South boys hold off Derby
Free throws could well have cost Salina South's boys the game in their Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League Division I opener against Derby.
Instead the foul line turned out to be the Cougars' savior.
After missing nine of their first 10 attempts, the Cougars went 6 for 7 from the line in the last three minutes — 4 of 5 in the final 34 seconds — to pull out a 53-48 victory Tuesday night at the South gym.
"I knew at some point, if we were going to win, we'd have to make some," South coach Jason Hooper said. "When it's a one- or two-possession game situation, you have to.
"During a timeout, I told the kids we'd missed so many, we were due to hit some.
"Fortunately (Kade) Barber stepped up and hit a couple."
Barber's three-point play with 2:53 left put South ahead, 44-43, in a game where neither team led by more than four until the final seconds. Amari Thomas' two free throws gave Derby its final lead at 45-44.
South then got back-to-back baskets from Josh Jordan and AJ Johnson, sandwiched around a Derby turnover, to go in front for good, 48-45. Thomas cut it to one with a basket at 50.3 seconds, but five Cougar free throws — one by Barber and two each by Devon Junghans and Jordan — closed it out.
With the victory, South improved to 2-0 overall, 1-0 in AVCTL-I, while it was the season opener for Derby (0-1, 0-1).
"That game was just an absolute battle all the way through," said Jordan, who led all scorers with 16 points. "They're a really tough team.
"But for us to get our goal of a league title and state championship, that's a team we need to beat. At the end of the day, we just wanted it more."
South trailed 35-33 after three quarters but made 7 of 11 shots from the floor in the fourth, all in the paint. Jordan posted up his defender twice and Johnson once in the period, while Johnson also scored on a fast-break outlet from Darrell Evans and a baseline drive.
Junghans, who struggled from the perimeter all night, missed two free throws at the 6:29 mark of the fourth quarter to make the Cougars 1-for-10 at the line. But his driving layup tied the game at 39 with just over five minutes remaining, and with 19.3 seconds on the clock, his two free throws pushed South's lead to 51-47.
"I'm just glad Kade and I and everybody pulled it out," Junghans said. "I'm in the gym every single day, and I just pictured myself at the YMCA shooting free throws, just like any other day.
"I believe if we hit half our open layups, we would have won easily. But Derby is still a great team."
For South, Jordan had 10 points in leading the Cougars to a 25-24 halftime lead. He got his other six in the fourth quarter.
Johnson had a double-double with 11 points — six in the fourth period — and 11 rebounds.
Thomas finished strong for Derby, scoring nine of his team-high 11 points in the fourth quarter. Fontaine Williams added nine points tied Thomas for the team lead with six rebounds.
Derby girls 55, South 20
South's girls (0-2, 0-1 AVCTL) hung with Derby for a quarter, but in the end the Panthers' size and strength was too much for them to overcome.
The Cougars trailed just 8-7 following Kylie Arnold's layup inside two minutes of the first period, but a Derryann Cobbins rebound basket and Naomi's layup gave Derby a five-point cushion after one. The Panthers stretched it to 23-10 at halftime and never looked back.
"Our intensity and effort the entire first half was much improved over (last) Friday night," South coach Ryan Stuart said. "Everybody in the state knows how good Derby is, and we didn't back down.
"I thought we played pretty good defense tonight and on our rebounds we blocked out and matched their intensity."
But the Cougars were overmatched by Derby's front line of Jaidyn Schomp, Addy Brown and Tatum Boettjer — all three 6-foot-3 — as the Panthers finished with a 36-15 rebounding advantage. Brown finished with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Cobbins had eight points and Boettjer seven.
Arnold's nine points lead South, with Sydney Peterson adding seven.
South was without starting point guard Acacia Weis, who was quarantined.