Salina Central boys basketball coach Ryan Modin was at a loss for words at the end of Tuesday night.
His team’s toughness did all the talking for him.
In a game that featured seven combined technical fouls and a raucous crowd, Salina Central made enough gritty plays, securing a spot in Class 5A Sub-State with a 64-58 road victory at Newton High School. Teams have to finish in the top 16 of the division standings to have a chance at postseason play. The two schools left out of the top 16 can play each other to end the season, a topic Central doesn’t have to worry about, improving to 9-10 while Newton dropped to 8-12.
Both offenses received plenty of open looks at the basket in the first eight minutes, but neither could capitalize. Newton senior Alex Krogmeier kicked off the scoring, drilling a three at the 4:54 mark of the first period. Central didn’t log its first bucket until a minute later as the Mustangs fell behind 10-8 at the completion of the first.
Chaos broke out in the ensuing frame.
Central opened the second on a 7-2 run, jumping ahead 15-12. Newton had the basketball, looking to knot up the score. However, a foul by a Central player led to some fireworks. Newton’s recipient chirped back at the culprit, resulting in a double technical foul. Once the dust settled, Newton head coach Andy Preston stepped onto the floor, searching for an official to request an explanation. Instead, coach Preston received a technical, giving Central two free throws and the ball.
Salina Central made just one of the technical freebies, a theme that would continue throughout the night. Newton fought back, claiming a 20-18 advantage following back-to-back threes. Shortly after, Central senior Jevon Burnett made a bucket while taking a hit. Coach Preston then received another technical foul, resulting in an ejection with 3:02 to play in the half. The Mustangs would only make one of the possible three free throws. Still, Central led 27-23 at intermission.
The Mustangs ballooned the cushion out to eight, 41-33, thanks to the help of Newton’s fourth technical foul that also resulted in the loss of leading scorer Krogmeier. Newton answered with a bucket on the other end, but once again, a reaction drew another whistle, indicating the fifth tech for the Railers. Salina Central failed to take advantage, making just 5-of-13 free throw attempts in the third, handing Central a 48-41 cushion.
Central expanded the margin out to 10 in the fourth, 56-46. Newton had one final charge. Senior Jaheem Ray nailed a trey with 27 seconds to go, cutting the deficit to 61-58. Ray forced a turnover on the next possession. The senior attempted to tie the game with another triple, but his shot was short. Central took off the other way and put the final nail in the coffin with a three-point play by senior Aaron Watson.
Watson had 10 points for Central. Burnett had 11. Junior Reed McHenry paced the Mustangs with 16.
Newton sophomore Dylan Petz made four threes to finish with 14 points to lead the Railers.
CENTRAL 56, NEWTON 32
Salina Central logged the first 13 points and didn’t look back, cruising to a 56-32 victory at Newton. The Lady Mustangs increased their mark to 15-4. The Railers ended their season at 1-19.
Senior Peyton Griffin set the tone in the opening minutes, pulling down multiple offensive rebounds, scoring a few buckets and recorded a couple blocks. Newton didn’t get its first bucket until the 2:26 mark of the period. Junior Leki Valle-Ponds registered the first field goal and ended up scoring all seven points for the Railers, who trailed 17-7 after one.
Newton cut the deficit to six, 17-11, early in the second before Central responded with a 9-0 burst. Newton had the final counter punch as senior Keila Gillispie made a jumper followed by a last-second three to make it 26-16 Central at halftime.
The Railers hung around for the majority of the third before Central sophomore Aubrie Kierscht and the Mustangs pulled away with an 11-2 eruption to close the third period.
Kierscht finished with 20 points for Central. Sophomores Hampton Williams and Chaliscia Samilton added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Valle-Ponds ended up with 11 points for Newton.
Salina Central closes out the regular season at Andover Central Thursday. Pregame at 6:45 on Sports Radio 1150 KSAL.