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South Boys Rally to Stun Abilene

Mike Hammett - January 23, 2014 11:22 pm

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Down eight entering the fourth quarter, and with their leading scorer for the season on the bench, the Salina South Cougars were backed into a corner.

South knew only one response to the situation. Attack.

After struggling in the first three quarters, Salina South dominated the fourth quarter. The Cougars outscored Abilene 23-9 in the final frame to pick up a 60-54 win in the boys semifinals of the Salina Invitational Tournament Thursday night at the Bicentennial Center.

In the first half, the Cougars and Cowboys traded buckets early, with South building an 8-5 lead on a basket by Shawn Smith with 2:22 to go in the quarter. Abilene would score seven of the final 10 points of the quarter, taking the lead back on a basket by Keil Kelly with 41 seconds to go in the quarter. Abilene led 12-11 after one.

In the second quarter, Abilene pushed the lead to seven at 20-13 with 5:35 left. South could get no closer than five the rest of the half, but didn’t let Abilene build a lead any larger than eight, as Abilene led 26-20 at the half.

The third quarter saw several baskets traded back-and-forth. South cut the lead to as little as four, but Abilene would push the lead up to nine at 31-22 on a basket by Jesse Goodwin. Abilene would maintain a lead around eight points for the next two minutes before South started to make a push. Back-to-back baskets by Shawn Smith and Aaron Mar pulled the Cougars within three at 37-34. South got within three again at 40-37 on Mar’s three.

However, the game appeared to take a big turn for Abilene in the final minute of the third quarter. Justin Stonebraker, South’s leading scorer on the season, was assessed his fourth personal foul. On his way to the bench, Stonebraker was whistled for a technical foul, which also counted as his fifth personal foul, disqualifying him from the game. Abilene would score five points on the possession, and take a 45-37 lead to the fourth quarter.

That’s where the game turned South’s way. Zach Nachbar opened the quarter with a three-pointer. After Abilene hit two free throws, the Cougars added five straight points on a three from Jacob Marcotte and free throws from Aaron Mar, pulling within two at 47-45 with 5:37 to play. Jesse Patrick pushed the Cowboy lead back to four at 49-45. Then, South slammed the door. The Cougars went on an 11-0 run over the next two-and-a-half minutes, capped on back-to-back three-point plays by Nachbar and Ryan Fox to lead 56-49 with 2:23 left. Abilene got no closer than six the rest of the way, as South held on for the improbable win.

Mar led South with a career high 14 points. Nachbar chipped in with 12 points and Marcotte added a career high 11 points. Abilene was paced by Patrick’s 23 points and Kelly’s 16 points.

South wins its fourth straight game to get to 6-5 overall, while Abilene falls to 8-3. South will face Salina Central in the SIT championship game on Saturday night at 7:15 (SportsRadio 1150 KSAL), while Abilene will play Concordia for third at 3:45 on Saturday.

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