On Saturday the Kit Carson Wildcats travelled to La Junta to take on the Wiley Panthers, coached by respected KC Alumni Randy Wilson, in the regional final game. The winner of this game would go onto the State Tournament, and the loser’s season would come to an end.
KC would win the tip off, but Wiley would score first. The Panthers would go onto sink a three and then quickly score three more from inside the arc, going up 11-7 on the Cats. But KC would answer with a bucket and a three to end the quarter up narrowly; 12-11. The 2nd quarter was a back and forth battle as strong defensive rebounding on each side would allow only one 2nd chance point for either team. With 3:17 left in the quarter it was a tie ball game; 19-19. Wiley would score to take the lead 21-19, but KC would end the quarter with 4 successive scores, the final, a long three from Crawford, and it was 29-21 in favor of KC as the teams went into the locker room.
The 3rd quarter began with KC scoring from behind the arc twice and as the Cats added another bucket and a free throw they found their biggest lead of the game, 15 points (38-23). Wiley would only shoot 3’s for the rest of the stanza, and they made 3 of them. The 3rd quarter ended with KC up by 10; 42-32.
As the 4th quarter began, KC would score first, but in 3 successive possessions, Wiley would quickly tally 10 points and with 4:24 left on the clock it was suddenly a two point game (44-42). KC had possession, but an errant pass caused Hornung to dive to save the ball from going out of bounds. The saved ball would get passed to Crawford who would score from the behind the arc to extend KC’s lead to 5. Wiley quickly answered with a bucket and it was 47-44 in favor of KC with 3:42 left in the game. Neither team would find their shot, as time ticked off the clock. It looked like things were swinging in Wiley’s favor when they would steal the ball from KC and go for an open layup, but they would miss. And with just over one minute left on the clock, Dickey would get fouled and go to the line, he would make the 1st important shot, and go onto sink the next one, extending KC’s lead 49-44. Wiley would get fouled on a 2-point attempt. Going to the line, the Panthers uncharacteristically missed both free throws. Wiley would be forced to foul and it was Crawford who would go to the line. He would be perfect at the charity stripe and KC’s lead was now 51-44 with 33 seconds left on the clock. Wiley would make a shot in the paint to narrow the lead to just 5, but time was running out and the Panthers again fouled Crawford who made his final two free throws, sealing the win 53-46.
KC was 8 for 14 from behind the arc (57%) while Wiley was 7 for 25 (28%). From 2-point range KC was 9 for 20 (45%) while Wiley was 10 for 20 (50%). From the charity stripe KC was 11 for 14 (79%) while Wiley was 5 for 10 (50%). Leading scorer for KC was Jaxon Crawford with 23, Brad Johnson had 7, William Hornung 6, Trevor Medford 6, and Blake Dickey had 11. Leading rebounder for KC was Crawford with 8, Johnson had 5, Hornung 4, Medford 6, and Dickey had 6. KC had 29 rebounds compared to Wiley’s 21. KC had 9 turnovers while forcing 5 on the Panthers. Crawford had 3 blocks. Dickey led in steals with 2. Johnson led in assists with 9.
Coach Trahern commented on the Wildcat’s second straight trip to the State Tournament with the win in the Regional championship. “First I would like to extend a huge thank you from our team to all our fans. We had a lot of purple in the stands at Regional Tournament, and your support, as it has been all year was an integral part of our win. Hopefully we can count on you at the state tournament as well. I am certainly happy for our team, but this victory was bitter-sweet for me personally. Randy Wilson, Wiley’s Coach, is a former player of ours and not only one of the best players I have coached but certainly one of the smartest as well. It is no surprise to me that he has become an excellent coach and I know he will continue to have success in his program.”
“I really felt we played well for most of the game. We carried out our game plan very well for most of the game. Defensively we played solid with very few breakdowns. William Hornung who held Christian Dellamaestra to just 8 points (3 baskets and 2 free throws) with help from his teammates just did an excellent job the entire game. He showed great mental and physical toughness and certainly an unmatched will to win. The rest of our team did their job and challenged perimeter shots consistently throughout the game and we rebounded the ball extremely well. Offensively we shot the ball well from inside and outside the arc and our free throw shooting was pivotal in our win again in this game as well. We felt we could have executed down the stretch a little better and maybe not have let them back in the game, but the important thing is we found a way to win. Going into state our ultimate goal is in front of us and we have taken one more step in getting a chance at that goal. We are playing our best basketball right now and that is a sign of a hungry team.”
The Kit Carson Wildcats will travel to UNC in Greely for the State Tournament where they will face #5 Longmont Christian Thursday March 9th at 1:15pm.
Photo Credit Bob Schecter