Back in the fall, Salina Central junior Caden Kickhaefer thought his basketball season was over before it started. “Little Kick” suffered a knee injury that could have knocked him out for the year.
Instead, he’s back, and ready to turn the tide for the Mustangs.
In his second game of the season, Kickhaefer tied a career-high 16 points, willing Salina Central to a 61-56 upset special of Class 6A’s No. 7 team Derby inside the Brickhouse Tuesday night. Central claimed its third straight win, pushing to 8-9, 4-6 in league play. Derby fell to 11-4, 6-2 in AVCTL-I.
Kickhaefer made his presence known immediately, drawing the start and draining a three from the right corner. Derby senior Jacob Karsak wasn’t intimidated, scoring 10 of his team-high 16 points in the first period, putting Derby on top 21-16 after one.
A pair of lengthy runs were crucial for the Mustangs in the ensuing period. The first spurt took place right away, a 9-0 burst giving Central a 25-21 advantage. Derby pulled back ahead, 27-26, midway through the period, but the Panthers didn’t have the upperhand for long as Central closed out the half on a 9-2 push, capped by a three-point play for Kickhaefer. At intermission, Central led 35-29.
Not much scoring took place in the third, although Central piled on to its cushion behind Kickhaefer and senior Jevon Burnett, who combined for 9 of the 11 points for SC in the frame, making the score 46-36 at the completion of the third.
Central failed to handle the pressure of the Panthers in the final stanza, coughing the ball up eight times, allowing Derby to claw to within two, 58-56. In the end, Central made enough free throws to get the victory.
In addition to Kickhaefer’s 16, Burnett chipped in 13 points. Derby’s Karsak and Tre Washington had 16 points each.
DERBY 69, CENTRAL 38
Back in January, Salina Central lost a six-point lead in the fourth, falling to Derby 62-60 in the closing seconds.
This one wasn’t nearly as close.
Senior Sydney Nilles fueled No. 6 Derby with 20 points as the Panthers rolled No. 4 Salina Central, 69-38. Derby improved to 13-2, 8-0 in the league. Central dropped to 14-3, 8-2 in the AVCTL-I.
Derby used defensive and threes to race out to an 8-0 lead. By the time Central responded, Derby was already in a groove, building a 22-11 cushion at the end of the first. Central tried to get back in the game with leading scorer Aubrie Kierscht. The sophomore was well guarded as Derby entered halftime with a 41-25 advantage.
The Panthers didn’t take the foot off the gas petal. Derby outscored Central 22-9 in the third, settling for a running clock situation in the fourth.
Derryana Cobbins and Heather Mills added 10 points each for Derby.
Central sophomore Hampton Williams paced the Mustangs with a season-high 17 points.
Salina Central stays in town for Senior Night on Friday. Tipoff time is slated for 6, but there’s a chance of starting early. Listen to the game on Sports Radio 1150 KSAL.