The Abilene High School Basketball Teams returned home for the first time in a month Friday night to host Clay Center. The best match-up of the night came in the girl’s game. The Cowgirls entered the game undefeated in the NCKL and ranked #5 in 4A Division I. The Lady Tigers entered the game 7-1, 3-1 and ranked #4 in 4A Division II. Their lone loss came at Marysville 59-48 last month. Abilene handed Marysville their first league loss last week and Friday night the Cowgirls would suffer their first league loss 60-55 in overtime.
Clay Center grabbed the early lead at 12-9 on an Erin Hammel three pointer at the end of the first quarter and would not trail again until the final seconds of regulation. The Lady Tigers extended their lead to eight at halftime at 25-17. Twice in the third quarter Clay Center led by as many 11 points but Abilene would trim it to 38-34 by the end of the third. In the fourth, Junior Hannah Willey, took over for the Cowgirls. She scored 11 of her game high and season high 27 points in that quarter, which included the final eight points in regulation for Abilene. She gave the Cowgirls their first lead, since the first quarter, at 52-51 with :29 seconds left in regulation. Clay Center Senior, Hannah Ferguson, was fouled with 2.8 seconds left. She would hit her second free throw to send the game to overtime. Ferguson led the Lady Tigers in scoring with 19 points.
Willey was named the First National Bank of Hope Player of the Game with her career night for the Cowgirls. The Cowgirls also got a big night from Junior Sydney Burton, who finished with 17 points. Abilene is now 6-2, 3-1 on the season after the loss. Clay Center improved to 8-1, 4-1 in the league. Marysville is also 4-1 in the NCKL, but their game at Wamego was postponed until February 12.
In the boy’s game, Abilene continued their dominance over Clay Center. The Cowboys beat the Tigers 62-48, which was their 18th straight win over their rival. The game was not as close as the final scored indicates as Abilene lead by as many as 23 points multiple times in the second half.
The First National Bank of Hope Player of the Game for Abilene was Senior Noah Wildman, who finished with a career high 17 points. Senior Tucker Robinson, also finished in double figures, with 16 for the Cowboys. The Tigers were led by Senior Nate Liby, who totaled 22 points on the night. The Cowboys have now won four straight games and are 5-3, 4-0 in the NCKL. Wamego is 3-0 in the league, but didn’t play Friday.
Abilene will play in the Salina Innovational Tournament next Thursday. The Cowgirls are the #2 seed and will play #7 Buhler at Salina Central High School at 3 pm. The Cowboys are the #4 seed and will play #5 Andover in a rematch of last year’s championship game, at Salina South at 4:45. Abilene defeated Andover 56-53 for the SIT Title last year.