorgenson feels his team is still playing good defense.
“We’re playing tremendous defense,” Jorgenson said. “When you have that many turnovers and hold a team to 47 points you’re playing great defense. We just need to take care of the ball and be better on the boards.”
Chase County (6-9) 8 11 14 14 — 47
Hershey (6-9) 8 7 12 11 — 38
CC stats (2 pt, 3 pt, ft, pts) Dan Sullivan 0, 0, 0/2, 0; Jeffrey Dickey 3, 2, 3/4, 15; Kelton Fisher 2, 0, 0/0, 4; Justus Wallin 2, 0, 5/6, 9; Hunter Spady 2, 1, 0/1, 7; Trey Milner 1, 0, 0/0, 2; Isaac Sorensen 5, 0, 0/0, 10.
Her stats: Tyson Osborne 1, 0, 0/0, 2; Josh Connell 4, 0, 2/6, 10; Landan Maassen 1, 0, 4/5, 6; Dylan Johnson 3, 0, 5/9, 11; Josh Mrgritz 0, 0, 4/6, 4; Ryan Cox 1, 0, 0/0, 2; Dustin Streeter 1, 0, 0/4, 2.