The Cobbler squad’s season was on the line Tuesday night, the same line Dylan Hay enjoys sinking baskets behind.
Central faced Mitchell Tuesday night with a bid to the state tournament at stake. It was win-or-go-home, and the energy in the Naasz was nothing short of anxious. The energy from the players, however, was nothing short of flaming.
“It was the idea that this game was do or die,” said Connor McCormick. “They had to do a great job with their backs against the wall.”
Shooting 48% from the field, the Cobblers dominated the first half. Seven of the eight players who saw the floor found a way to the basket. The Cobbler defense shut down Mitchell’s 6’10” star forward Wyatt Smith, leaving him scoreless through two quarters.
Central guard Dylan Hay, with his endless enthusiasm, scored 11 points (4/7 FG, 3/5 3pt) to lead the Cobblers into halftime with a 35-22 lead.
“I went in with a lot of confidence,” said Hay. “The team was in the right state of mind tonight. We made sure this game was our game.”
Central’s momentum continued into the second half, as they extended their lead up to 15 midway through the third quarter.
Central forward Derric Tiller, a powerful force under the basket, explained his approach to this game: “We played these guys back in December and I wasn’t as aggressive as I should have been. This time I was going to attack.”
And attack he did. Tiller found a touch in the second half, making five of six in the paint and snagging a number of rebounds.
Mitchell cut the lead to just four with minutes left in the final quarter, but a final push from the Cobblers was enough to seal a 64-55 victory and a trip to Sioux Falls.
“Seeing that clock count down was indescribable,” said Justin Kraemer. “We put in too much work for us to be finished early. We all deserve this, but one man does more than the rest, and that would be Coach Hay. He has done a great job with us this season and we’ll see if we can continue to roll in the tournament.”
Hay ended with 13 points and three assists, shooting 5/11 FG. Tiller tallied 16 points and eight rebounds, shooting a solid 75%, mostly in the paint. Kailleb Walton-Blanden ended with nine points and three steals. Kraemer, scoring five, turned passes into points, collecting five assists. Sophomore guard Cecelio Montgomery tacked eight points with four assists.
The Central Cobblers will travel to Sioux falls next week to compete in the state tournament.
“We’re still taking it game by game,” McCormick explained. “There is still some work to be done, and anything is possible at the state tournament.”
Clearly, these guys like cutting down nets.