WAKEENEY, Kan. - Ness City senior Easton Seib is one of the few holdovers from the 2018-19 Eagle season that yielded the Class 2A state basketball championship. In the summer, NC purposefully played in several tough leagues, including the Hays Recreation Center, where the Eagles faced the best teams.
Ness City captured just one summer league game.
However, Ness City opened the winter with a five-point win at Macksville. This week, the Eagles again earned the Purple and Gold tournament championship at WaKeeney-Trego Community High School.
On Saturday, Ness City, helped two key offensive rebounds off missed free throws and an score from an inbounds play, defeated Jetmore-Hodgeman County, 53-49, for the title. NC improved to 4-0, won the tournament for the second straight season and eighth occasion overall. Seib said he was “a little surprised” with the success.
“Was a little nerve-wracking for our first game, didn't know how it would go, but it turned out good,” Seib said. “And I saw the potential that this team had, and I knew that we could be a good team if we keep continuing to push the ball up the floor, because our size is not as large as last year.
“So we are going to have to push it up, and I am really impressed with the guys,” he added. “They have stepped up to the plate, and I am really excited for what we can do.”
Hodgeman County dropped to 3-1. The two teams will again play Tuesday.
“It was a team effort,” Ness City coach Brandt Rogers said. “All nine guys that went in today really played their butts off, and it paid off.”
Ness City breakout sophomore forward Taylor Cable delivered another big game with 24 points, including 18 in the second half. Sophomore Jose Guzman tallied 10, and Seib finished with nine.
“The young guys stepped up,” Rogers said. “Easton stepped up when I needed him to.”
HC had six players at least six-feet tall. The 6-3 Cable went against 6-1 Jacob Poteet. Cable has tallied three straight 20-point contests after 14 against Macksville. Seib labeled Cable's recent showings “phenomenal.”
“We knew coming into this game that they were going to be bigger than us,” Seib said. “They were going to have bigger posts, and good defense down low, but we knew that the matchup with Jacob Poteet against Taylor down low was going to be one that we could look out for, and give it to him.”
Ness City led 14-8 after the first quarter, 24-23 at halftime and the contest was tied at 38 entering the fourth quarter. HC briefly took a 40-39 lead.
“It's kind of how the Macksville game went,” Rogers said. “The kids had to be able to rebound and bounce back from everything. We take our blows, they've got to take there's, and I am going to try to do it using the least amount of timeouts, so that they have got to learn on the fly.”
However, Ness City took a 42-40 advantage with 6 minutes, 25 seconds left. NC collected multiple offensive rebounds on the same possession, including one by junior Matthew Delaney. He delivered a nice post pass to Cable for a basket. Cable drew a foul and made a free throw.
“A lot of it was nerves,” Rogers said. “He wasn't using his dribble on his post catch. He was using his ball fake, and then not getting any separation and trying to go right back up in the first half. And we talked a little bit at halftime, and then in the second half, he made those adjustments, and it proves how coachable the kid is, and how much he's willing to learn.”
Delaney had another assist on a Cable basket, and then Cable scored again, part of a 9-0 run for a 48-40 advantage.
“Matt Delaney played some serious minutes when we needed him to, and did some great things on the defensive end,” Rogers said.
HC, led by 18 points from junior Isaac Salmans, closed to 49-47 with 54 seconds remaining.
Hodgeman elected to foul quickly. Seib sunk 1 of 2 free throws, and Salmans countered with a basket for a 50-49 Ness City lead with 18.5 seconds left.
With 16.8 remaining, Guzman missed two free throws, but Cable grabbed the offensive rebound. He drew a foul, made the first foul shot and missed the second one. Ness City led 51-49 with 14.6 seconds remaining.
Then, junior Jose Lopez grabbed the rebound off the Cable miss with 12.8 left. Rogers quickly called a timeout and set up an inbounds pass.
“We needed to set something up and not get stuck in the middle with a chance at a jump ball,” Rogers said. “Because in the end of the game, you never know when a jump ball is going to be called, and when a foul is going to be called. I just wanted to take that out of the official's hands, and put it into our hands, and give us a chance at a win.”
NC veteran assistant coach Case Beckman, an Eagle alum, significantly studies inbounds plays, including from acclaimed coaches like Brad Stevens, Roy Williams and Bill Self.
Ness City's inbounds play came from a college team.
The Eagles spread the floor well away from the basket. Cable was the first option when he came off a screen at the top. Cable sprinted in, collected the inbounds pass from Seib and scored a layup to seal the victory.
“Right there at the end, I really wasn't sure what they were going to do when we had our four players out wide, and we ran back toward the goal,” Seib said. “I really think (Hodgeman) should have stayed back. But we decided to go with the play where we drew it to Cable, threw into him right there for the open layup, which put us up by even more.”