Palco, Dighton advance to sub-state title game
Published on -3/3/2013, 3:28 PM
By TYLER PARKS
PALCO -- After a 20-point fourth quarter put the Western Plains High School boys' basketball team within three with four seconds to play, everyone in the gym knew who likely would take the final shot of regulation.
Bobcat junior Chad Ryersee already had hit three 3-pointers in the quarter. With three members of the Palco team in his face, Ryersee banked one last one in to tie the game at 55 as the final buzzer sounded.
Palco (13-8), however, outlasted the streaking Bobcats in overtime with a 68-59 victory Friday night.
Ryersee fouled out early into overtime, but finished 5 of 7 from the 3-point line to force the issue.
After a strong first quarter, Palco struggled offensively in the second, scoring just five points.
"The first quarter was good for us because we hadn't been playing all that well up to that point. I'm glad we came out and scored some points because that has been our Achilles heel for the last few games," Palco coach Chris Drees said. "Then we turned around and scored 5 in the second. I think we got timid and got out of our offense."
Western Plains was unable to capitalize on the Roosters' poor shooting, leaving the game tied at 23 at intermission.
Midway through the third, the Bobcats saw their first and only lead of the game before a 12-3 Rooster run ended the quarter with an eight-point Rooster advantage.
"I think we were just trying too hard. We relaxed in the third quarter and got ourselves a lead again, then let them right back in," Drees said.
The Roosters had a hard time managing the ball, committing 19 turnovers.
"(The Bobcats) are the type of scrappy, quick team that lives off of turnovers and we didn't do ourselves any favors by getting a bunch of turnovers. Some of them were at crucial times, too," Drees said.
All 19 came in regulation as the Roosters played a near flawless overtime scoring 13 points in the four minutes.
Palco boasts six seniors on its roster, but it was sophomores who came up big for the Roosters.
"We have a good balance. I have seniors with the leadership and experience at this level, and I have sophomores with high basketball IQ and it really meshes well," Drees said.
Rooster sophomore Brent Gehring had a team-high 15 points and also led the team with 11 rebounds.
The Roosters made numerous trips to the foul line, hitting 19 of 42 on the night.
"We are normally a much better foul shooting team than that," Drees said. "I think the moment might have got to some of my guys, it has crept up a few times this season in the bigger games."
Sophomore Kolt Newell came up big at the line, though. After struggling early, Newell hit four of his final five attempts in the fourth quarter to help the Roosters maintain their narrow lead.
"The two sophomores are probably my most experienced basketball players in terms of number of games played," Drees said. "Those two started when they were young playing MAYB and AAU. They have probably played more games than my seniors."
Seniors Chase Newell and Alex Benoit both finished in double digits for the Roosters with 13 and 10, respectively.
Palco was set to play Dighton, ranked No. 7 in Class 1A Division II, in Saturday night's title game. The winner advances to next week's state championships in Hays.
Dighton was clutch in its semifinal matchup against Northern Valley on Friday. The Hornets went on an 8-2 run in the final two minutes to round out a 59-49 win.
Dighton was led by senior Ryan Kuhlman's 32-point night. He went 4 of 8 from the 3-point line and 10 of 12 from the free-throw line.
Despite the two free throws that gave Northern Valley a two-point advantage to start the fourth quarter, the Hornets led the entire way.