The Hutchinson Sports Arena has become a second home to the Scott Community High School boys’ basketball team.
In three previous trips to the Class 3A state tournament, the Beavers have won eight of nine games and two state titles.
They extended their win streak in the Arena to seven games with a hard-fought, 61-48, win over Pittsburg-St. Marys Colgan in the opening round of tournament action on Thursday afternoon.
First round games often have more than their share of upsets and the Beavers certainly left the door open for the Panthers when a 15-point Scott City advantage was sliced to just four points, 43-39, early in the fourth quarter.
But the Beavers played like two-time defending champions when it mattered most, scoring 10 unanswered points during a two-minute stretch early in the final period.
“We were finally able to get into our offensive flow,” says sophomore guard Trey O’Neil.
Senior forward Joey Meyer started the key scoring run when he was on the receiving end of a pass from Brett O’Neil to finish off a fastbreak layup. He and senior pivot Drew Kite scored on back-to-back rebounds and putbacks that put the lead back into double digits, 49-39.
Sophomore guard Trey O’Neil, the youngest player on the court for the Beavers, had a pair of big defensive plays down the stretch – one that led to a fastbreak layup and another steal that put him on the line for a couple of free throws that finished off the 10 point scoring run and gave Scott City an insurmountable, 53-39, lead with 5:19 remaining.
“We have a lot of big-time players capable of making big-time plays when a game’s on the line, whether it’s on defense or offense,” said T. O’Neil. “You either create something yourself, or set up a teammate so they can make a play, whatever it takes. We knew we were in a dog fight in the fourth quarter and it was going to come down to which team wanted it the most.”
Except for that key two-minute stretch in the fourth quarter, and a 9-2 run during the final two minutes of the first half, the Beavers never could put together a big scoring run which has so often characterized this SCHS team. Outside of those two brief moments, the Beavers didn’t put together three consecutive baskets the rest of the night.
“The effort was good. The problem was with our decision-making and our poor defense,” says head coach Glenn O’Neil. “We’re a better team than we showed. Maybe Colgan makes you look like that sometimes. We can play the game right. We’re just glad we have another opportunity.”
It was a tough offensive night for the Beavers that saw them shooting just 43 percent (23-of-53) from the field, including only 1-of-8 from beyond the arc.
“We had the opportunities. We didn’t finish well,” says O’Neil. “And we had a lot of missed layups. Sometimes that happens. You just want to survive and move on.”
Scott City’s power and athleticism inside were huge factors. The Beavers scored 17 second-chance points - compared to zero for Colgan - and held a 32-24 edge under the boards. The Beavers had 10 offensive rebounds while the Panthers had just one.
The game was more uptempo than may have been anticipated as the Panthers pressed Scott City throughout the first half. Normally, that plays into the hands of the Beavers, but there were numerous times when the pace may have forced Scott City into some unforced mistakes. But, even in the half-court game, the Beavers didn’t always do a good job of taking care of the ball.
“Their post defense was pushing on us pretty hard and too many times we were off-balance going after the ball. And some of our passes weren’t very good either,” says Coach O’Neil.
Pitt-Colgan’s only lead of the game was an early 5-4 advantage. T. O’Neil, who finished with a game high 17 points, hit a basket to again put Scott City on top. Senior guard Austin Habiger followed with the team’s only trey and the Beavers never trailed again.
Early foul trouble sent Brett O’Neil and Drew Kite to the bench. O’Neil had his second foul three minutes into the game and Kite picked up his second with 6:58 left in the first half.
“They were calling the game pretty tight and the boys didn’t make adjustments,” said Coach O’Neil. “We’ll have to play a better game and a smarter game tomorrow night.”
That may have also had an impact on Scott City’s offensive rhythm.
Kite still finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Meyer added 14 points.
The Beavers will also need more than a lone three-pointer coming off the bench. Colgan’s bench outscored Scott City, 27-3.
Colgan was able to stay in the game from beyond the three-point line where they were 4-of-11. The Beavers, who were 14-of-17 at the charity stripe, outscored Colgan by eight points at the line.
Even though Colgan shot a better percentage from the field (51.4%) - a rare occurrence against the Beavers - they were limited to just 37 attempts - 16 fewer than the Beavers.
Nonetheless, O’Neil wasn’t pleased with the team’s overall defense.
“We got beat off the dribble,” he says. “We need to keep players in front of us and force them to shoot over the top.”