AUGUSTA, KANSAS – The first defensive possession proved to be a prime example of how the Orioles were going to defend the eighth-seeded Mulvane Wildcats. They did it through aggressive team defense.
"I would definitely say our defense is overlooked," Junior Ely Wilcox said. "When we can use our defense to turn it into offense, that’s when we are dangerous."
The Orioles advance to their second straight Class 4A State Tournament with the 73-45 win over Mulvane on Saturday evening inside Hutter Gymnasium and they made the night tough for the Wildcats.
After Ryan Andrews nailed a three, the Orioles came down and played team defense. They rotated, communicated and eventually finished with a Zach Davidson block. On the ensuing possession, Davidson found himself another Mulvane shot. This time he sent it into the padding along the south wall.
"These guys had a wakeup call against El Dorado," Augusta head coach Jake Sims said. "I like how tough they were tonight."
The defense that had been so overlooked due to how explosive the offense can be, stood tall when it needed them most.
Mulvane only mustered seven points in the opening quarter, and they had to earn every point.
While many focused on the offensive ability of Jaren Jackson and Davidson, the defense is tends to fall by the wayside and the Orioles used it to their advantage as everything just fell Augusta’s way from the opening tip-off. Mulvane was called for the very rare jump ball violation to having seven different players scored at least six points when as Augusta saw foul trouble early.
"We’ve been looking for someone to contribute off the bench," Wilcox said. "The way they stepped up tonight was huge."
The help led to the Orioles hitting four of their next shots from beyond the arc to open up the lead. Wilcox had a layup to start the quarter and Jackson laid the TKO down with a big time three from the left wing. The Orioles led 21-7 with 7:20 remaining in the second quarter and it already felt over.
Mulvane brought it down to 30-18 with 3:31 remaining; a Jackson and-one and a three from Kaden McDaniel with 1:08 remaining in the first half to put the Orioles up by 20. The freshman finished with six points for Augusta.
"I have great teammates that trust me," McDaniel said. "I am happy I was able to come in and hit the shots when my teammates needed it."
Davidson came in with two fouls and hit 5-of-6 free throws and Xander Roberts capped off the explosive quarter with a big three, sending the Orioles to the locker rooms with the 41-21 lead.
Having been in this position before, the Orioles swept the leg, never letting Mulvane within 19 in the second half. It’s a welcomed change from Wednesday’s scare from El Dorado. The Wildcats were within one heading into the fourth quarter, but the Orioles pulled it out.
"It was the scare we needed," Wilcox said. "It put everything in focus and that showed tonight."
Wilcox finished with a time-high 15 points for the Orioles. He had eight in the second half, including five in the third as Augusta piled onto Mulvane.
Davidson, despite foul trouble scored 14 points, going 6-o-f-8 from the free throw line. Brendan Parker (15) and Jackson (12) combined for five threes in the win.
Augusta will be one of the top seeds at next week’s tournament with their 18-4 record.
"We can be dangerous with all of the weapons we have," McDaniel said.
The Orioles will go to Salina and try to get an opportunity at another State Championship that eluded them a season ago. The Orioles believe they have the right make up to get back and win the whole thing.
"We have the same returning five from a year ago," Wilcox Said. "We’ll be ready."
Mulvane: 7; 14; 17; 7 – 45
Augusta: 16; 25; 22; 10 – 73
Mulvane: Abasolo 20, Comer 13, Ellis 7, Gerlach 4, Manis 1
Augusta: Wilcox 15, Davidson 14, Parker 14, Jackson 12, Andrews 6, Roberts 6, McDaniel 6