Doug Finch lost to cross-town rival Salina South when he took over as head coach of the Salina Central boys basketball team.
He wrote the final chapter a little differently on his way out.
Senior Harper Williams scored 18 points on his birthday, SC’s defensive switch stymied Salina South, and the Mustangs muscled their way to their ninth straight win, 54-44, over the Cougars Friday night. With the victory, coach Finch improved to 30-6 against South while serving as the head man at Central.
Salina South (6-10, 2-7 AVCTL-I) tried to play spoiler, though, jumping out to an 11-2 lead. After cutting the deficit to 13-5, Central took over from there.
The Mustangs closed out the opening quarter by scoring the final five points and added to the spurt in the ensuing frame. When the dust settled, Salina Central (12-4, 5-4) was up 21-13, following a 16-0 explosion. South trimmed the margin to three late in the half, but Central senior Kameron Demars scored at the buzzer to put the Mustangs ahead 27-22.
Once the Mustangs grabbed the upper hand, Salina Central switched to a 2-3 zone, allowing Central to go on a 9-3 run. Salina South would never get closer than eight the rest of the way.
Williams was named the Salina Ortho Player of the Game, drilling four threes in the contest. Post players Ben Driver, Caden Kickhaefer and Caleb Glen all played big minutes for the Mustangs, who travel to Derby on Tuesday. Pregame begins at 5:45 on Sports Radio 1150 KSAL.
Sophomore Devon Junghans paced the Cougars with 16 points. South head to Goddard to face Eisenhower with pregame at 5:45 on Y93.7.
Central 54, South 40
Salina Central senior Selah Merkle refused to let the Mustangs lose for the second straight year at Salina South.
The rest of the team helped in the first half, though, holding the Cougars scoreless for nearly half the quarter. After trailing 5-0, Salina South (5-10, 2-6) hit Central with an 8-0 run. The Mustangs countered, ultimately grabbing a 9-8 lead through the opening quarter.
Central (10-6, 6-3) threatened to push its advantage out to double-digits, leading by as many as eight. However, Salina South trailed 22-17 at the break.
In the third, Merkle took over. Salina Central outscored South 17-6 with 15 of the 17 coming from the Kansas Wesleyan basketball commit. Once the Mustangs grabbed a 39-23 lead after three frames, it was all over as the Mustangs picked up their third consecutive victory.
Merkle matched a career high with 25 points, earning the Salina Ortho Player of the Game. Senior Holly Sanderson added a career-best 10 points.
Salina South senior Camdyn Schreiber led the Cougar attack with 14 points. Classmate Jadyn Zamecnik chipped in 10.