HALSTEAD — The Halstead Dragons proved to be dead eye from the free throw line to edge county rival Hesston 50-42 Thursday in Central Kansas League play in Halstead.
The Dragons, 9-1 overal and 3-0 in the CKL hit 19 of 21 from the line. Hesston was 14 of 25 from the line.
“Credit Hesston for the first three or four minutes of the game,” Halstead coach Lonnie Lollar said. “We had lately kind of struggled out of the blocks, if you can call it that. I tried to tell the kids at halftime, in terms of shot selection, execution and hustle, to come out of that first half up by two, we didn’t play our best basketball. That’s a good sign. We’re going to be alright if we rebound better and guard better. We needed to execute better and we did. We hit more shots and we made 19 of 21 free throws.”
Halstead beats Hesston for the first time since Jan. 6, 2012.
Braden Gerber led Halstead with 14 points, followed by Baylor Bohling with 11. Bohling hit nine of 10 free throws, five of six in the second half. Bohling missed the last two days of practice with the flu.
“I just had to be confident, go up to the line and knock them down,” Bohling said. “We did a better job of adjusting to the refs in the second half. We also just played better. It was grit, heart and we wanted to beat those guys so bad. We just went out there and got it done. If we see them at sub-state, we need to have a better approach in the first half.”
Halstead’s leading scorer, Kason O’Neal, fouled out with 4 1/2 minutes left in the game and was held to eight points.
“That’s the strength of our team right now, and has been,” Lollar said. “A lot of nights this season, it’s been Kason leading the charge. The last couple of games, Braden Gerber has kind of stepped in and did some nice things. Earlier in the year, Andy O’Brien and Baylor Bohling. Early, early in the year, it has been Dalton Kraus. A lot of guys stepping up when someone isn’t having their best game. (O’Neal) took his first charge this year, and it was big. … He’s got nine dunks, and those have all been pretty fun, when he took that charge, I was probably as high as I felt in 20 years.”
Reese Nebel led Hesston with 14 points, followed by Mitchell Martin with 11.
Hesston falls to 8-2, 3-1 in CKL play. The Swathers end a 43-game winning streak in league play that dated back to the 2012-13 season.
Hesston jumped out 11-4 in the first four minutes of play. Halstead replied with a 5-0 run. Hesston ended the quarter with the last four points, hitting two of three from the line, to lead 15-9.
Halstead was able to chip away at the lead in the second quarter, aided by Hesston missed free throws. An Andrew O’Brien three-point play and a pair of Baylor Bohling free throws in the last 65 seconds put Halstead up 24-22 at the half.
Hesston finished the half four of 12 from the line, while Hesston was five of five.
Hesston opened the third quarter with an 8-2 run. A Dalton Kraus trey put Halstead back in the lead with 1:23 left in the period. Hesston’s Ben Bollinger replied with a layup to put the Swathers up 34-33 at the end of the quarter.
Halstead opened the fourth quarter with an O’Neil three-point play, a Gerber layup and a pair of O’Neil free throws to lead by six. Blake Martin broke the Swather drought with a pair of free throws with 6:19 in regulation. O’Brien answered with a trey to put the Dragons up by seven.
Hesston came back with a short jumper by Nebel and a pair of Bollinger free throws. Gerber hit two free throws with 1:51 in regulation to stop the run. Bohling followed with a pair of free throws 46 seconds later.
Bohling hit one of two free throws with 21.9 seconds to play to put Halstead up by six. Dalton Kraus followed with two free throws with 8.1 seconds to play.
Hesston takes on Riley County at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Hillsboro Trojan Classic at Tabor College. The Buffaloes are 4-5.
Halstead opens the Adolph Rupp Invitational against Minneapolis at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Halstead. The Dragons beat Minneapolis 62-31 earlier this season in the Tri-County Classic.
“We need to stay humble and stay hungry,” Lollar said. “… They stayed bought in. I’m proud of what they’re doing, but we’re only halfway.”
HESSTON (8-2, 3-1 CKL) — Cox 1 4-6 2, 6; McDonald 0 0-1 2, 0; M.Martin 5 1-1 4, 11; Toews 0 (1) 0-0 1, 3; Nebel 4 (1) 3-7 4, 14; Spencer 0 0-0 0, 0; Eilert 0 0-0 0, 0; B.Martin 0 2-2 4, 2; Schmidt 0 0-0 0, 0; Bollinger 1 4-8 4, 6; TOTALS 11 (2) 14-25 21, 42.
HALSTEAD (9-1, 3-0 CKL) — Kohr 0 0-0 0, 0; O’Brien 1 (2) 1-1 1, 9; Gerber 5 4-4 3, 14; K.Kraus 0 0-0 0, 0; Bohling 0 (1) 9-10 2, 12; D.Kraus 0 (1) 2-2 1, 5; O’Neal 1 (1) 3-3 5, 8; Pitts 0 0-0 3, 0; Seibel 1 0-1 4, 2; TOTALS 8 (5) 19-21 19, 50.
Technical foul — Hal.: D.Kraus.