Salina Central girls basketball head coach Chris Fear noted that having Tuesday night off would benefit his team after a 20-point loss in the season opener.
He was certainly right.
Freshman Hampton Williams recorded her first double-double, the Central defense forced 20-plus turnovers, and the Lady Mustangs handled the Great Bend Panthers, 71-42, on the road Friday night.
Things weren’t easy, though, as Great Bend (1-4) took an early 6-5 lead. Central answered with a 9-0 run, en route to a 16-10 advantage after the first period.
SC (1-1) increased the lead to double-digits, but saw the margin get trimmed back down to 24-19. Senior Selah Merkle teamed up with Williams to swing momentum back in favor of the Mustangs. Merkle converted a layup while getting drilled and Williams followed with her only three of the night. Central outscored Great Bend 21-10 in the third to seal the victory.
Williams, the Salina Ortho Player of the Game, scored 21 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Merkle finished with 14 points. For Great Bend, Halle Latham paced the Panthers with nine.
Salina Central heads to Valley Center next on Tuesday. Pregame at 5:45 on Sports Radio 1150 KSAL, ksal.com and the Rocking M Media app.
Salina Central 56, Great Bend 38
The Mustangs charged out to a 9-3 cushion before the Panthers clawed back to a 15-14 lead early in the second quarter. The contest would remain tight until senior Mark Grammer connected on his fourth three on the half, giving Central a 26-21 halftime lead.
Great Bend (0-5) crawled to within two, 33-31, and appeared to be within reach of reclaiming the upper hand. Sophomore Caden Kickhaefer shut the door on a comeback, swirling in a trey from the right wing, pushing the Mustang lead to 38-31 through three quarters.
The Panthers tried to close in, trailing by just six midway through the final period. Salina Central (2-0) pulled away for good when Grammer stole a pass and found senior Harper Williams in transition for a triple, which he nailed to make it a double-digit game. SC closed out the tilt with a 12-0 spurt.
Grammer claimed the Salina Ortho Player of the Game, finishing with a career-high 24 points. Williams chipped in 14, half of those coming in the final stanza. GB’s Trent Stueder led with 12 points, but scored just one bucket in second half with SC switched to a 2-3 zone.