Going into the 2017-18 season opener, Salina Central boys basketball coach Doug Finch knew play would be a bit off.
Good thing there are no ugly wins.
Senior Sam Shaffer connected on five threes, Central’s defense tightened up down the stretch and the Mustangs pulled away for a 56-45 victory at Goddard.
Central came out a bit cold. Goddard wasn’t much better as the game was tied at 6-6 with 3:30 to go in the opening quarter. The Lions used that to their advantage, building a 17-11 cushion early in the second quarter.
Shaffer changed the tune, sparking a 12-0 run. He connected on a couple layups while junior Harper Williams drilled a pair of threes to put the Mustangs ahead 26-19 with 2:20 to go in the half. Central grabbed the momentum and rode the wave to a 38-29 advantage after three quarters.
Goddard trimmed the margin to four in the final frame, but the Mustangs connected on six free throws to ice the game. Williams had seven of his 16 points in the final quarter while Shaffer settled with a game-high 21 points. The Lions were paced by Jeremiah Crawford with 14 points.
Salina Central (1-0) goes back home on Tuesday to take on Junction City. Pregame starts around 5:45 on Sports Radio 1150 KSAL.
SALINA CENTRAL 52, GODDARD 34
Four of the five starters fouled out for Central, but the second-half surge allowed the Mustangs to open the season 1-0.
Salina Central jumped out to a 10-2 lead, only to see the advantage turn against the Mustangs. After trailing 15-10 in the second quarter, junior Selah Merkle willed the Mustangs to a 7-0 spurt to close out the half and go ahead 17-15.
Senior Elisa Backes battled foul trouble all night, but she controlled the second half with her 15 points, nine coming in the third frame. The Mustangs outscored the Lions 16-5 in the quarter, ballooning the cushion to 33-20.
Merkle joined Backed in double figures with 10 points. Goddard junior Torri Vang had 15 points to lead the Lions.