Jett Hand scores late to help Augusta top El Dorado

Lionel Tipton

EL DORADO—Just as he did throughout football season, Augusta senior Jett Hand made the big play Friday night when the Orioles needed it.

His rebound and putback of a missed shot – his only points of the night – gave the Orioles the cushion they needed, and they held on for a 50-47 victory at El Dorado.

As in football season, Hand passed off the credit.

“It’s everybody,” he said. “Everybody’s doing stuff the whole night long. It didn’t play out how we wanted it to, we would have liked to have had a bigger lead.

“But they made shots, and we made some mistakes, and they capitalized on them. So, we just had to outplay them throughout the game, and I think that’s what we did.”

The victory gave Hand and the Augusta football players on the basketball team a bit of revenge for the Wildcats’ 14-7 upset at Augusta during football season.

Orioles players took turns with the starring role during the game. Senior Ely Wilcox, a receiver in football, used his 6-foot-5 frame and bulk to dominate inside in the first half. Running back Ryan Andrews provided steady play at guard in between, leading to Hand’s key bucket.

“That was a big play, because Kaden (McDaniel) had a runout there, and he missed the layup, and Jett didn’t give up on it,” Augusta coach Ryan Petty said. “He got the rebound, put it back, and it was huge for us.”

After Hand’s crucial basket, another senior, Xander Roberts, capped off a perfect night at the free-throw line by hitting two foul shots with 20.2 seconds to play. Roberts finished with a game-high 13 points.

Roberts said he’s not the “designated” free-throw shooter.

“Normally, Brendan (Parker) is the one who takes free throws at the end, but Brendan put some trust in me to knock them down. I (had) hit three earlier in the game, so I was glad that he gave me the ball.”

El Dorado (1-7) had one last chance, twice taking timeout to set up the play. Sophomore L.J. Berkstresser,  who had 30 points a week ago at Circle in a double-overtime loss, made a desperation heave at the final buzzer for a tie that nicked the front of the rim.

The Wildcats were hampered when junior Jeremiah Kemboi – who had El Dorado’s only points in the game – picked up two quick fouls just 2:23 into the game. He would sit the rest of the half.

After Wilcox dominated the first quarter, Roberts took the lead in the second period, scoring seven of Augusta’s 12-point total. Junior McDaniel assumed the scoring load in the final quarter, hitting six of the Orioles’ 13 points.

But this was a game of adjustments, most notably El Dorado first-year coach Drew Culbertson putting senior Zach Wittenberg on Wilcox and letting the two football players pound on each other in the key. 

“We knew Wilcox was going to be a big part of their offense,” Culbertson said. “It was definitely a key for us to try to stop him. I thought Zach played pretty well on him.”

Berkstresser managed 11 points, seven in the fourth quarter.

“That’s the thing with being a jump shooter,” Culbertson said. “Sometimes, (the shots are) not going to fall. To his credit, he kept shooting. He’s a confident kid, and sometimes a shooter’s just got to shoot themselves out of a little rut.

“He came back after a rough shooting game, and he found a way to get some big buckets for us down the stretch.”

Wittenberg’s contributions were not limited to defense, as he scored all five of his points in a span of 1:28 of the third quarter. His three-pointer from the left side gave El Dorado its first lead of the night, 30-27. 

Augusta (5-2) built the lead back to five points by the end of the period, but El Dorado – trailing by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter, battled back to within a point when sophomore Drew Veatch hit back-to-back field goals with 3:10 remaining. Junior guard Jaydon Sundgren hit a floater in the lane with 2:43 left for a 45-44 El Dorado lead. 

But two free throws from Roberts helped Augusta regain the lead, setting up Hand’s bucket and the three-point lead.

Culbertson watched his team suffer another close loss in the span of a week

El Dorado will open play in the round-robin Bluestem Classic against Wichita West. Augusta will play in the Baldwin tournament.

Augusta 13;12;12;13 – 50

El Dorado 9;12;11;15 – 47

Augusta: Roberts 4 5-5 13, Parker 3 (1) 2-2 11, Wilcox 3 3-8 9, McDaniel 2 2-4 6, Schmidt 3 0-0 6, Hand 1 0-0 2, Burton 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 (1) 13-19 50.

El Dorado: Berkstresser 4 (1) 0-0 11, Wittenberg 1 (1) 0-0 5, Sundgren 2 0-0 4, Kemboi 2 (1) 0-1 7, Clausing 3 0-0 6, Veatch 3 (1) 0-0 9, Summers 2 1-1 5. Totals 17 (4) 1-1 47.