DODGE CITY — What started out as a promising beginning to the Class 1A Division II quarterfinal game for the Otis-Bison High School boys’ basketball team quickly headed south once the game entered the second quarter.
But before the final buzzer sounded in the Cougars’ 51-42 loss to the South Barber Chieftains, Cougar head coach Curtis Little watched his squad put on a last-gasp rally that just fell short.
It was, Little said, typical of the team’s roller-coaster 13-11 season.
“It’s a tough group of kids and they never gave up,” said Little, who watched his squad slice a 45-27 deficit to 49-42 with 1:42 left and looking to make a miracle rally. “Late, when we started pressing, we got some turnovers and we were playing where we weren’t thinking so much.”
It would be difficult to explain the up-and-down, momentum switching that took place in this game.
Once ahead 12-0 at the outset, the Cougars found themselves on the short end of a 19-17 halftime score.
From midway through the second quarter to the end of the third quarter, the Cougars watched the Chieftains go on a 21-8 run, to go up 37-23 as the fourth quarter got under way.
“I think we just started missing shots,” Little said. “They started knocking down the mid-range jumper. And we turned the ball over too many times (18).”
The Cougars were outscored 8-4 in the early moments of the fourth to trail 45-27 and they appeared well on their way to an easy exit from the bracket.
“I thought we did a much better job on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball,” Little said of his team’s late run.
Anton Foust, who led the Cougars with 15 points off 7 of 10 shooting, started the late surge with two buckets and a long-distance 3-pointer to make it 47-34 with just under three minutes remaining.
Still down by 15 at the 2:45 mark, Maitland Wiltse scored and that was followed by a pair of driving baskets by Seth Hoppingarner, one a dipsy-doodle under-handed scoop shot that somehow fell through. Clade Anderson’s layup with 1:42 made it 49-42 and the Chieftains called time to regroup.
“Really liked the way the kids never quit fighting,” Little said. “It’s cool how they responded, and I thought we played pretty well.”
From that 1:42 mark to 0:31, South Barber ran the clock down without the Cougars fouling. They forced another Chieftain turnover but couldn’t convert, turning it right back over.
A pair of late free throws put the game away for South Barber, which moves on to the semifinal game at 4:45 p.m. Friday against Northern Valley.
In addition to Foust’s 15 points, Wiltse followed with 12.
Free throws played a huge factor in the outcome, with the Chieftains going 11 of 13 at the stripe while the Cougars only went to the line three times, making one.
“I thought Foust had a good offensive and defensive (6 boards) tonight,” Little said.
Cole Coggins led South Barber’s scoring attack with a game-high 20 points.
It had looked as though the Cougars were going to make this one the second straight runaway in the early going, scoring the first 12 points of the game, holding South Barber scoreless until the 1:29 mark of the first quarter and owning a 12-4 lead at the first break.
But then things unraveled for the Cougars, as the Chieftains began to whack away at the deficit by getting a couple of early easy buckets to start the second stanza.
At the mid-point of the quarter, the Cougars were still on top 15-8 before the Chieftains got things going in their favor.
An 11-0 blitz by the Chieftains put them up 19-15 and only a late bucket with 25 seconds before the break did the Cougars score when Clade Anderson dropped in an easy layup.
Neither team shot the ball especially well in the half, Otis-Bison finishing 8 of 21 (38.1 percent) to South Barber’s 8 of 22 (36.4 percent).
Both teams had 6 turnovers at the break and were nearly even in rebounds, 14-13 in favor of the Chieftains.