By NICK McQUEEN
The Sharon Springs-Wallace County High School boys' basketball team knows two speeds -- fast and faster.
So it should come as no surprise the No. 2 seed Wildcats wouldn't take too long in making their halftime adjustments against Hutchinson-Central Christian in Wednesday's quarterfinal game of the Class 1A Division II state tournament at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Wallace County used just a few minutes off the halftime clock to talk in the lockerroom before coming back out to the court. Eighth-year Wallace County coach Larry O'Connor didn't have much to say to them, just some minor adjustments to make.
Wallace County then outscored the Cougars 22-4 in the third quarter, coasting to a 69-46 victory, the Wildcats' second state quarterfinal victory in as many years.
"I saw what we needed to do," O'Connor said. "They were quick adjustments -- just a couple of minor ones on the presses and traps."
He also knew it was just a matter of time before Central Christian ran out of gas, much like virtually every team has done this season against the 22-2 Wildcats.
The Cougars' six-foot, 7-inch junior Noah Starkey and 6-3 senior Cody Moore kept the Wildcats from being able to run their game, and the Wallace County press was ineffective in the first half. Neither team, though, was able to build more than a six-point lead.
But Wallace County, highlighted by steal-after-steal, started the third quarter on a 17-2 run, and that was all it took.
Plus Central Christian senior Zac Krehbiel and junior Ben Krehbiel started getting in foul trouble trying to keep up with the speedy Wildcats.
"We just made some adjustments on our press," O'Connor said. "They were beating us on the cross-court passes up the sideline.
"And we knew they were in foul trouble so we attacked the basket," he added. "Told them to quit settling for jump shots and take it in there."
The speed of the game took its toll on the Cougars. Wallace County junior Nate Klinge had seven of his game-high 17 points in the third quarter, four points coming off Central Christian turnovers, just two of 30 for the Cougars for the game.
"We knew they'd full-court press us and get after us," Central Christian coach Adam Clark said. "They just flat get after it. They're a very athletic team."
Senior Cayden Daily, the Wildcats' leading scorer this season at nearly 20 points per game, ended with 14. Starkey, after having 10 by halftime, led Central Christian with 14.
"Middle of the third quarter, you could tell they were a little out of gas," O'Connor said. "That's kind of what we do to most people -- have been all year."
Now the Wildcats turn their attention to Baileyville-B&B, the school that topped the Wildcats in last fall's Eight-Man Division II state championship football game. B&B knocked off third-seeded Fowler, 69-44, in Wednesday's late game.
Luke Holthaus led the Falcons with 16 points, and Dustin Rottinghaus scored 15. Friday's semifinal game is slated for 8:15 p.m.
Last season, the quartefinal boys' games were played on Thursday, and the back-to-back-to-back games don't favor Wallace County's tempo.
O'Connor said that should change with a day to rest.
"Huge difference," O'Connor said. "We'll use a little more of our bench Friday."
St. John's-Tipton 64 Northern Valley 39
Had the Almena-Northern Valley Huskies knocked down a couple shots, and some free throws early, they might have stood a better chance at knocking off No. 1 seed Beloit/St. John's-Tipton.
Each team in Wednesday's first game of the tournament couldn't hit a bucket early, and the Blujays kept fouling.
Eventually, though, the shots started falling for St. John's-Tipton, and the top-seeded Blujays pulled away for a 64-39 victory.
"Early in the game, we missed a couple easy shots, and they were fouling," Northern Valley 10th-year coach Chuck Fessenden said. "And we were getting free throws, and we need to hit our free throws."
The Huskies hit four of their first eight from the foul line, but couldn't capitalize early, and that was the difference. "It would have been interesting if maybe we could have got the lead on them, and see how they react to it," Fessenden said. "No. 1 seed, maybe they would start to tighten up a little bit, but we weren't able to do that.
"They're a real good team, we let them get away from us there in the second quarter."
St. John's-Tipton senior guard Caleb Brummer started hitting some big shots to loosen up the Blujays (23-1). Brummer, who missed practice Monday due to illness, scored seven points in a 13-3 run to close the first half. Northern Valley had just one point in the final 5:23 of the second quarter, and ended the game shooting 12 of 40 (30 percent) from the floor.
"That was a big thing for us," Blujay coach Lance Bergmann said. "I didn't want them to overlook (Northern Valley). They deserved to be here. A lot of times the (No.) 1 seed comes out and lets the other team jump on them.
"I wanted us to jump out early and play well," he added. "Caleb Brummer really hit some big shots for us to kind of relax the rest of the kids."
It was all St. John's-Tipton from there as the No. 1 ranked Blujays eventually doubled the score on the No. 8 seed Huskies, who were making their first state appearance since 1992.
Junior Matt Stutsman led the Huskies with 15 points, while junior Clint Cole grabbed 11 rebounds. Brummer and senior forward Luke Eilert each scored 15 for the Blujays. Junior Trey Dubbert and (13) and freshman Davis Dubbert (10) also scored in double figures.
The Huskies ended their season at 13-11.
St. John's-Tipton will face fourth-seeded Chetopa (20-4) in the 4:45 p.m. game Friday. Chetopa defeated Attica 65-49 in other quarterfinal action Wednesday.