Salina Central boys basketball coach Doug Finch issued a challenge to his squad last week.
The Mustangs answered with a dominating performance.
Central scored the first 13 points of the game, junior Mark Grammer finished one point shy of a career-high, and the Mustangs sprinted past the Newton Railers 63-42. The Mustangs closed out the year with a 14-6 mark, ending in a tie for the No. 5 seed in the Class 5A West Sub-State bracket with Topeka West.
Senior Sam Shaffer ignited the fire with back-to-back threes to start the game, leading to a 13-0 spurt before Newton made its first shot at the 4:15 mark of the opening quarter. Central continued to push the ceiling, making it a 20-5 advantage after one quarter.
The Mustangs cooled off in the second stanza, making just two field goals, but they locked down on NCAA Division One standout Ty Berry, holding him in check with just three points. Grammer drew the assignment defensively, while also hitting a trey while being fouled by Berry for a four-point play with 3:10 remaining in the half. Central also put him and 6’8″ junior Damarius Peterson on the bench with two fouls each.
Newton (9-11) opened the second half with three triples by sophomore Alex Krogmeier, but Central responded by pounded the ball into the paint to senior Jack Atherton, who matched a career-high with eight points off the bench, all coming in the third stanza.
Grammer, the Salina Ortho Player of the Game, settled for 15 points, hitting four threes. Junior Harper Williams added 11. For Newton, Berry and Krogmeier each had 15.
Central plays on Tuesday at the Brickhouse to open Sub-State play with coverage on Sports Radio 1150 KSAL.
NEWTON 50, SALINA CENTRAL 39
With a top-four seed on the line for Sub-State play, both squads started the contest with stout defense. While there were a combined five turnovers in the opening quarter, every shot was challenged, leading to a 4-4 tie.
Newton (14-6) turned to senior Kyndal Bacon and junior Desiray Kernal to spark an 11-2 spurt, grabbing a 15-6 cushion with 4:50 left in the first half. Central relied on senior Elisa Backes to bring the Stangs back to a seven-point margin, but her 12 points were matched by Newton’s 23 going into the locker room.
Senior Myah Ward was the first reinforcement to make a bucket, a three to make it a nine-point whole with 6:50 to play in the third frame, but the Lady Mustangs couldn’t keep up with the two-headed monster of Bacon and Kernal, who combined for 28 of Newton’s 40 points after three quarters.
Backes ended up as the Salina Ortho Player of the Game with her 12th 20-point game of her career, settling with a game-high 22 points. The Railers received 20 from Bacon while Kernal provided 16.
Central (13-7) plays at home on Wednesday as the No. 5 seed.