Late Comeback Falls Short for Oriole Boys
AUGUSTA – For nearly all of Friday night’s matchup with the Abilene Cowboys at Hutter Gym, the Augusta boys basketball team was trying to fight uphill. They started slow, particularly on the defensive end, and despite battling back to tie the score in the fourth quarter after being down 15 points in the third, it was the visiting Cowboys who emerged victorious by a count of 56-53.
Abilene was only held back by turnovers as they gave it away 16 times. But they pulled ahead in the first half with a steady, patient tempo and red-hot shooting.
“We struggled to guard tonight,” Augusta head coach Ryan Petty lamented. “We didn’t guard the ball very well. (Abilene) dribbled it around us, got to the rim and they got some easy ones on us.”
Abilene stretched the lead to double figures on a three-pointer from Blaise McVan that gave the Cowboys a 20-8 lead with five minutes to play in the first half. Petty called timeout, but the Orioles were unable to shake the visitors’ rhythm for the remainder of the half.
At the break, the Cowboys led 31-19. They made 14 of 21 for 67% from the field during the first two quarters, while Augusta shot just 38%.
“Offensively we weren’t good either, don’t get me wrong,” Petty said. “But it all starts on the defensive end.”
Abilene got their advantage up to 15 at 40-25 before the Orioles began to make some headway. They finished the third quarter on a 10-2 run to trail 42-35.
“We tried to ramp things up there, and started to guard a lot harder,” Petty said.
The run continued into the final period. Xander Roberts’ three-pointer tied the game at 44. Following a Cowboy basket, Roberts hit a pair of free throws to knot the score at 46.
Despite losing the lead, Abilene stayed poised and got back-to-back baskets from Kaleb Becker to make it 50-46. Brendan Parker then drove in for a layup to bring Augusta within a pair with 1:12 to go.
The Cowboys kept the Orioles at a small arm’s length for just a bit longer and appeared to have the game in hand with 25 seconds left, up 54-48.
However, Augusta wasn’t done. Kaden McDaniel scored inside while being fouled and converted the free throw to make it a three-point game. Abilene then left the door open with a pair of misses at the foul line. Parker scored with nine seconds left and the Orioles trailed 54-53.
With a full court press set up, Abilene threw long to beat the defense. Augusta’s Ryan Andrews got a hand on the ball and it was suddenly loose. The Cowboys eventually gained control and Avery Bryson was fouled with exactly one second to go.
Bryson stepped to the line and made two free throws, and the Cowboys intercepted the ensuing inbounds pass to seal the win.
“We got three games here in the next ten days,” Petty said as his team dropped to 1-1. “We’ll be able to learn on the fly here and get some good game experience.”
Abilene: Becker 16, Bryson 11, McVan 9, Struber 8, Heintz 8, Anderson 2, West 2.
Augusta: McDaniel 13, Parker 12, Roberts 12, Schmidt 7, Wilcox 4, Andrews 3, Hand 2.