The Kit Carson boys’ team had all they could handle to keep their very successful season alive last weekend as the Wildcats had to claw and fight their way to a runner-up spot in the District 2 Tournament. That finish is good enough to qualify for the upcoming Region 3 state-qualifying tournament that will be held at the La Junta High School gymnasium on Friday and Saturday. For their efforts they enter the Regional tournament in the #5 position and will have to beat two good teams in Walsh and Creede to advance to the longed for 1A state tournament coming up in another week.
First year head coach Damon Dechant stated, “We knew both games were going to be tough. They ended up being dog fights. Unfortunately, we came up short against a hot McClave team, but I’m proud of how we competed.”
Kit Carson came into the tournament as the top-seed after a strong conference win over Cheyenne Wells in the last week of the regular season. After getting a bye in the quarterfinals they would take on Cheraw on Thursday night in the semifinals after Cheraw defeated the Eads boys, 55-50.
The Cheraw game was, as Dechant described, a dog fight as the two teams exchanged buckets throughout the entire game. Neither group could gain the advantage from tip off to end until late in the game for Kit Carson. In the first period, the Cats got the nod by a single point, 17-16 using a strong outside-inside game from William Hornung and Hunter Clapper. Jayden McCombs-Farmer, the cog that makes the wheel work for the Cats, ran an efficient show as he found his outside shooter, Clapper, for an early three ball, and then found Hornung outside on the other side for another. Once the Wolverine defense was worried about the side shooters, McCombs-Farmer found range at the top of the key for a late-quarter bomb. Cheraw grabbed a two-point advantage in a low-scoring second period led by their big man Montoya in the middle of the key. Only McCombs-Farmer could keep the Wildcat production flowing contributing 6 of the Cats’ 7 points. At halftime, the Cats were trailing, 25-24.
But the Cats would turn up the heat in the second half, making sure they could get as many rebounds as possible. Cheraw has a nice senior guard in Josiah Vasquez who went silent in the second half as he and McCombs-Farmer duked it out on both ends of the court. Hornung was key into the second half hitting a couple of key jumpers in both quarters. McCombs Farmer also nailed a thrilling long ball that got the attention of everyone in the Community Building. But it would come down to the free throw line as the Cats fouled Colt Honey, who, by the end of the game, was doing all of the Wolverine scoring on a number of occasions. Honey was perfect on the line going 6-for-6 and darn near pulled off the upset by himself. However, an unlikely hero came to the forefront for the Cats when Chris Bryan came in off the bench and gave Dechant some full on effort that got him on the free throw line just when the Cats needed help. And help came when Bryan hit both freebies.
Honey would score 14 for Cheraw while Montoya carried Cheraw in the first half with 10. For the Cats it would be McCombs-Farmer and Hornung with 16 apiece. Clapper was solid with another 7 counters.
The win put the Cats in the championship where they were projected to be based on their seeding, but unfortunately a very motivated McClave team had other plans. Kit Carson got the first quarter behind some excellent play from Cordell Farmer and Clapper, but McClave was hanging around. Particularly in the second period, the Cards started getting physical and the Cats got into some fairly serious foul trouble; so much so that by the end of the game McClave had taken 27 free throws to only 9 for the Cats. By halftime, the Cats were barely in control, 23-20, after Cordell Farmer hit a long ball and Brayden Bogenhagen slipped in one more.
Going into the third, Kit Carson continued to work their offense very efficiently while the very athletic and dangerous Ian Beckett, who had been stone cold quiet in the first half, decided it was time to play some ball. He got on fire in the third hitting all but one bucket for the Cards. The Wildcats didn’t have an answer for Beckett in the third but finally managed to slow him down in the fourth when Hornung was able to come in off the bench where he spent a lot of foul-trouble minutes. However, once Beckett was slowed down, the dam broke somewhere else, and in the final period it was senior Marcus Perales who took over hitting three jumpers and enough free throws down the stretch. The nightmare final period saw the Cards pick up their intensity to smother the Cats, 20-6. The Cats got behind late in the game and were forced to foul the Cards who were 9-for-14 in the final minutes.
Beckett led everyone with 21 points while Perales poured in 13, mostly in the final period. No one was in double figures for the Cats, but they got production out of seven players including 9 points from Clapper and Bogenhagen and 8 apiece from McCombs-Farmer and Cordell Farmer.
McClave, Kit Carson and Cheraw will represent District 2 at this weekend’s Region 3 tournament. As stated earlier, the Cats are seeded fifth and will have Walsh in the first round. If they get by the Eagles from the south, they will need to defeat Creede who has a #2 seed and bye in the first round.
Dechant likes his chances but is not taking anything for granted stating, “We know Walsh is a good team that is playing well as of late. Creede has been a top team all year. This time of year, all the teams are good so we know we will have to be sharp offensively and motivated on defense.”
The Cats will take on Walsh on Friday at the La Junta High School gym in a 3:00 pm game. If they win they advance to play Creede for the right to go to the state tournament. That regional final is Saturday at 3:00 pm, as well.