HUTCHINSON – With its five-in, five-out substitutions and full-court pressing defense, Collegiate loves nothing more than to get its opponents sped up.
And that suited Hesston just fine in Wednesday’s Class 3A boys tournament quarterfinal.
“We like to play fast,” Hesston coach Greg Raleigh said. “Nobody plays us like that.”
Battling strength on strength, Hesston flexed its muscle just a little more to stay undefeated. Down 10-4 late in the first quarter, the Swathers outscored Collegiate 30-13 over a quarter-plus span to take control and eventually claim a 61-53 victory at the Sports Arena.
Hesston improved to 24-0, advancing to Friday’s 8:15 p.m. semifinal against Riverton (21-2), which downed Rock Creek 58-50. Collegiate finished the season 16-8, unable to upset its second undefeated team in four games.
“We weren’t a ready-made team — I’ve had some ready-made teams and this wasn’t one of them,” Collegiate coach Mitch Fiegel said. “We continued to get better and better and better, and tonight we were just a bit off. It’s a lot of young guys and I feel good about the fact that we got here. We wanted more, but we’ve got to use this to grow from.
“I hate for it to end because it was such a fun group to be around.”
Hesston was fully prepared to see Collegiate’s pressure and anticipated there would be periods where they would struggle. Sure enough, the Swathers’ 18 turnovers were seven more than they’ve had in a game this year.
The tradeoff, however, was getting points in transition and in the second quarter the Swathers got rolling. Tied 16-16 after Collegiate’s Jack Larsen buried his only three-pointer in 10 attempts, Hesston took control.
Brad Simpson scored twice inside after the Swathers broke the Collegiate press and Justin Smith followed two possessions later with another layup to complete a quick 6-0 burst that put Hesston up for good. The Swathers outscored Collegiate 21-11 to grab a 27-21 halftime lead and then smacked the Spartans with a 15-6 run to start the second half to stretch the lead to 15, hitting five straight shots in the burst.
“We always seem to make pretty good decisions,” Raleigh said. “They try to take the point guard away, but I’ve got a couple other guys that can handle the ball and are fast. Their pressure bothered us a little, but I thought we handled it pretty well overall.”
Collegiate, meanwhile, couldn’t do enough offensively to back its defensive tenacity. The Spartans finished 18 of 44 from the field and 13 of 21 at the free-throw line, negating their attempts to cut into Hesston’s lead.
Collegiate got only as close as seven after Hesston’s decisive run, and the Swathers answered with five straight points to restore a double-digit lead that held until late in the game.
Tyler McCartney led the Swathers with 15 points, while Ryan Schadler and Wyatt McKinney each added 11. McKinney also grabbed 14 rebounds and the Swathers made 18 of 26 free throws and shot 50 percent from the floor.
Austin Waddell and Cameron Christian each scored 11 for Collegiate.
“I told the guys, ‘We’ve had some great teams that never got here,’ ” Fiegel said. “They’ve got to be disappointed, but they’ve got to be proud. Hopefully we can use this as a springboard, and I think we will.”