By KEVIN THOMPSON
SUBLETTE — Opening day in the Hi-Plains League tournament isn't supposed to feature close games, but this year was different.
Both coaches agreed, this was not a typical 2-seed vs. 7-seed game.
The higher seed, Cimarron, prevailed, 64-54, over Lakin to advance to Friday's semifinal (AGAINST WHO????), but it wasn't without a fight.
Bluejays coach Dave Losey reminded his team that they were seeded seventh in 2012 and got all the way to the finals, and the Broncs were certainly a better team than their seed.
Lakin took momentum from the first period and rode it into the second, building an 18-10 lead, holding Cimarron scoreless for nearly five minutes.
But the Bluejays came alive, scoring on four straight possessions mid-quarter, then three straight possessions to end the half on a 16-5 run, taking a three-point lead into the break.
They continued their hot shooting, converting five of their first six possessions in the second half, and got up 37-28 before Lakin went on its own 7-0 run and found themselves down just 39-35 entering the final period.
Robert Aparicio closed the gap to three with a 3-pointer early, but three straight Broncs turnovers led to seven Cimarron points and the Jays stayed in control.
The closest the Broncs got after that was 56-48 with 2:35 to go.
Cimarron had balanced scoring led by Christian Fischer with 20, Caleb Fischer with 13, and Seth Pachner with 13.
Ty Clark finished with nine, but he hit the Jays' first three layups to start the second half as Cimarron exploited the inside of Lakin's defense.
Coach Dave Losey said his team started hesitantly when Lakin opened with a zone, but found the holes eventually.
"We did not expect zone," he said. "But we've come to kind of expect it this year. We just looked for holes. We found them. It just took a little bit of patience."
Once that happened, he said, his team continued to get the ball inside for easier baskets.
Pachner went 4-for-5 inside in the second quarter to expose the defense.
The Jays defense held Lakin to just 3-of-5 shooting in the second period, which Losey said was due to confidence.
"When the kids decide to turn it up on that end of the floor, then everything seems to flow on the offensive end," he said. "Then the intensity level goes up."
Lakin was led by sophomore Ryder Yakel's 18 points, including four 3s. Gage McAtee added 10.
Lakin coach Nate Schmitt was proud of his team's effort.
"We battled. We got better. We learned from it," he said.
Despite Cimarron's surges, getting within four before the final quarter demonstrated that, he said.
His team's zone defense was highly effective early, he said, but they eased up too much after that.
"And what really killed us was we didn't do a really good job rebounding, and that's been our downfall all season," Schmitt said. "We're dead last in the league in rebounding and it showed (with just 19) tonight."
Cimarron committed just nine turnovers while forcing 16 from the Broncs, resulting in 23 points following those miscues.
"We have done a better job this year. We've learned that if we take care of the ball, those possessions are valuable," Losey said.
Lakin 13 10 12 19 -- 54
Cimarron 10 16 13 25 -- 64
Lakin (4-6)--Seeger 2 0-0 6, Shelden 2 2-2 7, Aparicio 1 0-0 3, McAtee 4 2-6 10, Yakel 6 2-3 18, Esquivel 0-0 6, Klassen 1 0-0 2. Totals 19-39 6-11 54.
Cimarron (9-2)--Ca. Fischer 3 -7 14, Clark 4 1-4 9, Ch. Fischer 9 0-1 20, Neuschafer 1 0-1 2, Pachner 6 1-3 13, Ast 2 0-0 4. Totals 25-44 8-16 64.
3-point goals--Lakin 8-18 (Seeger 2, Shelden, Aparicio, Yakel 4), Cimarron 4-13 (Ca. Fischer 2, Ch. Fischer 2). Rebounds--Lakin 19 (Shelden 7), Cimarron 22 (Clark 8). Turnovers--Lakin 16, Cimarron 9. Fouled out--none. Total fouls--Lakin 17, Cimarron 12. Technical fouls--none.