The El Dorado Wildcats did everything they could to stop the Wichita Collegiate Spartans but it was not enough in the end. The Spartans defeated the Wildcats 52-42 to advance to the championship game of the Bluestem Classic.
Playing in front of a boisterous home crowd at Alumni Court in El Dorado, the Wildcats could not deliver the Spartans’ second loss of the season like they were thirsting to do. Riley Kemmer and Trace Clark proved to be too much.
"We knew it was going to be tought to beat El Dorado on their home court," said Collegiate coach Mitch Fiegel. "It's been a while since they've been in the finals, so we knew they'd be hungry. I thought we did a great job tonight."
For El Dorado, it's a defeat in the record book, but that doesn't mean it was a complete loss.
“I was pleased with the effort, I wouldn’t say that Collegiate played harder than we did, they played better than we did. I told the kids after the game that this is where we’re at, they’re a nice ball club; they had good size and are fairly physical team and we didn’t play within how we needed to play in order to win tonight,” said Wildcat head coach Gary Melcher.
The win improved the Spartans’ record to 9-1 while the Wildcats fell to 5-6.
It was a back-and-forth match as both teams took turns jumping ahead of each other. The teams ended the first quarter tied up at 13-13.
The Wildcats’ Alex Brown, who averages 8.8 points per game, came out firing in the first half scoring 9, including a 3-pointer.
“Alex is a talented player and they were going to dare him how he shoots the ball in the first half and he’s very capable of shooting the ball from 17 or 18 feet and we had a time out early and I said ‘Alex, if they’re not going to respect you then they’re going to stand in the middle of the lane. When you get the ball, turn and shoot it in.’ I know he knocked down two or three but he’s capable of that and he made some baskets in that first half,” Melcher said. “I thought we were a little bit better offensively in the first half than we were in the second half. In the second half I think we sped up mentally.”
After Collegiate gained a three point 25-22 halftime lead, the Spartans started off the second half on a 7-2 run to increase the margin to 32-25. The Wildcats were able to contain Clark a little more in the second half after his run of 12 points before halftime. He was only allowed six points in the third and fourth quarters to finish with 17 points total.
Kemmer fired in a 3-pointer as time expired in the third quarter to extend the Spartans’ lead to 39-30, and finished with 22 points.
Getting to within three points was the best the Wildcats could do in the fourth quarter.
Three times, they were one outside shot away from tying the game.
The Spartans had an answer every time the game got down to one possession.
Trailing 41-36, Riedel stole the ball and connected with Travis House for a field goal.
Clark immediately answered back with an inside shot. But the Wildcats answered back with Trevor Crain scoring from inside the arc to close the gap at 43-40 with 3:20 left.
Kemmer scored another inside basket to make it a five-point game with 2:15 left before Riffel made a shot to bring the Wildcats back to a three point deficit.
Kemmer managed to score while being fouled with 1:08 left and was sent to the line where he drilled his only free throw of the night to make it an eight point game, and the Spartans held on to win.
Though Melcher could not take much out of the loss, he believes his team’s reaction will be crucial.
“It’s hard to take much positive out of any loss but I think the good part about this is let’s see how we react to it. If we react well to what happened to us tonight, when we play tomorrow night that will be the biggest positive that we can have,” Melcher said.
House was the leading scorer for the Wildcats with 12 points.
The Wildcats will play in the third place game against the Circle Thunderbirds (4-7) on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 4:45 while Collegiate will face Wichita Kapaun Mt. Carmel (6-5) in the following game in the tournament championship at 6:30.
Great Bend vs. Trinity
Ryan Miller’s 31 points were just what the Wichita Trinity Knights (6-3) needed in their 50-47 victory over the Great Bend Panthers (2-8) in the consolation bracket. Matt Marshall and Ethan Henderson both scored 11 points for the Panthers.
Campus vs. Newton
Jason Kinglsley scored 21 points for the Newton Railers (2-11) in their 46-42 victory over the Campus Colts. A late offensive charge put Kinglsey to the free throw line to score two, making it a two-possession game with less than a minute in the game.
The Colts will face the Panthers in the seventh place game on Saturday at 1:30 while the Railers and the Knights will follow in their battle for fifth place at 3:00.