The Falls City High boys’ basketball team captured its fourth consecutive win Saturday in Auburn, defeating a battle-tested Ashland-Greenwood team that perhaps proved it’s tougher than its pedestrian three-win total might indicate.
Junior Kyle Leafty and sophomore Brandt Chapple each scored 15 team-high points, while sophomore Rudy Vrtiska added 11 and senior Trenton Pentecost added nine, as FC needed a fifth period to slip past the Bluejays, 60-58, in comeback fashion. After leading by one, 26-25, at halftime, FC saw themselves looking up at a five-point deficit entering the final frame. An 18-point scoring explosion in the fourth – propelled by Chapple, who scored nine of his 15 in the fourth before fouling out — knotted it at 51 heading into OT. There, Vrtiska made 3-for-4 from the line and Leafty added a big bucket as FC survived the upset scare.
Ashland’s Rayce Riecken drained a trio of three-point goals, including one in overtime, and scored 20 points to lead all scorers, Austin McWilliams added 14 and Kaelan Dea, 12, in a losing effort. Each was saddled with four fouls, too, before all was said and done.
The vaunted and by now famed Tiger defense showed its claws in OT, as Riecken’s three was one of just six shot attempts Ashland got off after regulation. They got to the line for all of three free throws after halftime.
In the end, FC recorded 10 steals, led by Leafty’s three, to go with one block and four team-high assists.
Ashland entered the game with just three victories, but closer inspection of their December datebook puts things in better perspective. The team has now lost two games by a single point and another by two in overtime – all to winning teams. The other two losses were by 14 to 10-0 C2 No. 4 Elmwood-Murdock and by 13 to 8-1 C1 No. 9 Milford. The Bluejays’ wins came against Arlington, Louisville and Class B Plattsmouth. Ashland is just 14 months removed from competing in the Class C1 state football final, so while they’re not a powerhouse on the hardwood, they aren’t exactly a pushover, either.
Besides, Falls City, which opened the year 0-2 and is no longer rated in C1, needs each and every win it can preserve to keep its hopes for a third straight state tournament bid alive. And those hopes remain very much alive. With trips to defensively-challenged Marysville, KS, tonight, Class D1 Johnson-Brock Thursday, and then, next Tuesday, an Auburn team they smoked by 17 last month, all inside of the next week, FC’s winning streak could reach seven games entering a Jan. 15 trip to Maryville, MO, to face the always tough Spoofhounds, and a Jan. 16 home date with still-unbeaten Elmwood.
The C1-1 subdistrict looks like a three-horse race between FC, Johnson CC and Wilber-Clatonia and the winner would likely face either Conestoga, Syracuse or perhaps Ashland-Greenwood. While the Tigers, as it stands now, are hardly head and shoulders above those others, they’re the only ones who have played the big stage. Of course, there are a lot of games to be played between now and Feb. 23. Unfortunately, none are against Conestoga, Johnson CC or Wilber.
Falls City was completely off for two weeks from Dec. 19 to Jan. 2, but has 10 games scheduled during the month of January — one down, nine to go.
Saturday, FC took advantage of 17 Ashland turnovers, which helped shake off the holiday rust.
“We started off a little sluggish after not playing for two weeks,” FC Coach Don Hogue said.
Leafty was strong out of the blocks, but went just 1-for-4 at the line and didn’t draw a shooting foul after the third quarter. FC was a perfect 6-for-6 at the line in the fourth to help push the game to OT, but went 5-for-10 after regulation, allowing the Bluejays to repeated possessions to tie or win with one shot. Overall, the Tigers made 14-of-24 foul shots, while Ashland went 6-for-9.
Tonight, FC will face a 2-3 Marysville team allowing 75 points per game. The Bulldogs beat Auburn 68-67 the first weekend of the season; six days before FC held Auburn to 30.
FC — Leafty, 15; Chapple, 15; Vrtiska, 11; Pentecost, 9; Sickel, 6; Bradly Rose, 3; Bryan Rose, 1.
AG — Riecken, 20; A. McWilliams, 14; Dea, 12; Busenitz, 6; J. McWilliams, 4; Lyons, 2.
The FC High Lady Tigers, after opening the season with four wins against just one loss, played its first game in a full two weeks and lost its second game in a row Saturday, falling 47-46 to Ashland-Greenwood in a heartbreaker at Auburn High School. Combined with a 44-40 loss to Plattsmouth, FC is five points — two possessions — from boasting a 6-1 record right now.
FC, 4-3 on the year, owned a commanding 24-16 lead at half, but Ashland’s Elsie Burke spurred a 17-8 third quarter run that completely flipped the script. She scored nine of her game-high 16 points during the period, helping the Bluejays erase FC’s eight-point halftime lead. Ashland then made 8-of-9 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter — part of a 14-of-18 night at the stripe — to clinch the victory. The Tigers, a team with an affinity for the three-point shot, managed just six points at the free throw line, which is not what you’d expect with a healthy halftime advantage.
Junior Molly Brown scored 14 team-high points, hitting 7-of-11 field goal attempts; Alyssa Frederick added 11 points and a team-best five assists, and Meredith Poppe drilled 6-of-7 from the floor, scored 13 points, and added six boards, four off the offensive glass.
FC has a tough assignment tonight at Marysville, KS, though the 3-3 Lady Bulldogs haven’t played a game since Dec. 18. They did finish 2015 with a pair of high-scoring victories that went to the wire (63-60 over Chapman; 63-62 over Concordia). Marysville beat Auburn by 10 the first weekend of the year – Auburn, now 6-3, then beat FC by 17 less than a week later.
FC goes to 2-6 Johnson-Brock Thursday, has the weekend off, and has a rematch with Auburn next Tuesday on the road.
FC — Poppe, 13; Frederick, 11; Brown, 14; Armbruster, 2; Nolte, 2; Bauman, 4.
AG — Marr, 5; Kramer, 2; Murphy, 4; Burke, 16; Washburn, 4; Klaudt, 12; Craven, 4.