Abilene boys’ basketball coach Terry Taylor is in his 45th season of coaching high school basketball and 12th with the Cowboys. Entering this winter, Abilene has won 77 percent of its games in the last eight years. That included state final four showings in ’13 and ’17.
Abilene defeated TMP 62-45 on Friday, January 25, 2019. (Photo: Everett Royer, www.ksportsimages.com)
Taylor called the 2018-2019 squad probably the most depth-laden team in his Cowboy tenure. Abilene routinely plays 10 Cowboys, balance that led to a 62-45 road win Friday night against Thomas More Prep-Marian at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
Abilene, 9-3 and into the rankings this week at No. 10 in Class 4A, led 17-13 at the end of the first quarter versus a depleted Class 3A Monarch squad. The Cowboys opened the second on a 17-7 run and held a 42-26 halftime advantage. Abilene had contributions throughout the roster and hit eight of its first nine shots in the quarter.
Taylor has normally rotated five-in, five-out, a tactic he also saw from Hays High coach Rick Keltner, who has coached the Indians since 1985 and also been a head coach more than 40 years.
Keltner has liberally used the scheme the last two seasons and nearly broke the state record for single season made 3-pointers last winter. Taylor, with 654 career victories, had never previously used the tactic before this year. He won state titles in Augusta and Parsons.
“We have been able to play 10 kids most games this year, and it’s been a nice thing to do, just somebody gets a little tired and winded like we were the first four minutes, sit him down, let him rest a little bit, another group goes in,” Taylor said.
The depth came from a variety of factors. Abilene kept six seniors, which is generally one or two more than Taylor normally has. Generally, Taylor subs every four minutes, a rotation he had Friday. Sometimes against tougher opponents, one group goes six minutes, the other fivesome two minutes.
“But there seemed to be kids that agreed what their role was going to be before the season, and then we had this freshman, a couple sophomores, and we go, ‘Hey, they have got to play,’” Taylor said. “The only way they are going to get better is to play varsity.
“Well, they are our second group,” he added. “There’s several sophomores out there, and a freshman. They hold their own every game, and so we told them at the beginning, ‘We’ve got good depth, we are going to play it that way.’”
Taylor has had a long history with TMP, including much earlier in his career as the Lyons coach. He recalled stalling against legendary Monarch coach Al Billinger – whom the fieldhouse is named after and last coached in 1985 – in a contest that was 6-2 at the halftime.
“That was as mad as I have ever seen Al,” Taylor said. “He sat back there in a 2-3 zone and let us hold the ball a whole half.”
In 2009, TMP hit a last-second shot to beat Abilene at home, 41-39. Since then, Abilene has captured 10 straight versus the Monarchs, though the five previous to Friday came by an average margin of seven points.
TMP (8-6) took runner-up in the Mid-Continent League midseason tournament last week. However, 6-5 senior forward Carson Jacobs didn’t play Friday because of a concussion. TMP coach Bill Meagher believes Jacobs should return Saturday after he cleared concussion protocol and should play Monday at Smith Center.
Meagher said junior guard Ryan Stoecklein might return next week, and junior forward Tanner Diehl’s status is also uncertain for next week. Point guard Ryan Karlin paced TMP with 14 points, though Meagher said the senior grew tired against Abilene’s pressure.
“The thing with their depth is, it never seemed like anybody was really tired,” Meagher said. “We have got some guys that are banged up, and we are trying to get them back, and it felt like we were constantly trying to find rest.”
Abilene broke open the game with back-to-back backcourt steals in a 10-second stretch that yielded early second quarter baskets. Senior Timothy Barbieri, the team’s tallest player at 6-5, contributed second-quarter scoring and finished with eight points.
Barbieri’s older sister, Belle, is a standout forward for the 17-1 Fort Hays women’s basketball team that’s ranked No. 8 in NCAA Division II. She was in attendance during the contest.
“He is one that’s improved a lot since last year,” Taylor said. “He really didn’t play much varsity a year ago. He was mainly a JV player. Played a little varsity, but he’s grown. He keeps growing every year.”
Additionally, 6-4 freshman Kaleb Becker tallied six points in the second quarter and finished with eight. Junior Travis Beetch led with 10, and senior James Mayden had nine. Seven players scored at least six points.
“It’s kind of a luxury I’ve got, and I am going to take advantage of it,” Taylor said of the depth.